A little delayed, but finally here it is:
Day 2 in the Zone of Exclusion
Despite a lot of vodka and beer, and a small mix-up involving Nemiroff "Honey Pepper" Vodka (highly recommended!) and an empty bottle of beer used as a drinking vessel (hardly recommended…), we still managed to get up early on Sunday morning, eager to see more of Pripyat.
At around 7:30 we were supposed to have breakfast at the cafeteria, but when we arrived it was still closed. Turns out, the owner overslept…
(cafeteria and canteen in the background, notice the wet streets)
No problem, our guide told us, we would have an authentic breakfast in the worker’s canteen, above the cafeteria…
(some workers in the canteen, wearing the typical Chernobyl camo attire)
The breakfast was an experience of its own, and to be honest I didn’t eat much that morning
It consisted of what was described to us as "porridge" (can’t tell if it really was, it had no flavour at all), some kind of meatball, and cabbage. Not exactly what my stomach is used to at 7am
Anyway, we weren’t there for the cuisine, so shortly after we were on our way to Pripyat again.
First stop was the hospital complex. This is where the firemen, the first victims of the disaster, were treated back in ’86. Apparently their clothes are still in the basement, emitting lethal doses of radiation even after all those years.
After that we went for a short break at the Café Pripyat, with a nice view over the river. We walked through the abandoned streets, now having lost all sense of orientation. It’s hard to navigate there because you only see the buildings when you are right in front of them because of the vegetation, and you also can’t see any landmark buildings until you walk right up to them.
So it’s a good thing we had a guide who knew his way around, otherwise we’d been lost the moment we drove past the the last checkpoint.
On our way to the central Lenin Square, we first came by this music school…
… and then did a small detour to see one of the grammar schools.
This one was partly collapsed, but we spotted a nice propaganda mural inside, so we looked for a way in. I don’t know if it was at this point, or even earlier, but by then our guide must have been 100% certain that we were on a suicide mission.
2 meters behind my position for this shot the building was crumbling, 5 storeys coming down… but providing for some nice light
We then walked to the Lenin Square were we met with our driver again. Unfortunately we couldn’t go inside the palace of culture, because there were too many other "tourist" groups strolling around. As I said before, since a few months it’s officially forbidden to enter the buildings, and while we still did it (obviously), our guide was not keen on us being spotted by others while doing so.
Right behind the palace of culture is the abandoned amusement park with its landmark ferris wheel. The park was expected to open for Labour Day (1st of May 1986), but the disaster happened 4 days before that and the residents of Pripyat were evacuated on April 27th.
While people celebrated Labour Day in other cities of the Soviet Union, this amusement park was never opened to the public.
After that we had a quick look at the football stadium, which is a nice little forest now. Not much to see there, though, so we went on to see the swimming pool "Azure".
On our way was another grammar school, this one with a nice library and workshop.
And finally, the swimming pool "Azure" with its gym. This pool was still operational in 1996, 10 years after the disaster, our guide told us. Apparently it was used by scientists working in the zone.
The final location was yet another school… to be honest, I lost track, I just call this the "gasmask school", for obvious reasons
BTW, the masks were not there because of the disaster, like most people tend to think – they would have been used to protect the children in case of an attack of a western state during the cold war.
If you look at old footage from the evacuation of Pripyat, you’ll see that most of the citizens had no masks at all, only some of the soldiers had respirators.
After that, our time in Pripyat was up and we had to leave. Sad, but also satisfied, we drove back to Orane and took a little walk around the village, while our host Sergej was preparing a tasty barbecue.
Vodka was had, stories were told, it was a very nice evening and we were all really sad when we had to leave.
But I’m sure we will go back someday!