The next morning, we woke up in our Pripyat flat with some notable muscle ache. But I was a little bit relieved to hear that this even affected the other guys – who were in far better shape than me. Although I slept like a baby on a jacked up room door, I woke up to the sound of mice chewing on the wood of a cabinet in the room. so we had to “rescue” our food and water supplies and put them up high in the cabinet. Our guide told us, a single mouse can ruin all the food.
But first our stomachs desired for coffee and breakfast. And thanks to the care pack it was a very tasty breakfast. We had fresh cucumber, sausage, cheese and an absolute fantastic “vegetarian caviar”. That’s a traditional Russian/Ukrainian eggplant vegetable cream. If you want to try this delicious stuff for yourself, you might be lucky in an international / Russian store or make it yourself. (I haven’t tried the recipe, yet, but I will and I suspect it will be even better than a bought one.)
Pripyat UrbEx Tour
To get an impression of the city from before the accident I can highly recommend this blog. They have hundreds of photos from before, during and after the catastrophe. Most of the reference shots, Felix took with him, were printed from this goldmine.
All Pripyat photos are tagged with GPS position and current radiation levels at the time the photo was taken – measured in my pants’ pocket (~75 cm height above ground). I described how I did this and published the Python script here. Although the article is in German, the software is written and documented in English.
Getting up high
First we aimed for one of the highest buildings, a 16 story high lookout point. Luckily our legs didn’t already burn (they did).
Kindergarten No. 10
After going down again, we moved on and explored the kindergarten No. 10. However, although there are quite some genuine artifacts from the 80ies, I think the scenery is a little depressing. You can clearly see that from the mood of the picture after editing.
Next we visited the stadium. We came in from the west and didn’t realize it’s the stadium until we saw the ranks of the audience. This is, because the former playing field is a wild forest nowadays. But you can still see the concrete, oval running track that surrounds it.
The cinema is pretty run-down and not very photogenic in my eyes. This beautiful overgrowth caught my eyes, though, so I caught it on ‘film’.
Hide and seek
Suddenly we noticed people around. Since we could not easily identify them as tourists, and we saw nobody who looked or behaved like a guide, we chose to hide between some trees. Meanwhile our guide checked out the situation. So, out of curiosity, we took a look at the geiger counters. They showed elevated values of 1-2 µS/h, but nothing to worry about.
Bjarke put the device right next to his balls on the ground – just for fun. It startet to rattle quite a bit and his eyes became bigger and bigger the more the number grew. Having reached already 20 µS/h he chose to relocate himself. Apparently he was sitting with his ass right on a hotspot. This is probably because the tree pulled some radioactive particles with the water out of the soil below using its roots. This was the highest value we ever measured in the exclusion zone.
The photo of the geiger counter was taken 2 meters away from the hotspot. Here the radiation was significantly lower. Though, the interesting part of it is the shown radiation vs. the value the one my script tagged. And they differ only by 0.01 µS/h – this is probably because the clock of the device drifts a few seconds / per day. So time based matching gets a little imprecise, the longer the device runs without correcting the internal clock, but I’m still satisfied with the results.
Middle school No. 1
The school No. 1 already suffered two collapses and is in really bad shape today. Water ingress, ice and melt water weaken its structure more and more with every year passed. But especially the natural decay was appealing to me. Apparently the school wasn’t in high in favor of scrappers. While outside there were moderately elevated radiation values, inside it was just right in the range of the background radiation. Probably because the windows were kept close during the catastrophe.
The art of Ivan Semyonovich Litovchenko
Pripyat city center
Now we entered the city center – getting closer to the the most iconic place, the Pripyat amusement park.
The sign on the rooftop reads “Хай буде атом робітником а не солдатом” and means: “Let the atom be a worker and not a soldier”. After the catastrophe it has been torn down. But, decades later, Stalkers have set it up again with a welding machine in a night operation.
On the way we entered the post office and found this astonishingly colorful painting on the wall.
Walking in the open was really tense and nerve wrecking, because we were well visible from far away and from all directions. Yet, hiding or running away would have been even more suspicious. So we had stay cool, be bold and and become tourists. And while walking in the park, we noticed a drone flying over our heads. Flying there was probably as illegal as we were.
Last, but not least, we visited the Jupiter factory. While the men worked in and around the nuclear power plant, there had to be something for the women. In the Soviet Union everybody had to have work. So this factory was built on the outskirts of Pripyat. It was supposed to manufacture cassette recorders and electronic components for home appliances – officially. In reality it was a little bit more complex. Production of tape and components for appliances was a smokescreen for Jupiter’s secret production of semiconductor components for the military industry. New materials were tested in laboratories and workshops and the robotics department developed various robotic systems. After the accident decontamination techniques were developed here and the plant was operational until 1996.
We did visit the swimming pool “Azure”, on our way back to our flat for diner, but it was really dark already. I didn’t want to use the flashlight in there, as it would have exposed us through the wide open window fronts.