It was a cold, grey day in November with light but piercing rain. The trees were bare. COVID cases are rising, and Russia is amassing troops on the border. What better time to visit the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history?
Seriously, this was a fantastic tour. Admittedly, this is a tour covering a grim event. It's at times heartbreaking and at times inspiring (such as the great sacrifice made by the fire fighters). But it's no exaggeration to say that this was one of those terribly important moments from the last century that still lingers with us today (and given the nature of radioactive half-life, it will continue to be significant for a very, very long time).
If you simply want the facts, Wikipedia can help, accompanied by myriad TV documentaries. But nothing quite compares to actually visiting the site.
And there are several sites.
My tour included a visit to the "secret" military base with the awe-inspiring antenna, followed by a visit to the reactor site, and then the "ghost" city Pripryat. (I'm leaving out other sights along the way for brevity.) The story of Pripryat is genuinely heartbreaking. A whole, thriving city cut down in one night, now just a decaying skeleton.
But the element that really made this tour was the guide, Anastasia. First, she's passionate about the subject, and her enthusiasm is infectious. Of course, she knows the topic, but she brings so much more simply because she, herself, is captivated by the topic. She also has a delightfully wicked sense of humor. And let's be honest, a little humor mixed with a heavy topic like this can really help. She was also incredibly attentive to her customers, or "friends." Our group had not only English speakers, but four Russians. Everything she said to her English crew, she likewise said to her Russian crew. I know just enough Russian to have been able to greatly appreciate this.
Simply put, this ranks as one of my favorite -- if not, indeed, my favorite -- tours ever. And kudos to Anastasia!