Yesterday I ventured into the city about lunchtime. I was bound and determined to make it to the Parliament Building. When I finally found it I was not surprised that numerous police and national guard had blocked all access. As it turns out, I was literally half a kilometer from the explosion the day before. Nobody in the main square acted in any way that would suggest a grenade was thrown at police half a block away.
That evening I went to dinner with Charlotte. We didn’t leave until after 2000, and wandered around lost for a bit. Still it was a fun journey. The restaurant we were hoping to patronize must have closed early, so we found another one close by and had some traditional Ukrainian food. Neither of us knew what we were ordering, we just picked a few things and shared dinner with a glass of wine each. It was quite enjoyable.
This morning I had to be up EARLY (0700) to make the trek into town to catch the bus into Chernobyl. I still wound up taking a wrong path and ARRIVED – Angie – a few minutes late. We left the square at 0830 for the two-hour ride. I slept most of the way there. Upon arrival we had several check points to pass. We toured a few buildings within the 30-km safe exclusion zone, then went into the less-safe 10-km exclusion zone, and eventually right up to the actual reactor (okay, it was across the street). I was thankfully able to sneak away from the group for a minute to get myself a water sample from the cooling canal used for the first four reactors. In retrospect, had I remembered Angie’s travel gift, the spot may have qualified as an “unholy place.” But at least I got a mini-sample. From the power plant we went into the town of Pripyat, population 40,000 circa 1986. We went through a stadium, a swimming pool, a carnival, and a school. I think the abandoned school was creepier than the carnival. Oh, I almost forgot our first stop: a massive, MASSIVE array of satellite receivers pointed at the United States intended to detect ICBMs. We were allowed to climb up the decaying structure about 30 meters. Only a handful of us took advantage of the opportunity.
Then we headed out of the compound. I was a bit worried about being detained by the military police at the checkpoints. Twice they checked each of us for “excessive radiation” using either Geiger Counters or big pass-through machines akin to metal detectors. Not only did I fear the amount of radiation in the water sample, but there were one or two other…souvineirs…that I thought my sister would appreciate more than the people that don’t live there anymore. Of course I had no idea how much radiation they contained additionally. But all’s well that ends well. We left and hit up a cantina on the way home with a surprising tasty and fulfilling catered dinner, then I slept the rest of the way home.
I am addicted to the little chicken-and-cheese-wrapped-in-bread-and-baked snacks from a bistro down the street. At least once a day I get one. So after I returned I picked one up. It is now 2033, and I have to figure out what to do with my last night in Kyiv!