I went to Chernobyl and before you ask, no I did not get glowing radiation super powers, but I did get the most incredible day out possible. Awake at 7, we roadtripped our way out to the city for 3 hours and watched a documentary about everything that happened. It blew my mind how close we came to having the whole of Europe being permanently uninhabitable and the lives that were lost in the disaster.
Our hilarious guide gave us a list of rules including no rolling round in the dirt, no drinking the river and no stealing the adorable stray dogs – so of course my plans were ruined. We arrived and went through many a checkpoint and began passing the abandoned buildings. The art and the statues that lined the streets in honour and acknowledgement were breathtakingly beautiful.
The first stop was a theatre filled with old May Day celebration posters. We stood on the collapsed in stage and looked out into the dark stalls that had been caved in and ripped to shreds. It was a strange feeling to think that something that was once so lively could be rendered so lifeless. We explored many buildings that were genuinely littered with broken glass and walls that had fallen apart. Everything from sports centres to hotels, all destroyed.
Our next location was my favourite of all – the amusement park. Having been to a funfair just a few days ago, the comparison was very jarring. I sat in the neglected bumper cars and looked out across the park, truly understanding the meaning of abandoned. I then climbed across some pretty dodgy rusted metal to get access to the ferris wheel. It creaked and swung as I clambered in and the spirit of adventure was pumping in my chest. Knowing the park never got to open and had only been enjoyed in it’s run down state gave me an intriguingly uneasy feeling.
After wandering through the forest, we came to the kindergarten school. This was the most distressing as it was where true innocence was darkened. The classrooms were destroyed, limbless dolls littered everywhere and beautiful picture books torn to shreds. The toys and tiny shoes paired with the dusty gas masks set an eerie atmosphere none of us could get comfortable with. This area was true to the feeling of a horror movie where you can’t shake the sense that something is worryingly wrong.
The next stage was a bit more light hearted and adrenaline pumping as we raced up 18 flights of stairs, investigating dark corridors alone and reaching the roof of the tallest building in Chernobyl. Seeing the stunning view where nature had taken back a city was exhilarating. Leaning over the edge and having the wind rush past us got my heart going the way that leaves me grinning like a cheshire cat. We could even see the infamous reactor 4 from so high up.
We got to eat lunch at the official canteen with the workers of the city, as well as being scanned for dangerous levels of contamination. With the food being pretty decent and the room buzzing from excitable travellers, we had time to reflect on our day so far. There was not one person who had gotten through what we’d seen and not been in awe of the experience.
Continuing our journey, we got incredibly close to reactor 4’s sarcophagus. We had learned about the humongous shells that separated us from deadly radiation and the worst human made disaster ever witnessed. 800,000 men risked their lives to contain this destructive event and we were stood so close and completely unaffected by the radioactive material.
We went for a long drive and walk to our final destination; the radar site that is duga radar. We picked up an extremely playful furry friend along the way and arrived at the sandy ground beneath the Russian Woodpecker. It essentially looked like a badass electrified fence to me, but at 150 metres tall and 500 metres wide, it was pretty awe inspiring. Our guide explained the system and how it worked and overall it was a pretty cool site to see.
Our adventure into Chernobyl had come to an end. We passed through many checkpoints and screenings and enjoyed Ukrainian cartoons and music videos on the road trip back to Independence Square. All of us simultaneously exhausted from our 17 mile walk of a day and a buzz with the spirit of our exploration. It certainly was an unforgettable day.