Backpacking in Ukraine: Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Tour Part 8 – Lunch in the CEZ

Backpacking in Ukraine: Chernobyl Tour Part 8 – Lunch in the CEZ

Backpacking in Ukraine: Chernobyl Tour Part 8 – Lunch in the CEZ

This ain’t no “Friday’s Featured Food” for yousens so it’s not. But to keep with the alliteration, I’ll rock it out on a Friday and it is food, I’m just not “featuring it.” You may not have built up an appetite reading my previous Chernobyl Exclusion Zone posts. So after visiting Reactor Number 4 (ouch) and touring the ruined and abandoned city of Pripyat, we drive through a dense forest, now known as the Red Forest. Apparently, the trees turned red in the years after the disaster. In all honesty, this is the grey forest to me. The entire day is drab, dull and grey.

Backpacking in Ukraine: Chernobyl Tour Part 8 – Lunch in the CEZ

Backpacking in Ukraine: Chernobyl Tour Part 8 – Driving Through the “Red” Forest

Our next stop is for lunch. It’s a late lunch however. Some tours vary and you may have lunch before touring Pripyat. We had our lunch after most of the tour, we’d already seen Chernobyl Town, the Dityatki Checkpoint, the Duga Radar System and sad Kopachi.

Hard Rock Cafe, Chernobyl

Hard Rock Cafe, Chernobyl

Hard Rock Cafe, Chernobyl
There is only one restaurant where tour groups and workers go for lunch and the opening hours are strict. The restaurant can be called “Chernobyl Restaurant” if you like. Our tour company Solo East have t-shirts with “Hard Rock Cafe, Chernobyl” written on them, just for a “joke” of course. No tongues or cheeks pushed together.

My souvenir from eating lunch at Chernobyl: Not even a tongue, not even a cheek

My souvenir from eating lunch at Chernobyl: Not even a tongue, not even a cheek

My souvenir from eating lunch at Chernobyl: Not even a tongue, not even a cheek

My souvenir from eating lunch at Chernobyl: Not even a tongue, not even a cheek

My souvenir from eating lunch at Chernobyl: Not even a tongue, not even a cheek

My souvenir from eating lunch at Chernobyl: Not even a tongue, not even a cheek

The opening hours of the Chernobyl restaurant are 11am – 14.30 pm. Understandably, the restaurant should only operate minimal hours and the workers and tourists concentrated together in bulk. This way the staff in the restaurant are not going over and above the recommended monthly (and yearly) exposure to radiation.

Opening hours 11.000 - 14.30 pm

Opening hours 11.000 – 14.30 pm

Before we launch into food, it’s a good idea to wash your hands, do a wee wee and more importantly, check we pass the radiation scan. Nervous? Oh come on, a Northern Irish backpacker who remembers Belfast’s gory days and who backpacked through Iraq and fe hyenas in Ethiopia? OK, just a little scared!

Front entrance to Restaurant Chernobyl

Front entrance to Restaurant Chernobyl

Entering Restaurant Chernobyl
Just after entering we are checked for Radiation. Our guide Misha passes. Brett passes, Michael passes…

Misha passes

Misha passes

I’m up next…

Jonny Blair radiation scan on tour of Chernobyl Ukraine

Passing my radiation scan on the tour of Chernobyl Ukraine

Yes! I pass! Quick wash of the hands and it’s lunchtime in Chernobyl. We head upstairs to the massive canteen. It’s very typical of a canteen I’ve eaten in and worked in before. It’s a self service job, get your tray, get your food, get your cutlery. There is no cash desk though and none of us spend physical money inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

The canteen restaurant in Chernobyl, Ukraine

The canteen restaurant in Chernobyl, Ukraine

Here’s what lunch in Chernobyl looks like:

Backpacking in Ukraine: Chernobyl Tour Part 8 – Lunch in the CEZ

Backpacking in Ukraine: Chernobyl Tour Part 8 – Lunch in the CEZ

Here’s what my lunch in the Chernobyl Exclusion zone roughly was:
Starter – Borscht – Ukrainian style soup. What’s in Borscht varies – we had mostly beetroot, onion, stock and sour cream. It was delicious.
Salad – Beetrot, egg, cabbage. Basic but tasty.
Main course – Nice cooked chicken with potatoes, broccoli and carrot. Good!
Dessert/Pudding – Fried dough with cream. Sweet and tasty.
Drinks – 1 cherry juice, 1 berry juice. No idea why there were two juices, but they were also good.

Lunch in Chernobyl

Lunch in Chernobyl

So you get the gist, lunch in Chernobyl was actually pretty good and it’s uniform. Everyone eats the same thing and obviously it’s included in the cost so no money is handed over. After eating as much as we can, we are heading back almost the same way we came, except not via the Duga Radar System and two more radiation scanners. The final part of my 9 article Chernobyl Tour to follow.

Radiation scanners in Chernobyl

Radiation scanners in Chernobyl

Here is a video of my lunch in Chernobyl, apologies about the sound, was a technical fauly by me!:

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7 thoughts on “Backpacking in Ukraine: Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Tour Part 8 – Lunch in the CEZ

  • That was certainly a very interesting lunch, I didn’t know the Exclusion zone is somewhat of a travel destination. And it’s funny how Hard Rock cafes are always fitted to the local culture, no matter the country.

  • Hi Luminita, Thanks for the comment. It was actually a pretty good lunch. Yes, it’s a tourist/travel destination but in the right way of course. There are only 13,000 tourists per year and there are limits on entry. Passports need to be brought with you and you need to book the tour in advance to secure a place. The Hard Rock Cafe thing is more of a dark sense of humour really. It’s a sad tour of course but in the grand scheme of things, I feel these places need to be checked out. I was only 6 when Chernobyl blew up and I remember it well. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Ted, Totally right, though it could happen anywhere – there is more exposure to radiation getting a dental X-Ray, 2 hours on the tube in London/subway in New York or a 1 hour flight than a day in Chernobyl! Safe travels. Jonny

  • Not sure about you, but I couldn’t help reminiscing about the Simpsons episode where Marge forces Mr. Burns to eat the the three-eyed fish he “created” when his nuclear power plant was leaking waste material into the river.

  • Hi Ray thanks for the comment. Believe it or not, I have never watched the Simpsons so I have no idea about that! However weirdly I do know all the characters from the show and what they look like. Perhaps I’ll go backpacking through Springfield and feature Bart and Homer on a Thirsty Thursdays someday, when the real world is no longer enough for me! Backpacking in Springfield: Top 6 Pubs in Simpson Town. Safe travels. Jonny

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