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After a smooth flight from Manchester to Frankfurt and onto Kiev, we were met at the airport for our guide, along with our fellow travellers who had flown in on the direct flight from Gatwick. A forty minute transfer and we arrived at our home for the next two nights – the hotel Rus, Kiev. Our room had an amazing view of the city and directly overlooked Kiev’s Olympic stadium.
Kiev is a safe vibrant city with a European café culture feel to it and good value for money. Our first full day was spent visiting various sights in and around Kiev – the Golden Gate, St Sophia and St Michael Cathedral, the fascinating Cave Monastery, Great Patriotic War Museum and the Chernobyl Museum, giving us an insight into what lay ahead.
So began our journey to Chernobyl. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable (and really made the entire trip special). Our first checkpoint (the first of many!) was at the 30km exclusion zone, followed by an interesting but chilling presentation on the history of the area. Our arms and legs had to be covered as we headed further into the zone, having regular radiation checks before arriving at Reactor #4 and the huge sarcophagus now in place to contain the radiation (the largest moveable structure on the planet, costing 1.5 billion Euros!). After lunch which was taken in the plant’s canteen, we headed off to the town of Pripyat, which has been photographed so often, yet the size of it and the extent to which nature is taking back the Exclusion Zone is astonishing. Roads now completely covered in foliage and wild animals in abundance – wild horses, moose and dogs, which could be heard barking throughout the night – hence the 6pm curfew!). Our “hotel” for the night was the facility constructed for scientific advisors, giving us a real experience of 1980’s communist Russia.
We visited many of the iconic landmarks in Pripyat, frozen in time, emphasising just how quickly the town was evacuated. We met a few of the locals who defied the authorities and continued to live a hard and frugal life within the exclusion zone. (…Although we did smile when one local man told us he only had two neighbours within three miles of him – and didn’t like either of them!) After leaving Pripyat, we headed to Duga, also known as the Woodpecker due to the sounds it made. This is an enormous, now derelict, early warning radar transmitter/receiver used during the Cold War to monitor the US using the refraction effect of the ionosphere!
A day at leisure in Kiev.
Homeward bound, taking the most amazing memories with us.