Backpacking in Ukraine: Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Tour Part 3 – “Backpacking” in Chernobyl Town

Backpacking in Ukraine: Touring the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Tour Part 3 – Backpacking in Chernobyl Town

Backpacking in Ukraine: Touring the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Tour Part 3 – Backpacking in Chernobyl Town

As with most of my journeys, I go to places without a huge amount of advance research. I find it clouds my method of thought and gives me an opinion of what to expect before I arrive. Sometimes, we go with the flow. I headed to Chernobyl with a clear head and the memory of studying the disaster in a Geography Assignment during the 1990s at school. Despite that school assignment, I wasn’t aware that there is still an actual town called Chernobyl, nor that it still lives on, with a population.

Driving to the actual town of Chernobyl

Driving to the actual town of Chernobyl

So after the trip from Kiev and passing through the Dityatki Checkpoint into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the next stop was in Chernobyl Town itself. Chernobyl Town itself is about 21 kilometres inside the CEZ.

Entrance sign for Chernobyl town

Entrance sign for Chernobyl town

There was an entrance sign to the town itself. The same entrance sign which existed some 29 years prior, when the Chernobyl disaster occurred. We all pose for photos of the entrance to Chernobyl town and Misha briefs us on the history of the town, which takes its name from a common wormwood, which is чорнобиль or “chornobyl” in Ukrainian. When this small settlement was formed, its residents would have no idea how sadly infamous the name of “Chernobyl” would become.

A building on the edge of Chernobyl Town

A building on the edge of Chernobyl Town

Its infamous of course with no thanks to the naming of the nuclear power plant (some 14 kilometres away) as Chernobyl, despite the fact that the power plant was closer to the towns of Pripyat and Kopachi, both of which I visited on this day tour.

At the entrance to the town of Chernobyl

At the entrance to the town of Chernobyl

In Chernobyl itself, we make three stops. One is at the entrance to the town and the second stop is in the town centre. The final stop is at an administrative office and outdoor exhibition.

Downtown Chernobyl

Downtown Chernobyl

At the first stop we see a memorial to the deaths from the disaster and a map of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone on the ground, in aerial view with each affected town or village appearing on the map.

Memorial of the markers of villages and towns inside the CEZ

Memorial of the markers of villages and towns inside the CEZ

Memorial Avenue of those who died in the aftermath of the disaster

Memorial Avenue of those who died in the aftermath of the disaster

In the town, there is a fire station, a pub, a shop and we see the remains of some restaurants and buildings which were evacuated in the aftermath of the disaster. All the buildings have been cleared of radiation risk by now yet they have not been bulldozed. This includes the old town hall in the square.

Houses in Chernobyl, Dec 2015

Houses in Chernobyl, Dec 2015

The town is dark, grey, drab and grim. This is not a case for Top Backpacking Sights of Chernobyl.

City Hall, Chernobyl. Top backpacking sights? Not quite.

City Hall, Chernobyl. Top backpacking sights? Not quite.

A monument in downtown Chernobyl

A monument in downtown Chernobyl

A notable Lenin statue still stands at the end of “Soviet Avenue”. Soviet Avenue is still the name of the main street through Chernobyl. We see people getting on with their daily lives here, but not many people. A mint coloured restaurant on the main street looks desolate and as if it has seen better days. It has, of course.

A restaurant in Chernobyl

A restaurant in Chernobyl

The current permanent population of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone as of December 2015 is 162. Half of them live in Chernobyl Town itself, the rest are housed in 10 villages in the southern and relatively clean part of the CEZ.

At the village marker for Chernobyl Town itself

At the village marker for Chernobyl Town itself

From my short time in Chernobyl Town, I personally felt it wasn’t the sort of place I’d like to live in. It seemed like a sad and lonely place with too much history. It’s not often I visit places and say I wouldn’t ever live in them, but with Chernobyl Town, I don’t really want to go back there. I’ve been there and seen it and writing about it now, and that will be it.

Driving down Soviet Avenue in central Chernobyl Town

Driving down Soviet Avenue in central Chernobyl Town

On the way out of the town of Chernobyl we also see a grey stone memorial to the fighters who helped save lives and disinfect areas of radiation following the disaster.

A memorial for firefighters and heroes of the Chernobyl disaster

A memorial for firefighters and heroes of the Chernobyl disaster

And then we glance down at a river which has some sunken ships. These ships have be left to ruin, their interiors probably containing a high amount of radiation ever 29 years after the explosion.

Sunken ships in the river

Sunken ships in the river

The town is clean and colourful in its buildings, but a dull grey sky and some bumpy road networks give us the impression that something bad happened here. Well it did. The entire town is drab and lonely.

Fire station in Chernobyl Town

Fire station in Chernobyl Town

We have a quick stop off at a small car park area which has a mini outdoor museum with a small exhibition. The exhibition is of vehicles and items used in and around Chernobyl at the time of the disaster. Things like tanks, trucks and radiation detecting devices are included here.

Exhibition of vehicles

Exhibition of vehicles

Exhibition of vehicles

Exhibition of vehicles

Danger: Radiation

Danger: Radiation

It is here that Misha also shows us some photos of Chernobyl in the aftermath of the disaster and we flick through pages of a book, which is written in Ukrainian.

A book on the Chernobyl disaster

A book on the Chernobyl disaster

Chernobyl in 1986

Chernobyl in 1986

Old photos of Chernobyl

Old photos of Chernobyl

Old photos of Chernobyl

Old photos of Chernobyl

Old photos of Chernobyl

Old photos of Chernobyl

Old photos of Chernobyl

Old photos of Chernobyl

Old photos of Chernobyl

Old photos of Chernobyl

There is also a building which is an administration and research centre, currently in use with workers working here daily.

Administrative building and research centre.

Administrative building and research centre.

Our next stop after this and part 4 on the journey would be to a secret Soviet Radar System. It’s no longer a secret of course, but it is housed in a dense forest and was planned immaculately by the former USSR government, unknown to exist by other states.

Leaving Chernobyl town behind

Leaving Chernobyl town behind

Here’s some light music for you as this was a dark day and this article was dark for me to write.

Here are some videos of my time backpacking in Chernobyl Town:

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