Expectation confounded. Chernobyl was far different from what I expected. The reactor was there, of course, yet I had no idea that neighboring reactors operate to this day. Workers go in and out on strict shifts according to their jobs. The ongoing effort to build a new sarcophagus is monumental. Most of all the history and science of it were fascinating. Radiation is so localized that a piece of moss can set off the Geiger counter while a foot away the ground is perfectly normal.

I booked a tour with Solo East and have high praise for their arrangements and guide, from little touches like the documentaries playing on the ride up to the guide’s efforts to show and explain as much as possible and safe. Everything went to plan except the hungover Austrians that delayed our departure, and my stupid mistake of bringing the wrong passport. I forgot I had registered for the tour with my old, primary passport but was using my second passport for Ukraine. When we got the the gate we had a problem that only a bribe would resolve. After all my efforts to weasel out of traffic cop stick-ups, Ukraine finally got a bribe out of me.

The abandoned town of Pripyat is no Pompeii. The buildings have been mercilessly picked over by scavengers, robbing it of the frozen in time memorial that it should be. Some were set up, it seemed, deliberately for pictures, with strategically placed dolls and such. There are still poignant spots.

At the end of the day there is the moment of truth: the full-body radiation scan. I passed.

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  1. Been there on the exact same tour. It is a great memory. I love the body scan at the end. Like anyone ever fails!

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