I booked a tour of Chernobyl and Pripyat through UkrainianWeb.com. First the basics. You need to pay a deposit and also complete some forms electronically, submitting exact details of the party that is visiting. On the day we were picked up at the hotel by a driver - one complaint here was that I had to had cash over to someone who was a random person, however, this was part of the formalities. We were a group of five who wanted to visit the Exclusion area. Its a drive of about 90 minutes before you reach the perimeter - it was clear that the formalities were required as our passports were checked against a list, and we were waved on into the Zone. Our tour took initially to a Kindergarden south of the Power plant, and I cannot express in words how it looked - stepping back in time is the first phrase that springs to mind. We drove a bit further, taking in a memorial to the villages that were levelled and buried, before driving onto an exhibit that had some of the robots used to clean up the mess - they are still highly radioactive. Driving further, visiting the still functional fire station and memorial to the brave individuals that were involved in the accident we travelled ontowards the power plant itself. A very recognisable sight, the power plant is immense in size - and clearly through teh building of a replacement sarcophagus is in active management still after all these years. We got an opportunity to see reactor 4 from a distance of 400m. After this, we entered Pripyat - the abandoned city. This review will not do enough justice to the impact it made on me. Our guide (mark) was excellent, and we spent around three hours walking around, and inside buildings. What there is to see is fairly well documented elsewhere, so I wont spend time on that - but we were privileged as a small group to climb an abandoned 16 story block of flats to its roof to get a panorama of the city. What was striking was not only what an attractive city this once was, but also how close it was to the power plant. It must have been a great place to live in the years prior to the accident. Climbing around the buildings, seeing the cinema, school, gymnasium and an apartment block has left an indelible image on my mind. If you have the chance to take a tour or visit, i would strongly recommend it - and do so soon - it wont be too long before the buildings are too unsafe to enter. this in a strange way was most clearly demonstrated by a visit to the football stadium - the pitch is an actual forest now. Very difficult to describe in words, but you only realise what it once was when you see the seating stands in relation to what was the playing surface. Nature has truly reclaimed Pripyat.
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