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Exploring Ukraine - Kiev, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and Pripyat

Exploring Ukraine - Kiev, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and Pripyat

Old Dec 23, 2018, 7:04 pm
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Exploring Ukraine - Kiev, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and Pripyat


Chernobyl has long been on the list for travel destinations. Finally, the opportunity arose to head out to Ukraine for a few days, which of course, involved a trip to the famed nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. Follow me along on this extended weekend trip with an airport tour of Frankfurt, a day in Kiev, a day trip to Chernobyl and Pripyat and a half day in Mainz, Germany.

Previous reports:
A Week in the Caucasus: Georgia, Azerbaijan
and
Armenia

A Landscape Photography Trip to Oregon

A Trip to Nigeria

A Trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona

A Trip to the Azores.

One Week in India: Mumbai, Amritsar, Agra/Taj Mahal, Jaipur and Delhi CX and EY J

A Snowstorm in Tokyo and Volcanoes in the Philippines

New Year’s in Seoul, South Korea Delta A350 Suite

Keeping it Domestic: Grand Teton National Park

9 Days in Asia: Taipei, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Shanghai

Two Weeks in South Africa and Namibia: Joburg, Cape Town, Sossusvlei and Kruger

Bienvenido a Cuba!


If you want to skip ahead to any particular parts of the report, you can use the following links.
Flights to Frankfurt and Kiev plus Frankfurt Airport Ramp Tour
Kiev, Ukraine
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and Pripyat
Mainz, Germany

Last edited by ChiefNWA; Dec 23, 2018 at 7:11 pm
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Old Dec 23, 2018, 7:05 pm
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Day 1


As usual, this trip started with another early release from work in order to make it to Atlanta in time for the flight to Frankfurt. Delta doesn't service Ukraine, so flying standby there wasn't an option, but we were going to get as close as possible. In this case, Frankfurt worked out quite well as Wizz Air had some great fares from Frankfurt to Kiev.

Today's routing from Tampa to Frankfurt via Atlanta, then onward to Kiev on Wizz Air.



The Delta 767-300ER taking us over to Germany.



Heading out of Atlanta.



Some chicken, collard greens and green beans for dinner.



Day 2


Landing in Frankfurt, Germany.



No jetway today in Frankfurt.



Our flight from Atlanta landed at almost 9:00AM but the flight to Kiev wasn't until almost 3:00PM. We contemplated going into the city for breakfast, but decided against it as we didn't want to tote around bags, plus I'd been to Frankfurt. We found out Frankfurt Airport offers pretty affordable tours of the airport on a bus. It lasted about 45 minutes and cost maybe 12 Euro (from what I remember). It's a good option if you have a longer layover at FRA.

We drove out towards the main taxiway and runway.



An extremely backlit LH 744 taking off.



Another LH 744.



On to the cargo ramp where we saw several Lufthansa MD-11Fs.



After the tour, it was time for the flight to Kiev. We took the, what seemed like, 2 hour bus ride out to the remote gated and boarded our new Wizz Air A320 to Kiev IEV Airport.



The flight was fairly full but I ended up with my own row. See ya Frankfurt.



Final descent into Kiev Zhuliany Airport. It's much better located in regards to accessing this city. so that was nice.



Welcome to Ukraine.
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Old Dec 23, 2018, 7:05 pm
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After a short taxi ride into town, we checked into the Ibis near the main railway station. Not bad, but they had the centralized heating turned on so the room stayed warm throughout the stay.



We met up with our two friends that arrived earlier in the day from Amsterdam and headed out for dinner. I wasn't aware Kiev has the deepest subway station in the world, an interesting fact of the day.



After some hunting, we found the 'Last Barricade'' restaurant, which we weren't aware was hidden. I started off with some Ukrainian borscht, which was excellent.



For the main, I selected the Chicken Kiev, which was also fantastic.




Day 3



We had the full day in Kiev for day 3. As avgeeks, a visit to the Ukrainian Aviation Museum back at Zhuliany was a must. No, we didn't take this bus as Uber was extremely cheap in Kiev.



A windy, cold, but clear day at the Ukrainian State Aviation Museum.



Mig 15.



The Tupolev TU-104, the USSR's answer to the Comet.



Antonov AN-2.



Antonov AN-24.



Antonov AN-24.



Back end of an Ilyushin IL-62.



Ilyushin IL-62.



Cockpit of the Ilyushin IL-62.



Ilyushin IL-62.



Ilyushin IL-76T.



The Mil Mi-26, the largest helicopter to have gone into production. I can't imagine what these things sound like.



Tupolev TU-154, the USSR's answer to the Boeing 727.



Cockpit of the Tupolev TU-154.



The anti-sub Tupolev Tu-142.



Tupolev Tu-134.



We then took an Uber back into town to start our tour of the city. We started at Independence Square.



Before we started sightseeing, we decided to grab some lunch.



We picked out a Georgian/Azeri restaurant nearby, which was great. It was a nice flashback to my trip to those countries earlier this year.



Kiev has A LOT of churches. We started at St Volodymyr's Cathedral, completed in 1892.



St Volodymyr's Cathedral.



St Volodymyr's Cathedral.



St Volodymyr's Cathedral.



We then arrived at Saint Sophia's Cathedral after a short walk.



Saint Sophia's Cathedral was built during the 11th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.



Another short walk and we arrived at St Andrew's Church, initially completed in 1767. The interior was closed for renovations.



Another cathedral, St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery. We climbed to the top of the bell tower for a good view of the main structure.



The bell tower at St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery.



Inside St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery.



Much of Kiev is located on top of a hill, which is the cause of the deep subway stations throughout the city. The tramway is another way down.



The driver didn't look very happy, guess those smiley faces aren't working.



The People's Friendship Arch was built in 1982 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the USSR. The Ukrainian government recently announced plans to demolish it as part of their recently passed decommunization laws.



Ukrainian and Russian workers holding up the Soviet Order of Friendship of Peoples.



Our next stop was Mariyinsky Palace, home of the Ukrainian President.



Our final church/cathedral/monastery of the day, Kiev Pechersk Lavra. It was a bit of a fight to get in with the camera as the guard was going to require that I pay the $20 'photography' fee. Putting it into my backpack satisfied him though.



Kiev Pechersk Lavra.



Kiev Pechersk Lavra.



Looking out over Kiev Pechersk Lavra.



Our final sightseeing stop of the day was the Motherland Monument. She's holding the State Emblem of the Soviet Union.



The Motherland Monument.



After sunset, it was time for dinner. We picked Khutorets on the Dnieper, which is actually located on board a boat.



Red borscht to start.



Chicken 'wraps' with mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes for the main.

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Old Dec 23, 2018, 7:07 pm
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Day 4


Ah, the day we flew out for. We got up quite early to head out for breakfast at McDonald's (no shame) since it was right next door to the pickup location for the tour. For the tour, we used Solo East for the tour as they were the best reviewed.

We got in the van at 8:00AM and started the 2-hour drive north towards the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.



After passing through our first security checkpoint, we entered the actual town of Chernobyl. We visited the Wormwood Memorial which is in remembrance of the abandoned villages as a result of the accident.



After the memorial, it was time for a quick lunch. We finished quite quickly, but the other group of three did not. They expressed displeasure with us rushing them (indirectly at least). We were pushed for time, I certainly wasn't interested in wasting even more in the restaurant talking about how little they enjoyed their recent trip to Argentina.



Came across this guy outside the restaurant.



After 30 minutes of driving and two more security checkpoints, we finally arrived at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, ground zero of the world's worst nuclear disaster.



Never completed reactor #5 .



Reactor #6 , also never completed.



We had several Geiger counters in the group, so we took some measurements. It was reading 1.64 μSv/h about 600m from the reactor. That's about four times the reading we were getting in Kiev. The average radiation at cruising altitude on an airplane is 2.80 μSv/h.



We then got quite a bit closer to the reactor, though the reading was lower at 1.23 μSv/h.



A memorial dedicated to the 'liquidators', the firefighters that attempted to keep the blaze under control. Initially, they were not aware of their lethal exposure to the radiation.



We didn't spend much time near the actual reactor, not so much because of the radiation, but more so because there wasn't much else to see. We moved on and started the short drive to the abandoned town of Pripyat. We stopped en route as the guide explained how much of the area was cleaned up (enough at least), while other parts, such as this area were not.



A reading of 7.50 μSv/h, which is roughly double what you receive cruising in an airplane. Once I moved the reader towards the ground, it read out ~17 μSv/h.



Road sign for the city of Pripyat.



Pripyat was built specifically as a 'nuclear city' by the Soviet Union. It was used primarily to house the workers for the Chernobyl Power Plant and their families.



Our guide, Igor, showed us some before images of the city in the various spots we were in. The town had a population of roughly 50,000 at the time of the disaster.



The abandoned hotel.



The hammer and sickle still present.



Vegetation has taken over many of the buildings.



The amusement park was set to open shortly after the disaster struck.



Ferris wheel.



Ferris wheel.



A hotspot they had marked on the Ferris wheel reading 39.02 μSv/h.



One more of the Ferris wheel.



Bumper cars.



Bumper cars.



Vegetation.



What the track looked like back then and.... today.



My thoughts on Pripyat. The following images, in my opinion, are staged purposely for the intent to take pictures. Whether that's done by the guides or other tourists, I don't know, but take everything with a grain of salt that you see. I have no doubt that some of these items were present on the day of the disaster (for the most part), but I highly doubt they were left in the positions you'll see below.

Legally, the tour guides aren't supposed to take you into any buildings for liability reasons, but they all seem to communicate with each other regarding where the security guards are and which buildings are good to enter. The gym is a common one.



The basketball court.



Swimming pool.



Igor providing us some details on the gym. Fun fact (which I didn't know), the power plant remained operational for nearly a decade after the accident. Workers and clean up crews used this gym during that time.



Decay.


After the gym we started the short walk over to the school.



We entered the room where they seemed to dump all the masks.



Mask and books.


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Old Dec 23, 2018, 7:07 pm
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Thousands of them.



Register.



Masks.



Masks.



Definitely abandoned in this manner.



DNA model.



Lenin.



Classroom.



Textbooks.



Someone translate this.



Looks like this was a lecture room. Don't mind that camera lens poking out from the left.



We walked around a bit outside after the school. The guide then gave us the choice between going to the roof of either a 9-story apartment building or a 16-story one. No elevators, so naturally we chose the taller one.



Mail.



At the top of the 16-story apartment building. The power plant can be seen in the middle of the image in the background.



Looking out over Pripyat.



Walking around Pripyat. The next stop was the daycare center, where the guide let us roam freely for about 20 minutes.



We started our tour of the day care center by going to the opposite end of the building first, hoping we could see something different since most people just go to the first door they see.



Things looked less set-up here since most items had a pretty healthy layer of dust and debris on them.



Stuff was strewn everywhere.



Doll.



Door.



Doll.



The guide went into some lockbox he had hidden and pulled out this little bag. He claims it was a fragment from the reactor, but who knows. Either way, it was reading 7.428 mSv/h (7,428 Sv/h).



After Pripyat, we headed about 30 minutes out to the Duga Radar, aka the Russian Woodpecker.



The Duga Radar was a Soviet early missile defense system. It was operational until 1989.



Russian Woodpecker.



Duga Radar.



We then started our 3.5 hour drive back to Kiev, which took an hour longer than expected due to traffic. We stopped at the Chernobyl entrance sign on the way out.



We grabbed a quick dinner after arriving back in Kiev. I started off with some green Borscht.



Ukrainian Varenyky as my main.

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Old Dec 23, 2018, 7:08 pm
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Day 5



For some reason, I didn't take any pictures from this morning. We took a noon flight from Kiev back to Frankfurt on Wizz Air. Nothing to write home about, but the flight was a bit more full than our inbound to Kiev. After landing in Frankfurt, we headed over to one of the Frankfurt Airport Holiday Inn Expresses.




We arrived with no plans for the day. After some quick research, we decided to head down to Mainz, which was a 30 minute ride from the airport area.



It was perfect weather in Mainz on this fall afternoon.



We stopped by the Mainz Cathedral, though we'd return later in the evening.



Street name.



Inside Mainz Cathedral. The cathedral was built in 1927, but was restored after WWII.



Mainz Cathedral.



Mainz Cathedral.



We proceeded to walk around Mainz rather aimlessly. We ended up in the main square.



Mainz architecture.



Panorama along the Rhine River.



Pork Knuckle and Schnitzel for dinner. Both were fantastic.



Back at Mainz Cathedral for blue hour.



Mainz, Germany.



I'm going to end this report here as I didn't take many pictures on the return flights to the U.S. Additionally, they were pretty standard. Overall, I had a great time in Ukraine and it almost certainly exceeded my expectations. Kiev is a very affordable city, with good food and plenty of sights. Chernobyl was cool by all means and very interesting for those fascinated by Soviet history, but it's one of those 'you go once and that's it' sort of places. I'm about two months behind on this report, so this will be one of my last ones of the year. I just came back from a short weekend in Paris last week, and I'm possibly heading down to Brazil for a day before New Years, though that's up in the air.

This will likely be my last published report this year, so Merry Christmas, Happy New Years and Happy Holidays! Looking forward to another crazy year of travel in 2019.

Last edited by ChiefNWA; Dec 24, 2018 at 6:45 am
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Old Dec 23, 2018, 11:05 pm
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Great photos! I visited back in 2009 and its interesting to see how the reactor containment has progressed.
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Old Dec 24, 2018, 6:15 am
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Possibly the greatest TR ever. Well done.
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Old Dec 24, 2018, 10:48 am
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A fascinating trip(report)^
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Old Dec 24, 2018, 12:12 pm
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Thanks for posting; good photos. I researched the possibility of visiting Chernobyl in conjunction with a trip to OTP a couple years ago, but just couldn't make the logistics work.
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Old Dec 26, 2018, 7:22 am
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Originally Posted by BryanIAH
Great photos! I visited back in 2009 and its interesting to see how the reactor containment has progressed.
Thanks! Sort of wish I visited before the new confinement was built, it looked much more brutal then.

Originally Posted by Uncle Nonny
Possibly the greatest TR ever. Well done.
Thank you!

Originally Posted by offerendum
A fascinating trip(report)^
Thanks!

Originally Posted by Close2KADS
Thanks for posting; good photos. I researched the possibility of visiting Chernobyl in conjunction with a trip to OTP a couple years ago, but just couldn't make the logistics work.
It is a bit of a pain logistics wise, but worth it IMO.
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Old Dec 26, 2018, 8:12 am
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After the memorial, it was time for a quick lunch. We finished quite quickly, but the other group of three did not. They expressed displeasure with us rushing them (indirectly at least). We were pushed for time, I certainly wasn't interested in wasting even more in the restaurant talking about how little they enjoyed their recent trip to Argentina.
Did a tour to China a few years ago, and had this dimwitted bimbo and hubby who would E.V.E.R.Y. time arrive between 20 - 30 minutes late for our bus departure. First and last 10 day tour bus for me.

But, thank you again for a very insightful TR with some great photos. Also, I did not know about the tour around FRA - when I go through there again, and have hours to kill, I will certainly participate.

And a Merry Christmas, and may 2019 bring many interesting TR's that you will share with us.
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Old Dec 26, 2018, 11:43 am
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Some terrific photos there !!

Ukraine is on my list but I think I will save it for the sprimg / summer / fall months...
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Old Dec 26, 2018, 9:16 pm
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Wow, amazing report and photos. Thank you for sharing. Happy New Year!
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Old Dec 27, 2018, 2:37 am
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A cool trip to Kiev and Chernobyl. Quite a cheap and easygoing place to getaway for a few days. IEV looks to be much better located than KBP too.

Originally Posted by ChiefNWA
Sort of wish I visited before the new confinement was built, it looked much more brutal then.
Quite a bit 'hotter' too.

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