Holiday in Chernobyl

Discussion in 'Members Corner' started by Calanen, Jul 11, 2009.

  1. Calanen

    Calanen Regular Member

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    Chernobyl offers a holiday in hell

    Chernobyl’s tragic secrets are open to anyone. Just watch out for the wild boar and wolves

    A tree grows in a school room in Pripyat, abandoned nineteen years earlier after the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
    Tom Whipple

    Maxim, our tour guide, is not having a good day. “Your bag, your bag!” he shouts across the car park. One of my fellow tourists has left a rucksack on the ground.

    “You are by the biggest radioactive leak in the world,” he scolds, “and you leave your bag on the soil to pick up dust. If it is contaminated you will have to leave it in the exclusion zone.”

    He tails off, momentarily distracted. A Polish couple are sitting on the grass, posing happily for a photo in front of the great rusting hulk of Chernobyl. “Your trousers! Your trousers!”

    Click, click, goes the Geiger counter.
    Why we should all be going to Chernobyl

    The UN is encouraging ecotourism to the former disaster zone to help the area get back on its feet
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    * Why we should all be going to Chernobyl

    Twelve of us are here for the Chernobyl tour. Nine Poles, a couple from Kentucky and myself. Maxim assures us that we are safe. “Maybe two or three visitors become contaminated every year,” he says.

    “They are always the ones who are most afraid.” Maxim has this theory about radiation, you see. He thinks it’s like children and animals — it gets you only if it knows you’re scared.

    On April 26, 1986, one of the four reactors at Chernobyl exploded; 300,000 people were forced from their homes, scores died and thousands more live with the threat of cancer. Many of those came from Pripyat, a town of 50,000 people evacuated a day after the blast and now the main attraction for tourists visiting Chernobyl.

    Click, click, click.

    Pripyat is what the Apocalypse will look like. Driving down Lenin Street, between rows of tumbling tower blocks, we avoid fallen trees.

    The Communist Party headquarters is just visible behind 20 years of forest growth, displaying the logo of an atom. The angular concrete of a restaurant beyond is softened by a small copse on its roof. This is the apocalypse, and the apocalypse is leafy.

    On the way into the Chernobyl exclusion zone, Maxim explains that it is now a wildlife reservation.

    He talks as if this was a positive decision by a benevolent government, rather than the inevitable byproduct of evacuating 3,000sq km of irradiated forest. Nevertheless, there is now a thriving population of wolves and Mongol ponies, and wild boar roam the thoroughfares of Pripyat.

    It is easy to imagine wild boar charging through the corridors of the town’s school, where moss and small shrubs are already exploring cracks in the brickwork.

    The first textbook I see seems deliberately placed. Photogenic in a shaft of dappled light, it sits next to a standard-issue pupil gas mask — a relic of the Cold War. But then we enter room after room of discarded books and tumbled desks.

    Some have been looted, but many classrooms are as they were on the day of the explosion, the blackboards showing the morning’s lesson. Textbooks depict proud Soviet workers heading to their jobs in nuclear plants. Pupil collages display pictures of Lenin. It is both fascinating and poignant. And, suddenly, I feel like a voyeur.

    Click.

    Maxim is keen to correct us when we refer to ourselves as tourists. “I deal with visitors only,” he says. But we are tourists. In the swimming pool someone poses for a photo, pretending to dive into the long-emptied deep end.

    When we explore the rusting funfair, a Polish man swings on the collapsing Ferris wheel, knocking down a shower of grimy water. By this stage, Maxim is ignoring our less egregious radioactive excesses.

    This is a recent tragedy. The kitsch 1980s wallpaper is still intact on the apartment walls. Pripyat’s roads are still raised above their surroundings, a foot of radioactive topsoil having been removed in a desperate attempt at decontamination.

    And the railway bridge across to Chernobyl still bears the load of tourist buses. On the night of the accident the residents of Pripyat went to the bridge to watch.

    With uninterrupted views, it provided the best line of sight for viewing the reactor. It also offered an uninterrupted route for the radiation — they were severely exposed. It is now known as the Bridge of Death.

    Click, click, click, click.

    For something invisible, radiation is strangely charismatic. In the brief time that we spend near the reactor we are unlikely to receive a dangerous dose.

    But whenever we pass low branches we make sure that we duck. Before we get into our minibus we stamp the dust off our feet.

    Maxim is like an experienced tracker, uncovering the trail of his radioactive quarry. He takes us to the fairground, cleaned up for use as a helipad after the accident.

    He waves the Geiger counter over moss, which seems to draw the radiation up through its very fibres, and the clicks merge to a single note. As we are taken through the forest immediately downwind of the reactor the counter stops clicking and makes an alarm sound like a reversing lorry.

    As we pass out of the exclusion zone we are all checked for contamination. We are safe. Is Maxim worried that he might one day regret his job?

    “If you ask people who work here about health and radiation, they will not answer,” he says. “If you talk about it, if you are afraid, you will be in trouble. If you are not afraid, you will be OK. Trust me, it works.” Click, click goes the Geiger counter.

    Getting there

    Panorama Tours (020-8754 3135, Ukraine Holiday Tours, Cheap Flights & Hotels, Odessa Kiev Travel Packages, Lviv Crimea Chernobyl Holiday Weekend - Panorama Tours) offers three-night breaks in Kiev, including flights from Gatwick, transfers and B&B accommodation at the Hotel Rus, from £355pp (two sharing). Full-day excursions from Kiev to Chernobyl cost from £95pp.

    More holidays in Hell

    Iraq After a six-year hiatus Hinterland Travel (01484 719549, hinterlandtravel.com) resumed tours of Iraq in March — complete with visits to Saddam Hussein’s former residences. For £2,260, plus flights, you can be among the first Western tourists to explore Iraq since the war.

    Afghanistan The Lonely Planet guide to Afghanistan recommends a trip to the “glittering lakes of Band-e-Amir,” combined with a tour of Herat, which “speaks of the country’s position at the heart of the Silk Road”. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, whose advice Times Travel follows, urges visitors to “consider permanent armed protection, [but] . . . be aware that even these precautions cannot guarantee your safety”. Wild Frontiers (020-7736 3968, wildfrontiers.co.uk) has a 23-day trip leaving on July 26, 11 days of which will be a challenging trek across the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan, the rest in Tajikistan.The price is from £3,500 (full board, but not including flights ).

    North Korea The demilitarised zone is the last Cold War frontier. A 4km strip of barbed wire, military hardware and political posturing, it also has a thriving population of bears and red-crowned cranes. Environmentalists hope that the area will become a nature reserve if North and South Korea are ever reunited — and, with a million landmines laid in the zone, they may well get their wish. Regent Holidays (0845 2773317, regent-holidays.co.uk) has a nine-day Classic North Korea tour from £1,299pp (full board and sightseeing, but no flights).

    Chernobyl offers a holiday in hell | Europe - Times Online

    [For people who do know anything about gamma radiation, there is no such thing as a safe dose. Radiation is best described as millions of microscopic needles which shred you at the cellular level. The longer you are exposed, the more you get shredded. Best not to be shredded at all in my view. Cal.]
     
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  3. hit&run

    hit&run Elite Member Elite Member

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    there are few places left on this planet without nuclear radiation or may be none, do you know once US conducted nuclear explosion in outer space.
     
  4. Calanen

    Calanen Regular Member

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    But there are some places worse than others, and the scene of the worst nuclear disaster on the planet - is one of the area that you might like to avoid.

    Or not, have at it if you want to. I'm not going there.
     
  5. hit&run

    hit&run Elite Member Elite Member

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    i m in Sydney mate, and i m fine here, thanks:wink:
     

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