Chernobyl vs. Chernobyl: the series vs. reality

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Sarcophagus over the Nuclear Power Plant in Chernobyl

See it for yourself in real life

As a true travel fanatic you have probably seen the HBO series ‘Chernobyl’. Spectacular, sinister, dark and shockingly realistic. That’s how the series was received. In the west, people were generally more positive about it than in Russia. The Russian filmmaker Aleksey Muradov has even claimed that he is going to make a counter-documentary in which ‘the truth’ comes out. According to him, the CIA was behind the nuclear disaster. In any case, there is no doubt that the series is extremely popular. According to many, the 5 episodes give a fairly realistic representation of what happened in the days, weeks and months around 26 April 1986.

What is left of it?

Now it may well be that the series has also given you the idea of seeing the area with your own eyes. Yes, you should. We have several tours you can sign up for. But, if you do go there, what are you going to see? What is left of Pripyat, for example? And what do you see when you visit the 30-kilometre zone? Is it still in line with the image of what can be seen in the series, or was it all put up and laid out later to attract tourists? We will list the highlights here. This way you can decide whether you really want to travel to one of the most bizarre places on earth.

The beginning of your journey: Kiev

Kiev occurs sporadically in the Chernobyl series. The city is the starting point for every journey to the exclusion zone. And while you’re there, you’d better have a good time, right? Kiev has a lot to offer: strange bars, the unique Cave Monastery, the old town with the legendary Maidan Square and much more. And the great thing is: everything is – for an average tourist – cheap.

Neither do you notice anything of the war in Kiev, which is largely taking place in the east of Ukraine. In short: take a few extra days in Kiev before you travel to Chernobyl.

Pripyat: From Soviet model city to gloomy and deserted ghost village

Pripyat was founded in 1970 as a ‘Nuclear City’ to house the workers who worked in and around the Chernobyl power plants. The city was a Soviet model city: houses were mainly flats in large numbered complexes (160 in total). It was a young city: at the time of the Chernobyl disaster the average age was 26 years. 1 in 5 inhabitants still went to school. There were sports facilities, bars, hotels and restaurants and even (unique in the Soviet Union!) a self-service supermarket.

The city was only evacuated 36 hours after the disaster. A monster job that was completed in just a few hours. Residents were told that they would soon return. More than 30 years later, nothing could be further from the truth.

Chernobyl: name of the power station: not affected by radiation

The name of the power station does not come from the largest city nearby: Chernobyl is a village just south of the power station. Before the disaster, 14,000 people lived in the village. After the disaster, Chernobyl was also evacuated. It was only in 2012 that the radiation level was low enough to live there again. Since then, a number of residents have returned. Tourists staying in the area for several days sleep in a hotel in Chernobyl. Other interesting (Soviet) buildings can be found in the town, such as restaurants, the town hall and a palace of culture.

Nuclear reactor number 4: shiny sarcophagus around the still radiating core

Nuclear reactor number 4 is the reactor that exploded on 26 April. Nowadays you can get pretty close to it because a new sarcophagus has been in place  around the reactor for a number of years. This sarcophagus was built for a period of 100 years. After that, a new one has to be built around it. When you visit the reactor, you might be surprised at the activity around it: there are still a lot of people from all sorts of countries working to clean up the mess. During your stay around Chernobyl, you will also eat in the canteen built for the staff.

The forests around the power station

In the forests around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant you will find several deserted villages, hamlets and farms. These also had to be evacuated in the days following the disaster. The residents often had to leave everything behind. As a result, entire interiors are often still intact. During a trip to Chernobyl you will also visit these villages. They give a good picture of life in the countryside during the time of the Soviet Union.

Do you want to see Pripyat, Chernobyl and the 30-kilometre zone in real life? Book one of our group or individual trips to Chernobyl.

Watch the trailer of the HBO series Chernobyl

YouTube video