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Report - Chernobyl, Pripyat and Kiev, July 2007

Alley

Conspicuous Loiterer
Regular User
#1
Chernobyl, Pripyat and Kiev

Arriving in Borispil Airport, and then Kyiv city centre, was an amazing experience.
Despite trying not to, I wandered around like the open-mouthed tourist I was.
I've been abroad before, but only to those places which are like England but hotter.
Here we were in a modern city, a bit like home, but with a large armed police
presence, immaculate streets, stylish locals, cyrillic signs and unfamiliar language
(mostly Russian, rather than Ukrainian).

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Immediately you're struck by the huge scale of things - tower blocks and cranes
three times the height of ours; magnificent east-meets-west architecture.

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After an evening acclimatizing, we got up and headed across Independence Square
to meet Sergei Ivanchuk, our guide into Pripyat and Chernobyl.
Also with us were an Aussie; a Dutch man; two New Zealanders and two Americans,
one of whom was filming the trip for Lonely Planet TV.

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Although Kyiv shows signs of wealth, rural Ukraine seems less well-off.
Many people sit outside their houses by small tables selling fruit; snacks;
textiles. We drove for about an hour through the countryside to reach
the first checkpoint at the edge of the 30km exclusion zone.

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Photographs are forbidden at checkpoints: the police officers do not want
to be photographed for security reasons. Everyone fell silent as an armed
officer boarded the bus, checking passports and the list of expected visitors.

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The nuclear power plant has six reactors - number 4 is the one which exploded
and work is ongoing to secure its casing, which over the 21 years since the
disaster has succumbed to water damage and is in danger of exploding again.
The plant's workers live in the surrounding area, together with research scientists.
They took over apartments which had been abandoned in 1986.

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Then on to Pripyat - a once thriving town of 14,000 people: plant workers
and their families. As the scale of the disaster became apparent the authorities
ordered evacuation about 12 hours later, telling people it would just be for a few
days, to reduce baggage. They were never to return. Today nature has taken over:
trees grow through buildings; walls crumble; wild animals roam. The guide warned
of wild boars and safely on the bus later, we saw a wolf by the roadside.

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