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Weekend trip to Kiev with a detour to Chernobyl

Weekend trip to Kiev with a detour to Chernobyl

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Old Oct 24, 13, 9:14 am
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Weekend trip to Kiev with a detour to Chernobyl

Below is my trip report for my weekend getaway to Kiev with a detour to Chernobyl.
If anyone would like to see my photos from my trip, the photo album can be found here.

Please leave comments. I rarely do trip reports so I am still new at these.


Thanks for reading my TR!



Table of Contents:
Flight to Kiev and the IC Hotel
Friday Walking Tour
Saturday trip to Chernobyl
Sunday Walking Tour and Shopping
Monday Flight and Final Thoughts

Last edited by jason8612; Oct 25, 13 at 3:52 pm
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Old Oct 24, 13, 9:16 am
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Flight to Kiev and the IC Hotel

Flight to Kiev and the IC Hotel
Back when the last Point Breaks list came out, the IC Kiev was on it. Since I've never been to Kiev I figured why not. So I went ahead and booked a stay Friday to Monday in October. I started then to look for airline tickets, but for some reason Krakow is a very expensive airport to fly out of. Tickets were going well over $500 which would defeat the purpose for a weekend getaway. I started looking into some LCC options and found a nice flight out of KTW (Katowice) into Kiev. Tickets were going for well under $200 on Wizz Air and that included a checked bag and a large carry-on. I never flew on a LCC in Europe so I didn't know what to expect.

Well, some time past and it was time for my flight to Kiev. I got my bag packed and drove the 1hr+ to KTW. Parked the car at a off-site parking, and headed to the gate. I purchased the extra legroom which included priority boarding (figuring that it was a few extra $) so I was able to board first and take my seat in the exit row.




The legroom photo



Looks like I had plenty of space



Approaching Kiev


The flight left on time and it was a quick 1:15 to Kiev Zhuliany airport. This one is the older airport but it is much closer to the city than the other one. It is also the airport where Wizz Air arrives/departs from. I arrived, cleared passport control quite quickly and headed to the taxi stands. After much haggling (and still getting ripped off) I headed to the IC.

The IC hotel is right next to St. Michael's Monastery and a few minutes walk to Independence Square. I checked in and got a upgrade to a deluxe room with club access. The room was just fine and was finished off nicely. Mini bar is free for all guests which was stocked average (4 beers, waters, juices. No hard liquor). The lounge was excellent with a full hot breakfast spread and hot dinner which changes nightly. In addition there was plenty of booze to go around.

And to add there were other FTers staying at the IC.




Room photo



Room photo



Room photo



Fruit plate



Welcome chocolates

Last edited by jason8612; Oct 24, 13 at 10:18 am
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Old Oct 24, 13, 9:17 am
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Friday Walking Tour

Friday Walking Tour

After I rested a bit in the room, I headed to the meeting point of the free walking tour. When I was doing some research for my weekend trip, I stumbled across a page offering free walking tours (http://freetours.kiev.ua/) and figured to give them a try. I opted for the 4pm one which covers Arch of Friendship, Mariyinskiy Palace, Dynamo Stadium, National Bank of Ukraine, House of the President, National Theatre and House with Chimeras. They last some 2.5hrs and are a great way to see the city.

The guide was at the meeting point already waiting with a flag. Shortly after I arrived the tour began. One thing that I learned quickly is that Kiev is quite hilly. There is plenty of walking and plenty of hills. But nonetheless it was a warm, sunny day and taking a long walk was welcome. We headed to the Friendship Arch which was quite spectacular and included a great view on the city.



Friendship Arch



View of the city


Next we proceed up the hill and over the Lover's Bridge to Mariyinskiy Palace. It has been under renovation for a long time and doesn't seem like its progressing. Next to it is the Supreme Council of Ukraine. Apparently quite a few fights break out during session. I guess they can't agree.



Mariyinskiy Palace


Supreme Council of Ukraine


We then headed to the National Bank, the House of the President and House with Chimeras. The architecture is quite amazing and plenty of details went into the buildings.



National Bank






House with Chimeras



House of the President


The tour finished back at the Independence Square and I headed back to the hotel where I met up with a few FTers in the lounge where we had a nice dinner and got to chat a bit. The next morning I planned a tour to Chernobyl, so it was a early night.

Last edited by jason8612; Oct 24, 13 at 10:18 am
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Old Oct 24, 13, 9:17 am
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Saturday trip to Chernobyl

Saturday trip to Chernobyl

When I originally booked the trip to Kiev, I also started researching trips to Chernobyl. I remembered a while ago there was a FT DO planned to Chernobyl that never got off the ground. This has been on my bucket list for awhile and figured that this would be the prefect time to do it.

I found a company online and booked a full day tour.

Saturday morning I got up, ate some breakfast and headed to the meeting point in Independence Square (which it seems that's the common meeting point). I got on a bus and it was a 2hr trip up to Chernobyl. During that time, there was a documentary playing that explained the disaster.

For all those who do not know what happened, on April 26, 1986 a explosion happened in the 4th reactor in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant which caused huge amounts of radioactive particles to be released in the air and surrounding areas. The immediate areas were severely contaminated and parts of Belarus and all the way up to Sweden were also contaminated. Parts of Europe also received radioactive dust from the winds the following days. This is the worst nuclear disaster to date. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster

The most noted town is Pripyat which is 3km from the reactor. This received the largest fallout and now is a ghost town.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pripyat

The area around the Chernobyl power plant is known as the Exclusion Zone. This begins some 30km from the reactor and spans a large area.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_Exclusion_Zone


We first arrived at the first checkpoint which is at the 30km boarder of the Exclusion Zone. We all had to exit the bus and get our documents checked. This took about 15min. To be allowed into the Exclusion Zone, I had to submit my passport information in advance to be added to the official allowed list. In addition my attire was check to make sure it met the requirements (long pants, covered arms, closed shoes). We then headed to the town of Chernobyl.

The town of Chernobyl is actually quite a distance from the reactor. It is some 15km from the reactor. Pripyat is much closer at 3km. Why was it Called Chernobyl and not Pripyat? Pripyat was built after the plant was. There are still people who live and work in Chernobyl and the area is "safe". The radiation levels are the same or even lower than the average for the country but the soil is contaminated so everything needs to be brought in from outside the Zone. In addition the water pipes are all above ground.

We then went to a memorial which showed all the towns that no longer exist. On one side are all the town names and on the other they are crossed out, just as they are crossed off all the maps today.



Chernobyl town sign



Monument to the destroyed towns



Row of towns that existed before the disaster



And they no longer exist


We then proceed to the monument to the firefighters that first arrived at the scene of the explosion. They all later died from acute radiation poisoning. It's quite moving as noone knew the dangerous effects of radiation and they did not know what really happened. They lost their lives from preventing a explosion that could of wiped out Europe.
Then we headed to a graveyard of machines that assisted in the cleanup of the disaster.



monument to the firefighters



machines used in the cleanup


We then headed to, if I recall correctly, a primary school located off the road and slightly in a forest. Is it safe to walk around? Yes and no. Walking on the paths, the radiation levels were normal but a few meters from there are "hot zones" where levels are 200+ times above normal. They could of been areas still contaminated or most likely places where stuff was buried. During the disaster there were plenty of wooden buildings which could not be decontaminated (like the concrete or brick ones could be). The solution to this was to demolish and bury them. This caused mounds of highly radioactive areas.
but back to the school. It was like it was frozen in time. When the announcement was made to evacuate the towns, everyone was told that it would be for a few days only and not to bring much as they will be back soon. So plenty of stuff was left behind which has been there for over 26 years.


The primary school



Hallway



Doll left behind



Bulletin board



Forest around the primary school


We then headed to the 4th reactor - the site of the disaster. On the way we passed another checkpoint. We stopped for photos along the way. We then drove right up to the 4th reactor. At this point I was excited, scared, and mesmerized that I was standing some 200m from the worst nuclear disaster ever. To the right you could see the new sarcophagus being built. The one that was built in 1986 to contain the nuclear material was built to withstand 30 years. That date is approaching quickly and the new one should last 100 years.


The Chernobyl reactor and the new sarcophagus



the 4th reactor


We then proceeded to Pripyat. This is the town that received the greatest amount of radiation as it is situated some 3km from the reactor. There was another check point to enter the town. We walked around the town seeing how time has taken over the abandoned town. We got to see another school which was quickly abandoned. There were tons of gas masks in one room, another room full of books, and yet another one full of desks and chairs. We then proceeded to the amusement park. This park was supposed to be opened May 1st, 1986 in honor of Labor Day. It was opened the day after the disaster to get people's mind off the disaster which they still did not know they were contaminated from the disaster. And we finished the town tour at the square.



Town sign of Pripyat



Gas masks



Bumper cars



Ferris wheel


We then had lunch at Chernobyl before heading back to Kiev. a 2hr bus ride later, I was back at Independence Square. I headed back to the hotel for some dinner and drinks in the lounge and off to sleep after a exhausting day site-seeing.

Last edited by jason8612; Oct 24, 13 at 12:06 pm
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Old Oct 24, 13, 9:18 am
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Sunday Walking Tour and Shopping

After a good's night rest, I had breakfast in the club lounge. I didn't take any photos of the lounge but it's roomy with a dining room, main room, and a kitchen/buffet area. Breakfast included things such as eggs, bacon, cold cuts, cheeses, and other warm and old options.

After breakfast I headed for the 12PM walking tour with the same tour company I did the day before. Today's highlights included: Independence Square, St Michael's Cathedral, St Andrew's Church, St Sophia Cathedral, and the Golden Gate. Quite a lot of things to see. Independence square was the meeting point where we also got a bit of history in the area. We then proceeded up to St Michael's Cathedral (which is next to the IC), walked over to the St Andrew's Church and continued to St Sophia Cathedral and finally the Golden Gate. It's not much to write up on as the photos will do a much better time showing the amazing city. All the churches are colorful and vibrant with beautiful decor.



Kiev globe with post office in background






St Michael's Monastery



St Andrew's church


After the tour I really wanted to get a bit of shopping in. From a bit of research I found that caviar is quite cheap in Kiev so I found the local market where you could buy it. I picked up some good Russian Beluga caviar and some Ukrainian pink sparkling wine (to try). I wasn't the only one buying as a few FTers were also shopping for some caviar. Between all of us, we got some 1.2KG of caviar for about 100 Euro. (and a side note to meeting Fters - I met randomly a FTer on the walking tour which just happened to be staying at the IC on a PB rate. What a small world ). After we bought a bunch of caviar and sparkling wine, we headed to the club lounge and made ourselves a caviar feast for dinner. This was a great way to end a nice weekend trip to Kiev!


Last edited by jason8612; Oct 25, 13 at 3:41 pm
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Old Oct 24, 13, 10:16 am
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Monday Flight and Final Thoughts

Well it was monday morning and I had a 10am flight scheduled to take me back to Katowice and then a hour drive to Krakow. I woke up quite early, packed, had breakfast, and headed to the airport. This time I had the hotel call me a taxi which was 1/2 of what I paid from the airport. I got to the airport and....
Flight delayed!
Argh. It was delayed 4hrs. If they would of informed us earlier, or even sent a sms or email I wouldn't have to get up so early and wait at the airport.
Well, I checked in the bag (didn't want to argue if caviar is a solid, liquid, or gel) and waited around. Wizz Air had a interesting way of handling the delay. It was a technical delay so it does fall under the EU 261/2004 rules. We got sandwiches, waters, and snacks for the delay and the EU compensation rules of the 261 article which (purposely) left out the financial compensation. Well, after a long wait the plane boarded, and we headed back to Katowice. Before long I was in the car and driving back to Krakow quite happy for having such a excellent weekend trip.
When I got home, I filed the compensation for the delayed flight. Hopefully something will come out of that.



Final Thoughts
Kiev is a beautiful city. I loved it. It's quite easy to get around and if you are centrally located, you can walk everywhere. The people are quite friendly and the city is affordable. The free walking tours were excellent and really is a great way to see the city. And the Chernobyl day trip was just amazing. I would go back again, but on a private one to grab more photos and get to explore a bit more. I would highly recommend everything - Kiev, the IC, the walking tours and especially the Chernobyl trip.

Thanks!

Last edited by jason8612; Oct 25, 13 at 3:52 pm
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Old Oct 24, 13, 12:43 pm
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Very interesting; Kiev looks like a beautiful city.
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Old Oct 24, 13, 1:11 pm
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What a tour to Chernobyl!
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Old Oct 24, 13, 3:12 pm
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wow! this is some powerfully and amazing stuff! thanks so much for sharing!
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Old Oct 24, 13, 3:46 pm
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Fascinating stuff. Can I ask which company you used for your Chernobyl tour? (It's on my bucket list too). Also, if you don't speak Russian did you find Kiev reasonably navigable?
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Old Oct 25, 13, 2:34 pm
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Originally Posted by bertuzzi View Post
wow! this is some powerfully and amazing stuff! thanks so much for sharing!
+1
For sure amazing
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Old Oct 25, 13, 3:27 pm
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Originally Posted by exilencfc View Post
Fascinating stuff. Can I ask which company you used for your Chernobyl tour? (It's on my bucket list too). Also, if you don't speak Russian did you find Kiev reasonably navigable?
I used Soloeast. You have to book a min 2 weeks before your scheduled trip so they can take care of the paperwork.
I speak Polish, but I quickly learned that Polish and Ukrainian are not similar. But I didn't find it at all difficult to get around without knowing the language.
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Old Oct 25, 13, 7:30 pm
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Wonderful trip report! Excellent pictures! Which camera did you use in the scenery?
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Old Oct 26, 13, 2:55 am
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Originally Posted by Earthlings View Post
Wonderful trip report! Excellent pictures! Which camera did you use in the scenery?
Canon rebel T3i with a EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens in AV mode. ISO 100. And I just then adjusted the f-number depending on how I thought it would turn out (and I also took bracketing photos at -1,0,1 just in case. I figured I can use them for HDR or at worse just use them normally. Memory cards are so cheap these days)
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Old Oct 26, 13, 2:58 am
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That's awesome mate, I've always wanted to visit Chernobyl!
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