When we applied for our visas to Ukraine, the process had us a little intimidated. In the time leading up to our visit to the capital, Kiev, we wondered if it would be hard work. We’re okay with cities that require a bit more planning, but after our time in China we didn’t know how resilient we could be.
Luckily, Kiev was a great city that felt very relaxed and easy to manage. We stayed in a place along Schevchenko Boulevard which was a little out of the action but no more than a 20minute walk to some of the city’s most beautiful sights. St Sophia’s church, Alexander’s decent and Independence square are all highlights of this picturesque place.
One of the main reasons for passing through Ukraine was to visit Chernobyl, the site of the worlds worst nuclear disaster in 1986. We booked a tour of the exclusion zone as well as the towns of Chernobyl and Pripyat that were evacuated in the days following the explosion and fire at the nuclear power plant. The main attraction here is the desolate wastelands of these towns that were considered to be the pinnacle of the communist way of life, carefully engineered ad structured. The towns remain frozen in time as the 30,000 people who were evacuated never returned to their homes.
It was a surreal experience to walk around these towns, but even more surreal to see such lush and green vegetation. The houses have been strangled by plants and vines and have succumbed to the extremes of weather experienced over the past 27 years. Our guide showed us ‘hot spots’ of radioactivity around the towns with his Geiger counter but he seemed pretty relaxed about the readings even though they were frightening! It was awful to hear that even though there were so many affected by radiation poisoning there are still only 31 deaths officially attributed to the explosion at Chernobyl.
Our guide told us that we were lucky to visit when we did as they are building a new sarcophagus for the reactor (as the original one is wearing away), which means that the iconic red and white stacks will be pulled down in the next few months.
In short, we have loved Ukraine and feel that it is a place that deserves a lot more of our time!