“We have to visit Chernobyl!”, we decided with my friends in June of 2017.
I was a fan of the place for years, I liked it because of CoD4, STALKER and Fallout series showed me the beauty of the place. We talked for a bit and then did it. Each one of us packed only 1 small backpack — minimalist style, and on the adventure we go!
First thing we have done was to book the airline tickets, hostel and the Chernobyl tour guide. We booked a room in Hostel Podolskij.
It was about 80 grivnas ($3) per night, and the quality of the rooms was way better that you could ever expect from the the looks of the building. But a lot of things is like that in Ukraine. We were really pleasantly surprised when we arrived.
We took a bus from Brno, Czech Republic to Budapest, Hungary. At the airport we slept on the ground, waiting for the flight to Kiev in the morning.
In Kiev, after we got off the airport came quite a culture shock when a marshrutka arrived. It is a small and very old bus, which is almost falling apart. With no electronics at all there also aren’t any ticket machines or log-in’s inside. When the bus is full, the people in the back pass hard paper cash by other people to the driver, who has a paper shoe box next to him, acting like a cash machine. People here just trust each other that way. The ride was also ridiculously cheap (22 cents inner-city)
Next stop was our hostel. We slept over and the next day visited a pub (Porter Pub) close-by. The beer was INSANELY cheap! The beer was 30 cents per glass. 4 guys drinking all night, and we paid only $15. If you are a tourist in Ukraine, you can live a like a king.
In the morning the tour agency van arrived. After short instructions by an angry-looking young guide Ivan we went on the way.
The real, old and experienced, tour guide in camo clothing and with thick accent joined us in a small village. In about an hour or two we were at the ZONE CHECKPOINT. White vans everywhere. Souvenir shop with magnets for grandmas and parents. Radioactive symbols.
Our first stop in the zone was the Chernobyl monument. Radioactive stray dogs showed up and we played with them and fed them. They were scattered everywhere we went in our journey.
Our second stop was Kopachi village (it is even a mission location in Call of Pripyat!). Our guide showed us a very radioactive place near the ground. If you ingested the soil and sand, you would die. But the radiation is so weak it cannot penetrate your skin. The whole of Pripyat and Chernobyl is like that, so no worries :)
You will get more radioactivity if you eat cashew and banana yogurt than by merely walking around the city (both the nuts and fruit are radioactive to some extent) . The whole scenery in Kopachi was really quite depressing. Toys of children, abandoned on the ground.
First we went to Chernobyl Nuclear Plant. What surprised us the most was the fact that there were people. And I mean walking and working in an office building 300 meters next to the nuclear plant. They were put there to clean up the mess and do the paperwork.
Lots of stray dogs showed up again, we cuddled with some of them. Here we pose at the front of the Sarcophagus, unfortunately the iconic Chernobyl Tower was taken apart around 2 years before we went. Damn you laws of causality!
Oh yeeees, and now for the best part. PRIPYAT itself. It was absolutely amazing. The dead car park. Ferris wheel. We walked next to the hospital.
WE ARE FINALLY HERE. I thought I will never make it. But now I can die a bit more peacefully, having LIVED through this :)
In the middle of Pripyat. You can buy a sleepover in those places. Almost like the movie “Chernobyl diaries”, haha.
After all that we got checked at the radioactivity checking gates (all clear) and ate a lunch at Desiatka restaurant.
In short that was the whole trip. We returned to the city of Kiev and started enjoying the rest of the stay. We saturated it a bit with alcohol. We got very interesting interactions at night — we got lost and met 3 guys in Morpheus/Macklemore coats and one hot Ukrainian girl, and when we asked them for help they led us to our hostel and joked the whole way! (My friend can be seen, doing a Gopnik dance. The guys joined him with laughter. I cannot believe how fun that night, and the whole stay, was).
So, it was a very interesting trip and I would certainly go again immediately after! If you plan to do it, I do not recommend taking a flight with switch in Budapest, just fly direct. Also, keep your photography passion under control, or else your might risk not enjoying the trip at all, and Chernobyl and Pripyat are well worth it!