Chernobyl (Ukraine) / Places We Go

Visiting Pripyat

Founded in 1970, Pripyat was a model Soviet city built for the Chernobyl power plant workers and their families. It contained all the conveniences that a modern Soviet family could desire: high-rise apartment buildings, schools, a cultural center, hospital, swimming pools, theaters, stores, restaurants, cafes, playgrounds, and a stadium.

This picture of Pripyat was taken in 1986, just before the disaster that made “Chernobyl” a household word:

pripyat-in-1986-before-the-meltdown

On the morning of April 26, 1986, the citizens of Pripyat awoke to the sound of helicopters buzzing overhead and a column of smoke rising from Reactor # 4 off in the distance. At noon (48 hours after the explosion) on April 27, 1986, the Soviet government finally informed the citizens of Pripyat that they had two hours to gather their essential belongings and board a bus for mandatory evacuation. They were told that their evacuation was only temporary, for perhaps three days at the most, and so the residents left most of their clothing, photographs, toys, and family pets behind. The 50,000 citizens departed Pripyat on a line of Kiev-bound buses that stretched for miles, all of them expecting to see their hometown again in just a few days. They would never return.

Pripyat is what the world will look like if humans are ever wiped out overnight by a plague or some other such disaster.  And without humans, nature is thriving.  There is now a growing population of wolves and Mongol ponies, and wild boar roam the thoroughfares of Pripyat.

Today, the entrance to Pripyat is guarded by a soldier who sits in a run-down shack for hours, waiting for the occasional visitor. After exchanging a few words with our guide, and checking papers, he waved us into the “ghost city.”

This was once one of the main streets in Pripyat – Prospekt Lenina.

Pripyat-Prospekt-Lenina

We pulled in and parked in this parking lot – right in the heart of downtown. Try finding parking like this in any other city.

pripyat

The building closest to us was either the Communist Party office in Pripyat or an office connected to the power station. I heard both answers. So, you decide, dear reader…

pripyat

Here’s a closeup on the front of the building:

pripyat

This is a view toward the main square in the center of the city of Pripyat.

pripyat-center

This hotel, the Hotel Polissya, sits on the edge of the main square. It was the first building I explored extensively.

pripyat-Hotel-Polissya

This is the Hotel Polissya before the Chernobyl disaster (courtesy Pripyat.com).

old_pripyat_hotel_polissya

A view inside the hotel on the way up to the top floors:

pripyat-interior-Hotel-Polissya

This was taken from a window of the hotel and that’s Reactor # 4 in the distance, so you can see how close Pripyat was to the disaster site.

view of chernobyl from pripyat

Continuing up the stairs to the top of the hotel:

pripyat

This is the view over the main square from the top floor of Hotel Polissya.  That’s the Cultural Palace “Energetik” otherwise known as the Central Culture Club on the right.

pripyat

You never knew what you’d find if you opened a door…

pripyat

You might find something like this…

pripyat

Or something like this… Or even a wild pig.

pripyat

Back on the ground floor of the Hotel Polissya…This TV has seen better days.

Pripyat

A night club on the ground floor of the Hotel Polissya.

pripyat-night-club-Hotel-Polissya

The hotel kitchen.

Pripyat

My Italian walking out of the front entrance of the Hotel Polissya.

Pripyat

This was an elite apartment block – right on the main square (opposite from Hotel Polissya).

Pripyat

The logo still on top:

Pripyat

In the main square.  That’s an old supermarket in the background.

pripyat market

The view out from the front of the supermarket – Inside it is mostly just rusting refrigerators and shopping carts.

Pripyat

Another view of the Pripyat main square:

Pripyat

And yet another:

Pripyat-main-square

And a view of the square before the Chernobyl disaster (Again courtesy of Pipyat.com). The tower block in the background is the one I featured above with the insignia on top.

old_pripyat_square

The cultural center overlooking the main square – Remember the Cultural Palace “Energetik”/Central Culture Club?

pripyat-Cultural-Palace-Energetik-Central-Culture Club

Exploring inside the Cultural Palace:

pripyat-Energetik-Central-Culture Club

pripyat-cultural-palace

I’d love to know what is on this film inside the Cultural Palace…Too bad its radioactive.

pripyat

One floor of the cultural center was a library. All of the books were heaped on the floor and to get around, my Italian and I had to slip and stumble over the books. I felt guilty trampling over the books, but it’s not like someone is going to come back and read them or reclaim them, you know?

pripyat

pripyat

A doorway to somewhere I didn’t have time to explore.

pripyat

An apartment block in the downtown area. It almost looks normal from a distance.

pripyat

Decorations for a May Day parade and celebration that never happened.

pripyat-may-day

Another once busy road:

Pripyat

Wandering around Pripyat – nature reigns supreme – even in radioactive wastelands.

pripyat-nature

pripyat-radioactive-zone

There were so many inviting entrances like this one below.  So much exploring, so little time…

In the derelict buildings everything is decaying. Water damage is rampant; the ceilings leak; floors are mushy; paint is peeling in clumps.

In the classrooms, blackboards are still covered in writing, the chalk faded but still visible. Desks are scattered haphazardly, bleached white with age. Exercise books lie open on the last lesson; in the hall lie dozens of unused gas masks next to piles of jump ropes.

Pripyat

I thought this was a great find – a relic of the Cold War or a leftover from the “liquidators” sent to clean up the worst of the radioactive areas?

pripyat gas mask

A theater.

pripyat-theater

And the view out from inside the theater:

pripyat

The entrance to a mysterious underground facility:

pripyat

A short walk from the center of Pripyat is the city’s amusement park – cleaned up for use as a helipad after the accident.

Bumper cars sit in piles or strewn about like this:

pripyat-bumper-cars

pripyat-abandoned-carnival

The Ferris wheel stands silent except for eerie creaking generated by the breezes.

pripyat-ferris-wheel

An obligatory picture of me in front of the Ferris wheel.

Pripyat

Another ride in the amusement park.

pripyat-abandoned-amusement-park

pripyat

As we pass out of the exclusion zone we are all checked for contamination. We are fine. I ask our guide if he is 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.”

Pripyat

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15 thoughts on “Visiting Pripyat

  1. Pingback: Visiting Chernobyl « The Velvet Rocket

  2. This post is awesome. I am sorry I missed checking out the abandoned school. Chernobyl left a great impression on me. It was like a jump in the past… a past that had been wiped out by a tremendous human mistake.

  3. Hey, my father worked at the CH.A.E.S. before and after the accident, and I have yet to visit the place since I never got a chance to, when I lived in Ukraine. Ive been looking at little documentaries of the city of Pripyat because I think there is something important aesthetically pleasing- frozen in that town. As an architect im facinated with this area, great review man, bet it was a helluva fun trip!
    Cheers

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  11. Love that shot of the TV. I found that quite bemusing. Interestingly with the residual radiation, which is probably not much higher than the natural background radiation now, there are studies which show that places on earth with the highest natural background radiation, have populations with lower than average rates of certain types of cancers. One good example is some place in Iran which has the highest natural background radiation in the world and people there hardly ever get any cancers. Then you look at a colour coded map of the United States in the mountains and due to the fact that there is really low background radiation there, there is a corresponding statistical higher rate of cancers and deaths. A documentary I saw about this very subject postulated that like many things, the human body, can in small but not fatal doses build up an immunity and it is postulated that the Iranian who live in that place (I forget the name) have built up some kinda of genertic cellular immunity to the higher than average amounts of natural radiation there. It makes sense, as we do build up immunities to other things like disease for instance. I’m sure all the readers are aware of what happened to natives all over the world when the white people came….I tend to believe that theory that you can build up an immunity, ableit in small doses to even radiation! Although the Pripyat guide was using a superstitious based paradigm, maybe on some other practical level there is nothing to really worry about. Just wash your hands of any dirt and dust before you eat food ;)

  12. correction, I think i got the mountains and coast mixed up when i made that post, mountains have higher background radiation and therefore lower cancer rates statistically! I couldn’t clearly recollect the documentary I saw and i thought about it some more….sorry everyone

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