February, 2008. On the road from Kiev to the Chernobyl containment area.
Our Dutch travelling companions asked the driver to stop, so we could photograph one of the road signs indicating Chernobyl.
The first checkpoint into the Chernobyl Exclusion area. We had to show our passports here to gain access. This is where we were checked for radiation for the second time to be allowed to leave on our way back.
Detail of the road block at the checkpoint.
The road to Chernobyl. The nuclear reactor, contrary to what I believed, is not in Chernobyl, which is a smaller town (with a population of 16,000 at the time of the accident), but which gives the region its name.
In the town of Chernobyl, at the offices of the Chornobylinterinform Agency, being shown the map of the Chernobyl exclusion zone, by our official state guide, Denis.
Map of the distribution of the Cesium-137 contamination as of 1999, where it can be seen that the wind and terrain were the primary factors in the distribution of the contamination.
The release form we had to read and sign before we began the visit.
Leaving for the visit, still in the town of Chernobyl, a cold day awaited us (around -10° C, or 14° F).
Signs of life. Official personnel in Chernobyl, which hosts a population of 50, on a fortnightly rotation. Indoor radiation levels in town are normal.
Leaving Chernobyl, a quick visit to the monument built by firemen to honor the memory of their fallen colleagues who died protecting the world.
Detail of the firemen memorial.
Getting to the nuclear plant area, we can see the unfinished reactors five and six and the unfinished cooling towers (reactors one through four were cooled using an external open circuit pond).
On the roadside by the cooling channel, from where the cooling tower can be seen. Radiation here is about seven times normal background radiation.
Just by moving the counter a few meters, radiation has gone up to around twelve times normal background. Unfinished reactors five and six can be seen in the background.
Detail of the unfinished reactors five and six, still with the constructions cranes in place.
Unfinished cooling towers that would serve reactors five and six. From this point on, we weren't allowed to take photos until we reached the site of reactor 4.
Approximately 300 meters from the site of the accident, reactor 4. The memorial to the accident, built in 2006 on the 20th anniversary of the sarcophagus construction.
The guide's geiger counter, showing radiation in mili-rads (this is equivalent to 8.04 µSieverts), or approximately 67 times normal background radiation.
Detail of the concrete sarcophagus and the structure holding the roof which was under the risk of collapse, until the new sarcophagus is built. Behind it, reactor 3 only started operations two months after the accident. A six meter thick concrete wall was built between the reactors to allow personnel to work there.
Plaque in the memorial built in 2006, reading in Russian: "Heroes, professionals, who defended the world from atomic catastrophe. On the 20th anniversary of the construction of the sarcophagus structure."
300m away from Reactor 4, English version of the plaque of the previous photograph.
Detail of the memorial.
The sign on the road to Pripyat, the town where the workers of the nuclear plant lived.
The checkpoint at the entrance to Pripyat, notice how thick the shelter walls are to protect the guards from the radiation.
Central square in Pripyat, view to the left, with the residence apartment block we visited later and a restaurant in view.
Same square, view to the right, with the Polissa hotel in view.
The view from where we came into town, Pripyat's main avenue. The snow made the whole town even more silent.
Abandoned musical instrument, probably not from the original evacuation, but from later looting.
Phone booths - completely dilapidated.
Store #1 - ‹‹ Rainbow ›› - Happy to provide service from 11 to 20 - Lunch from 14 to 15 - Saturday from 9 to 17 - Lunch from 13 to 14
Lamp post detail on the central square of Pripyat, with the Soviet hammer and sickle symbol.
The residential apartment block we visited later, which we climbed all the way to the top.
A tour bus arrived after us for a visit, some people were wearing masks and goggles, although our guide said they weren't necessary with snow covering the ground.
The Polissa hotel in the central square of Pripyat. Some of the stenciled figures made by a German/Belarusian group illegally in 2005 can be seen on the closest building.
The "Energetik" cultural center.
Propaganda totem on the park, about the 1928 civil war.
Another propaganda totem, about the 1968 celebrations of socialism.
Ferris wheel in the amusement park in central Pripyat, it was to be opened on the May 1st celebrations of 1986. The accident happened five days before.
Detail of the ferris wheel.
Ferris wheel control or ticket booth. I'm sure the plush teddy bear was placed there later by someone looking for an emotional photo, but it's interesting to also document the later attempts of using the accident to achieve certain media goals.
Rotating chairs in the amusement park.
In the hours before the evacuation, the amusement park was briefly used to distract the families, although it wasn't officially open yet.
Empty bench with ferris wheel in the background.
Our official guide measuring the radioactivity of the soil on the amusement park in central Pripyat, showing a level approximately 166 times the normal background radiation, the equivalent of 19.91 µSieverts.
A later graffiti on a wall facing the amusement park in central Pripyat.
Bumper car ride in the amusement park.
The back of the 16 story residential apartment block building we visited, which the front faces the central square of Pripyat.
The ground level hall of the apartment building, with the mailboxes visible.
Detail of the rusted mailboxes.
Sofa under an open back window in one of the apartments.
Stenciled wall paintings.
Wall paintings in the same apartment.
"Hidden" stencil prints/tests on the back wall inside a cupboard.
Room furniture in another apartment.
Stencilled figure by the elevators made by a German/Belarusian group illegally in 2005 with the alleged help of one of the official guides.
Elevator stuck on the top floor.
16th floor stencilled sign.
Corridor giving access to the apartments on the last floor, with an identical building on the background.
Electrical junction box, looted in the years after the accident.
View of the amusement park from the top of the building.
Panorama of central Pripyat from the top of the building.
Panorama facing the outskirts of Pripyat.
Reactors of the Chernobyl atomic plant as seen from the top of the building. The working plant is a conventional plant supplying electricity to the area.
Hammer and sickle overlooking Pripyat.
Another one of the stencilled figures.
Apartment access corridor with ice on the floor.
View from one of the apartments, towards the outskirts of Pripyat.
View out of the fire escape.
Looking down the elevator shaft from the top floor.
Dismantled sofa-bed in one of the apartments.
Newspaper used as the backing of the wallpaper in one of the apartments. The top article reads "Circus artists get gold medal".
Roll of film among the debris on the floor of one of the apartment.
Broken ceiling light fixture.
Peeling fake brick wallpaper, showing the newspaper backing. The title of the article reads "Village construction - Where to find carpenters?"
"Pravda" ("Truth") - the official propaganda newspaper of the Soviet Union, of Wednesday, 25th of May 1983. Main headlines: "Africa fights and builds"; "Land owners".
"Nightly Kiev" newspaper, from May 27th, 1983. Headline reads "In the Politburo".
Elevator call button.
Another stencilled figure on a building.
Stairs on the creche/kindergarten near the center of Pripyat.
Child's pedal toy car in one of the rooms of the creche/kindergarten. Read more about these on the English Russia blog.
Illustration of an airplane.
Broken doll on top of a corner cupboard.
The title reads "bunny" in Russian.
Another view of the pedal car. The license plates probably indicates it was manufactured in 1984.
Lonely chair in the middle of the entrance of the creche/kindergarten.
Children's work education board. It teaches that "Children want to work when work brings joy", how to "Getting dressed by themselves", "Helping your siblings/younger children", "Helping your parents with house chores", and "Tying your own shoes".
Completely looted play room.
Child's shoe and very small clothes hanger.
Cribs and beds in the nursery.
Box/drawer with book and toys.
Play room in the nursery area.
Some kind of official note on the wall.
Corridor in the creche/kindergarten.
The always present figure of Lenin.
Hay stuffed toy.
After leaving Pripyat, back to the town of Chernobyl, the very contaminated abandoned ships on the frozen river harbour.
Abandoned houses on the town of Chernobyl.
Memorial to the accident and vehicles used in the rescue in Chernobyl.
Contaminated tank used on the rescue operations after the accident.
Radiation reading in mili-rads on the right side of a tank used in the rescue operations after the accident, about 18 times normal background radiation.
Radiation reading in mili-rads on the left side of the same tank, about 155 times normal background radiation, probably due to a cesium-137 spot contamination.
Another 2006 memorial on the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident.
1996 memorial to the deceased in the Chernobyl accident.
"We remember with pain the people, friends and colleagues, who have departed this life prematurely due to their help in the consequences of the catastrophe."
Back in the Chornobylinterinform Agency offices where we started the visit in the morning, for radiation checks and lunch.
The first part of the wonderful lunch we had in Chernobyl after the visit. All the food is brought from outside the exclusion zone.
Leaving the Chernobyl exclusion zone to return to Kiev, by the same checkpoint we entered. The van was checked for radiation, and we were checked again on a more complex detector.