This was a trip I planned and thought of for a pretty long time. Actually the site of Tchernobyl is open for visitors only for a couple of years and it’s starting to draw more and more people willing to discover the theater of this tragedy.
Despite the universal belief that this place is deadly dangerous and still contaminated this is actually not really the case. It’s been 30 years since the accident happened and thousands of people have been working on decontaminating the area. Nowadays radioactivity is pretty low, even insignificant in most of the Exclusion Zone. Well yes there is still a zone where you can’t enter without being checked in advance and guided by a tour guide.
Of course there are patches of dense forest that is totally forbidden to cross into and these are highly radioactive. When you pass nearby with your car, your Geiger counter starts to scream all suddenly and then you know that the red forest is nearby. ‘Don’t go there’ is all you need to remember.
Now that said you can approach the damaged reactor with its brand new steel roof made to last 100 years. You can walk around, see abandoned villages, the Duga missile detection antennas, the unfinished reactors N°5 and 6 and their cooling towers and of course explore Prypiat and its empty buildings. If you stay 2 days, you even sleep over night in a small hotel where you get locked up at night to avoid any stalking activities.
Globally speaking the trip was stunning. This place is unique in its style, atmosphere and the terrible drama that it was and still is. Behind the tourist attraction you see an entire world wiped out in a Spring afternoon, traces of unaware people that have been used to stop the incident at the cost of their lives within minutes and the sensation of an invisible danger luring at you all the time. Radioactivity has no smell, gives no burning feeling or any of that kind until it is too late. There is a hospital where the executioners, the sacrified soldiers of the first hours, were transported. They were stripped of their clothes which were disposed in the basement. That place is still so radioactive that noone goes there. Imagine what must have been their final hours…
Tchernobyl is now 30 years behind us but even if the place gets pillaged over time and everything is rottening away, there is still enough to see to allow the visitor to capture a lasting impression of the historical moments that happened here.