An uncontrollable virus? A natural disaster? Zombies? There wasn’t a soul in this city. I was exploring Pripyat. It once was a vibrant city of 50,000. Today the population is zero. No one had lived here for nearly 30 years. I was standing in the heart of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
In 1986, technicians at the Soviet Chernobyl Nuclear Plant erred during a test. The result was an explosion and a fire that sent a radioactive plume across the Soviet Union and Europe. Dozens died battling the explosion and the fire. Thousands are predicted to die over the next generation, mostly from cancer. Over 600,000 liquidators were mobilized to battle this disaster and to clean up the contamination. Over 150,000 people were permanently evacuated from this 1,000 square mile Exclusion Zone.
I joined a group of 4 other tourists from Germany, UK, and the US to spend two days exploring the Exclusion Zone. We left the capital of Kiev and sped down the shoddy Ukrainian roads. In two hours, we were at the main military checkpoint to enter the Exclusion Zone. Radioactive warning signs greeted us. Not exactly comforting.
The group was escorted by a great guide Tatiana and driver, Oleg, from Chernobyl Wel.com. And we met our government guide, the very knowledgeable, Misha at the gates of the Exclusion Zone. He works 15 days on, 15 days off. He was a 5 year veteran of running tours at Chernobyl. The majority of tourists visit on a day trip. We were going to spend two full days in the Zone and even sleep over.
It is an incredibly vast expanse to investigate, but we made a noble effort of exploring multiple nooks and crannies. We spent a lot of time in Pripyat, this amazing ghost city. Here, we visited everything from an athletic facility, police station, apartment building, to an amusement park. We stood in the shadow of Chernobyl’s Reactor Four, where the tragedy began. It was eerie standing so close, and a bit unnerving.
And check out my friend’s video from her visit.
Over 150,000 people were removed from this area for their own health. Overtime, approximately 200 of these evacuees moved back to their previous home. The average age of these settlers are in their 60s. They lead a very lonely and isolated existence. We were also able to visit a married couple in their 80s.
It was an intriguing and spooky adventure. This Incredible tragedy resulted in a one of a kind landmark. Visiting Chernobyl on vacation.
To document this adventure, I created this ebook which documents my time exploring the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone with over 100 photos.