Ukraine: Chernobyl and the raging geiger cat

Chernobyl: Ferris wheel
After 3 hours+ of travelling I’m finally here. Borispol/Borisville airport where I will begin my 4 day holiday in Ukraine. This is where I will be:

  • exploring the evacuated city of Chernobyl
  • attending another Muse gig with a bunch of raging muse fans
  • visiting all the famous tourist spots in Kiev

All without getting brutally beaten up, poisoned by radiation or (most likely) sodomised by raging semi prepubescent foreign Muse fans. Should be fine I guess…

The build up of fear
Before the trip I think I was “over prepped” about how scary this place is, almost everyone I knew had reserves on going to a place that was high on radiation, not to mention a city with a corrupt government and police that feel like they can do whatever they want. To top things off, Iceland sent me a welcoming present which involves raging hot ash to scare airlines and to make the trip rather “one way” if it doesn’t behave.

Got to a point where my gut was telling me this was simply a bad idea and I should just stay at home and play Portal 2 in my underwear. Fortunately I was a raging cheapskate and since I’ve already bought my tickets, it was a no brainer that I simply had to go, just needed to suck it up. So yeah, here’s a pansy photo of me with my foot up as a reminder for when I soften up, there’s always something pansy to look back on (or something)

Self portrait

The flight with vampires
The flight wasn’t bad, it was actually the first time I flew solo and to be honest with the lack of social niceties I was able to sit back and watch some Doctor Who without seeming antisocial. Flight merked me quite a bit given that I paid for it a mere 2 weeks in advance meaning it was pricier than the others. All of which was dispersed when I was sitting in a fairly roomy seat and served white wine AND orange juice for beverages. It became quite apparently that everyone else on board loved their tomato juice, kinda made me feel like the passengers were all raging vampires (but this is Ukraine so never mind).

Kiev: That tower thing

Taxi human traffic
Once at airport I met up with Olly, Simon, Tom and Darren. They were at the airport for at least 2 hours. Our next step was to get a taxi to the hostel, a modest 45 minute drive. Before we even got there a slightly dodgy looking man NOT wearing a top hat or monocle approached us to offer an opportunity of a lifetime, he would drive us to the hostel with his man taxi at a discounted rate of 450UAH (£1 = 12UAH). This rate technically should include two taxis but they managed to fob us to all fit on this “normal” taxi cab. We did a quick check on a taxi stand to gauge of the prices and it seems like we’re saving a grand £10 if we took up the kind stranger’s offer.

As adventurous hot blooded semi prepubescent raging teenagers/young adults we decided to take up the offer. Typically I would go for the official route but I guess this is how people roll, doesn’t mean I can’t spread some fear into the group by making everyone think this is a GAME OVER move where we get sold as slaves in a slightly oversized man car (it’s fine though, look! i still have fingers to type *waves fingers*).

Haggling was interesting, Simon agreed on 450UAH but once in the cab the taxi driver reverted the price back to 550UAH (ah classic 550) so in came the bartering. It went something like this:
Calm taxi man: 550
Simon: 450
Taxi man: 550
Simon: 450
Slightly agitated taxi man: 550
Simon: 450
Agitated compromising taxi man: 500
Simon: 450
Very agitated but compromising taxi man: 500
Simon: 450
Furious wide eyed agitated almost uncompromising taxi man that was spitting everywhere: 500
Simon: 450
Compromising taxi man: ok ok 450

Throughout the journey I keep wondering why everyone loves shading up their windows, perhaps they like being naughty inside it. For the trip to the hostel I believed it was so people outside couldn’t see you being imprisoned.

Kiev: Dream hostel view

The Red Ribbon Gang
We met up with Laura and George at the hostel and unpacked. The lift felt like a coffin for one and the bunk beds did not have rails so if you’re a toss/turn-er you are in for a treat.

Kiev night life

We went out for food and decided to visit a nearby pizza place, but before that Olly and Simon managed to piss off one of the folks living in the flat. They decided to take the lift so once we were all down we were waiting for them to appear, a good 5 minutes past and people were curious as to what happened, turns out they were jamming the lift (no idea how) and a couple at the bottom wanted to use the lift. Not sure what happened next but the couple came out and told us “next time we see them we call police”. Smooth. I was hoping her appearance would be a recurring theme but we never saw her again 🙁

Red Ribbon Pizza

Pizza place was fun, it took forever to order from the waitresses, however the dude making the pizzas seemed to understand what we wanted. We got our large pizzas and cokes and made our way to the park. The pizzas were tied up in a red ribbon which I joked around as a indication to tramps and hobos that we were raging n00bs in the city.

We sat on a bandstand and enjoyed our pizza. The entire time of consumption we had passers by slow down and give us evils. Sometimes they’d say something which we didn’t understand, sometimes they just pointed. My only guess was that we were mimicking a well known gang called the red ribbon gang which made us a force to be reckoned with. The more probable explanation was that you hardly see a row of 7 people sitting in a bandstand eating pizzas at 10-11pm.

Oh yeah, you owe us 350UAH and you have no water
Simon and Tom

After pizzas we went to a bar type area in the park for beers, prices were horrifyingly cheap! It worked out around 40p per flimsy plastic glass full. A round was easily sorted out with £3 (which is equivalent to ONE drink in London). NICE.

Closed

Afterwards we went back to the hostel (we detoured to the venue but that was a raging waste of time). The lady in charge of the hostel wasn’t around so another dude was about, he said we owe them more money (without much explanation of how) and that the water was out for the entire block. HGNGHGNG

The rest of the evening was spent sweating, tossing, turning and doing awesome jumps from the top bunk to the floor. The threadcount was about 180 too so it wasn’t the most decent bed linen out there #firstworldproblems. Don’t think anybody was able to sleep, air con was only on when we were outside so that didn’t help either, think if we had our showers it wouldn’t be so bad…

At some point a couple of us even tried the cold floor. Not too comfortable.

Chernobyl: Sweaty upper lips and freestyle adlibbing
I was fed up of not being able to sleep so I pretty much woke up at 5-6am. We left as soon as possible and got all our water and air con kicks from the nearest Maccy Dz. It also had free wifi so we took the opportunity to socialise… ON THE INTERNET.

Kiev: цум

Kiev: Whole world in his hands

Kiev: Damn foreigners

We did some random sightseeing before meeting up with the tour organiser at some hotel. Once there it was off to Chernobyl.

2 hours of the trip was spent in a coach so we took that time to play a quick game of scrabble, I won the first round but came second the next (had only vowels near the end). We reached a checkpoint where a slightly sweaty (understatement) soldier guard type man police came inside the coach and did passport checks on everyone. A gun holster made it fairly scary but unfortunately I didn’t notice it (still entranced by the raging amount of sweat and snot the guy had). Everything was clear and we were free to head to the next checkpoint.

The next checkpoint we were given a brief history of what happened at Chernobyl, why everyone was evacuated and how bad the radiation was. We were then told to sign a declaration that we won’t sue the tour if we get merked during the trip or if our camera equipment gets merked due to radiation. It was awfully unsettling but what made it worse was that it was read by Simon who did a bit of adlibbing (it was actually ok but it just sounds more interesting that way).

After everyone signed we were good to go, not before a quick go at the radiation meter type thing. I was green and good to go 🙂
Chernobyl: Good to go

Chernobyl: Tanks and nurseries
Next stop we saw some tanks. The tour guide throughout the tour said “lets go outside to see the tanks, or you can stay in the coach if you’re scared” to mock any straggling cowards. The tanks were super radioactive as the tour guide waves his geiger counter on the tracks to hear it beep at a raging rate. Fortunately I wasn’t scared of the tanks so here’s some photos of me poking and picking the tanks:

Chernobyl: The Spirit of the Zebra

Chernobyl: Tanks for nothing

Chernobyl: For poke sake

Chernobyl: Tank pinching!

Next up we went to a memorial type place, he explained how dangerous this place was but then said “right lets go in”… ok… sad thing about radiation is that you can’t really “feel” anything happening to you so you really need to stick close to the tour guide who has the geiger counter. After strolling through the bushes and such (and getting merked by mosquitoes) we came across a nursery. Here’s photos:

Chernobyl

Chernobyl: Message board

Chernobyl: Dolls like you and me

Chernobyl: Bunk buddies

Chernobyl: Books that stood its time for over 20 years

Chernobyl: Book ends

Chernobyl: Omegabet

Now lets get this out of the way. Some of the stuff on the floor were obviously raging fakes, you don’t see colourful alphabet guides surviving 25+ years of rain, snow and sun and looking like that. Neither do you see books neatly placed and opened for the sake of tourists, it felt like EVERY first person shoot’em’up game where ammo and health packs are carefully littered around a map for no reason whatsoever. You can understand it makes good photography but you still feel a bit cheated knowing that some of them weren’t there to begin with.

Chernobyl: The reactor of doom
Next stop was the reactor itself. Since reactor 4 exploded we obviously know that there were more before and after it. The tour guide pointed out all the reactors and I did the valiant thing of picking them up.

Chernobyl: The 3 eiffel towers

Chernobyl: Reactor pinch

Group photo: 1 year of your LIFE

We then reached reactor 4 where we paid tribute to the memorial. Around this time another tour group approached, some of them wearing white body suits and some of the chuckling and joking around. Our tour guide got a bit cross on their disrespect to what happened years ago. The body suits were not really necessary and made them look like raging dicks.

We were also able to see the catfish because it was “worm” (common typo in most Tour Kiev webpages). They were pretty huge and splashy, the bridge we were on was quite rickety.
Chernobyl: Bridge of fear

Chernobyl: Worm fish

Chernobyl: Trained tracks

We took some photos and left the reactor for some lovely lunch. Lunch included borsht, juice, salad with some pork, garlic balls, egg chicken with potato mash and pancakes. Borsht was pretty nice. I merged the garlic balls with the chicken to create a faux chicken kiev (more on that later).

There was A LOT of food so people did end up abandoning their meal at the conveyor belt of shouty dinner ladies. Laura got particularly merked by them, ensuring that she ate EVERYTHING.

Chernobyl : Prypiat and rogue (the rogue photographer)
Upon entering Prypiat we got immediately merked by a random branch. It wasn’t so bad though since we were nearly there anyways. It was just funny how it became a nice start to a horror movie.

There were three distinct places we went in Prypiat. The university, the post office and the amusement park.

The university contained gyms and swimming pools. The floor was coated with glass (which seriously needs to be mentioned in the tour guides, imagine waltzing in with canvas shoes, bleed much?). The entire place was decaying and there was murky water dripping from the ceiling every now and then (hit a few people, of which I we squirmed and went eww for a several minutes). There were a few faux books hanging around the place.

Chernobyl

Chernobyl: Yellow booths

Chernobyl: Self portrait

Chernobyl: Schools out for summer

Chernobyl: Broken room

Chernobyl: Whats in the box?

Chernobyl: Healthy book

Chernobyl: Roped in

Chernobyl: No gym today

Chernobyl: Best is yet to come

Chernobyl: More gym?

Chernobyl: No goal whatsoever

Chernobyl: No class today

Chernobyl: Coat hangers of doom

The swimming pool was particularly horrifying, mainly because you can walk on the left hand side and scare yourself shitless when you gaze at the deep end pool, knowing how narrow the path is in the first place.

Chernobyl: Deep end

Chernobyl: Not so occupado

Chernobyl: Wide pool

Chernobyl: Tile go

Chernobyl: Clock and fisherman

Next up the post office. There wasn’t much to talk about, just loads of letters floating around, this is where we cue the joke about sending postcards to people but it not going through (I sent my postcards to everyone via Chernobyl postal service).

Chernobyl: Letter from over 20 years ago

Chernobyl: You name it, we deliver

Chernobyl: Sorting machine

Chernobyl: Forgotten post

The letters and postcards scattered everywhere was a bit suspicious given that it should be a messy wet pulp by now. You can even read some of them (but after all the brain washing we dare not touch a thing).

The amusement park was one of the things that felt real to me, no props scattered around it, just three decayng rides, each heavily coated with a layer of murk and rust. The juxtaposition between the youthfulness of the rides and the decaying state brings a tear to my eye (and ultimately stains my book of emo phrases and poems (ha i’m actually listening to exit music whilst writing this, how angsty can one get)).

Chernobyl: Swing and a miss

Chernobyl: Bumper cars

Chernobyl: Ferris wheel

Throughout the trip we had one guy in our tour who was always lagging behind, it made sense though, photos of evacuated sites seem somewhat ironic when there’s a slew of tourists in the shot. So this guy (who we named as Rogue for being slightly rogue on the trip) stays behind just to take photos when people weren’t about. Sometimes it felt like he was going to attack the second to last tourist when everyone else shuffles forwards, but nah he’s harmless and quite fuzzy 🙂 (if that’s a good thing). At one point he did pop out of the road all sinister looking but that was more of a “you had to be there” kinda moment. All in all, we like and fear rogue in healthy amounts 🙂

Chernobyl: The geiger cat awakening
Chernobyl: Fallout?

Chernobyl: Star post

After the tours it was back to Kiev. We ended up at the same checkpoint but this time it was mandatory to ensure that everyone was checked for contamination before boarding the bus. The guards here were armed with geiger guns and there was even an appearance of a geiger cat. I joked around that all pets in chernobyl were geiger pets, being able to detect radiation and let off a purr or growl. The geiger cat fortunately didn’t need to pounce on anyone since we were all good in the hood. The remainder of the trip involved sleeping and talking about rogue and the geiger cat.

After that we drank and ate at some pub and went sleepies (it rained a bit so was slightly bearable)

It was certainly a once in a lifetime trip (ideally you only do once) and it was certainly a fun and somewhat legal step into the urbexing world. Hope you enjoyed the rambles and photos, feel free to comment and ask questions 🙂

5 Comments

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5 Comments to Ukraine: Chernobyl and the raging geiger cat

  1. Anthony says:

    S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

    Awesome photos, man.

  2. laura says:

    you guys got dicked with the taxi

  3. Mandy says:

    Amazing photos! (as always) Very funny too.

  4. Catherine says:

    Fantastic recount of your adventure, and brilliant photos as usual!

  5. Maya says:

    Sounds awesome. The amusement park pics did make me pretty sad.

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