On my trip to Kiev, I visited the most radioactive place on the planet: Chernobyl.
It seems that everybody has heard of Chernobyl, and a lot of people would love to go visit this place but think that it is too dangerous to actually go. When I researched places to visit during my time in Kiev, I found so many tour operators offering day trips to the ghost city Pripyat and the nuclear power plant Chernobyl. When I saw this, I immediately knew that I wanted to go and see what this was all about. Chernobyl has been in the news often and it's a topic almost everyone has heard of. Knowing that there were lots of tours going to Chernobyl, I decided to go there as well.
Last year, approximately 60,000 people visited Chernobyl. If they could do it, so could I.
What happened in Chernobyl
It all happened in 1986, when one of the four nuclear power plants of Chernobyl exploded and caused major damage to the surrounding area. At that point in time, this nuclear power plant was the largest in the world and is today still known as the largest nuclear energy disaster that has ever happened. The accident was equivalent to 400 Hiroshima atomic bombs.
Close to Chernobyl there was the city Pripyat. The inhabitants in Pripyat did not get any information about the accident on the day of the explosion.
Ghost town Pripyat
The city Pripyat was founded in 1970 being called the city of nuclear scientists. The main reason for the founding was the operation of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Pripyat was a modern city with a park, hotel, amusement park, railway station, hospital and restaurants located centrally.
When the Chernobyl accident happened in 1986, the city had reached a population of 50,000 people with an average of the city's inhabitans being only 25 years old.
The year 1986 was the beginning of Pripyat being a modern ghost town. Today, the city is completely empty.
As a tourist, you can walk through the city to go explore and see how life was back then. Everything has been left from the past. Things are laying around almost as if they hadn't been moved. The atmosphere is quite scary and it feels like there is still a vibrant city haunting somehow. Since the city isn't a complete big city, it is easy to walk around and see all buildings and attractions by foot.
It is not possible to go visit Chernobyl on your own. As there is security, you need to go with a tour guide. You would go on a group tour where the guide will explain everything about the area and the disaster. The good thing about doing it this way is that you get easy transporation to all areas worth visiting. At the same time, they will tell you everything you need to know and you can ask all the questions you want. Going alone would make it more difficult to find all the hidden places, so I am super glad that I had to do it this way. You also get access to the cantine of the workers, who still work there. That's where you get your lunch.
Even with a guide there is plenty of time to go and explore on your own. At each stop the guide will quickly explain some things and let you take your photos by yourself.
One of our stops was a military base, which back then was hidden. Before entering you see a bus stop with a huge drawing of a teddy bear. It is supposed to look like a kids summer camp. After the explosion of the nuclear power plant, the secret military base was found.
Our next stop was going to a smaller housing area outside Pripyat. It was a little forest with just one street with little houses. We could enter every house and take all the photos we wanted to. As a first impression, this was really cool.
After having visited the little houses, the next stop was a kindergarten. There were still toys, drawings and beds standing around. This is a place where there is still a high amount of radioactivity. With the Geiger counter still showing up to 20 mSv more than 40 years after the accident shows how big of an impact the accident has caused. Below 0.3 mSv is where it is still safe.
Is it safe going to Chernobyl?
It is completely safe to visit Chernobyl. Even though there is still high radiation going on, you won’t be affected by this by just staying there for one day. The experts say that one day in Chernobyl equals one hour of sitting on an airplane. The local guides are recommended to go there a maximum of 20 days a month to stay safe. This shows that you will be absolutely fine going there for a day trip!
There are also still people working at the nuclear power plant, who go there every day. It is said that it takes 100 years to completely close down a nuclear power plant, which is why there are still people working there.
Before leaving the area of Chernobyl, all people are checked if they have any radioactivity in their bodies. Most of the time, all people are safe to go directly to the bus. I haven't heard of any situations where this was not the case. You also get to know that it is not allowed to bring any food outside the area.
So if you are considering whether you should go there or not, definitely go. It is a wild experience to see what one accident can cause - traumatizing and horrible. But hopefully this will teach us to do better in the future.
If any of you guys have been there, I'd love to hear what you saw and what you thought about it!