Chernobyl – 10 Things You didn’t Know

“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves” – Euripides

Ukraine is definitely a hot spot right now. I’m sure before reading this you’ve heard of their current, unfortunate events at least once or twice in the evening news.

I was lucky enough to be there and get a feel of this great country myself before things went too heated.

Spent a New Year’s Eve in the Independence Square. Surrounded by a sea of hopeful people was definitely an experience to remember.

A couple of days later, I was on a bus, on my way to visit the exclusion zone of Chernobyl. The nuclear plant where one of the most terrible accidents of our times took place.

The tour to Chernobyl was great. We were lucky enough to have enthusiastic and welcoming guides on board. They shared a lot of interesting information with us.

Interesting, funny and quirky facts about Chernobyl.

Chernobyl, Ukraine

1. The government kept Chernobyl nuclear accident of ‘86 as a secret at first.

The Ukrainian authorities thought it would be a good idea to keep the biggest nuclear accident of all times a secret. Just for two days after it took place on the night of 26th of April 1986. You know, lets see maybe it is not that bad as it seems. Lets give it time.

It is only nuclear accident in the whole history of Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Smile and act like it hadn’t even happened. That is a way to go.

Even Soviet Union, of which Ukraine was part at the time, had no idea what was boiling in the corner of their ‘Empire’.

Chernobyl, Ukraine

2. The Swedes were the ones who alerted Europe about the accident.

It was the Swedes who came to the rescue, they are too honest to lie. Super honest guys from Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant pushed an Ukrainian deputies to admit the truth. The huge radioactive cloud above Ukraine is not an Impressionist painting! What a surprise?! It was a result of a huge and terrible accident in power plant in Chernobyl rather than magic of Monet’s brush.

Chernobyl, Ukraine

3. Evacuating the area two days too late.

In effort of make things finally right, the Chernobyl area got evacuated, oh well, just 2 days of super heavy radiation.

People were only allowed to carry out cash and documents. They had no clue that they were never to return to their homes. Completely unaware that they were leaving their whole lives behind forever.

It was the radioactive rain that made people realized what have happened! A change in the air was a sign.

Chernobyl, Ukraine

4. The true victims – the people inside the exclusion zone.

The first tragic victims of the accident were the firemen who were on duty to set the initial fire down. Uninformed of the nature of the explosion, they didn’t take any special precautions. They were all reported dead after few days from the accident day.

Nowadays, a monument stands erected in their honour in front of the fire station of Chernobyl! Not enough in my opinion.

Chernobyl, Ukraine

5. The authorities’ response? A quick fix, of course.

The only logical way to go about this was changing legal radiation levels! Exceeding them just 5 times!

What?! Yes, lets change the numbers so it doesn’t look so bad on the papers! That way when people went in for a check they could walk away “healthy”.

This is a fact still not recognized to this day. People who were inside the exclusion zone are still fighting for their rights! Denied any compensation for the damage caused. Shocking!

Chernobyl, Ukraine

6. The Chernobyl exclusion zone is turning into a wildlife park and sanctuary.

An area of approximately 2600 square km is now an exclusion zone. Several villages are still buried under ground because their level of radiation was too high.

The government brought new, clean soil to the area for this purpose. Planted forest all around. To speed up a complete cleaning process of the area.

The whole exclusion zone nowadays is going wild. It’s home to many wild species, including wild dogs, foxes, cats, fish etc.

There are stories about a “mutant catfish” going around. The unusual dimensions those species has reached are rather caused by the lack of predators than any mutations. But now it is for the researchers to check if those animals are still prone to radiation of the region.

Chernobyl, Ukraine

7. Some people, unimpressed by the devastating effects of the accident, re-settled to the area.

What? Are you crazy?!

There are around 500 re-settlers who went back to re-occupy the area. The re-settlers could pick any house they wanted to inhabit. No wonders there was no pressure about basic rule of market and demand.

Going through the Chernobyl villages you’ll see every once in a while a renovated house with an inscription on it. The inscriptions hold the names of the new owners of the property. Serves the purpose of announcing that this house is already taken. So please go and find yourself another property.

The re-settlers are the only people allowed to be here on a permanent basis. Other people working inside the exclusion zone are only permitted to stay inside the area max 14 days. They are all obligated to spend the rest of the month outside the zone.

Chernobyl, Ukraine

8. The accident had the biggest impact on Belarus.

Not only Belarus in worser stage than Ukraine! The radioactive cloud made it all the way to Corsica Island! The radiation levels are nowadays higher than inside the exclusion zone in Ukraine.

As Chernobyl is right on the border between Ukraine and Belarus, a good part of Belarus was also affected by the accident! But was never declared an exclusion zone and no measurements for cleaning the area were ever taken. Instead of the radioactive wasteland turned into an exclusion zone, Belarus got “wilderness area”. Unmonitored and ungoverned.

The radioactive cloud from the Ukrainian caused a lot of damage in many western Europeans countries.

Many governments still keep this fact a secret, to keep the peace and not spend millions on a clean-up effort.

They do this disregarding the effects it might have on the local population. Few took measurements to clean effected areas! There are parts of Europe where the radiation levels are higher than the exclusion zone in Ukraine.

Chernobyl, Ukraine

9. Pripyat, once the jewel of the Chernobyl area, now a ghost city.

Prpyat was the main city of the area. Built for the reactor’s workers and their families, was one of the best places to live inside the Soviet Union.

People who worked at the reactors had many advantages compared to other areas in the Soviet Union.

Salaries were 3 times higher than anywhere else. Shops were better stocked, they had good quality apartment buildings and institutions. There was no problems with food stamps like everywhere else.

There was even an amusement park built in Pripyat. Unfortunately, it was never put in use. The whole city was preparing for the celebrations that were to happen on Labor’s day (1st of May).

Soviet propaganda posters they had prepared for the occasion are still seen around town.

Inside the main school, there are hundreds of gas masks. Stocked here in case “the Americans” attacked. Yet, a nuclear disaster did not seem like an appropriate occasion to use them.

Chernobyl, Ukraine

10. 200 tones of radioactive material is still inside the reactor and the whole world is trying to find out the solution what to do with it.

After the fire stopped, the authorities built sarcophagus around Reactor no 4. To protect the area from further spreading radiation. This was only meant to last for 20 years. A second sarcophagus is still under construction almost 30 years later. This is to be set over the old one.

Reactor no 3 was also affected by the accident and a second explosion. This one would have been much bigger! It would blow most of Europe off the map! Avoided only thanks to the volunteers offering to help out and make the area safe once again. Despite this, the Reactor no 3 kept functioning until recently. The only reason the Ukrainian authorities ceased to use this reactor was the pressure the European Union.

The area is safe to visit nowadays! So many tourists can feed their curiosity and see what’s hidden inside the exclusion area. Although you can only go inside with a guide. When exiting, everybody has to run a scan determining whether their radiation level is within legal levels. But which legal levels, those exceeded 5 times?

Chernobyl Article

Iulia Luga from The Pink Moustache Travel. A perpetual expat and wanderer. Iulia is now back in Romania, her home country. Where she is spending her last months on the old continent. While preparing for her biggest adventure to date: backpacking all the way to China, where she is to spend the next couple of years.

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 Photo Credit: Adventurous Travels Blog Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored!

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71 thoughts on “Chernobyl – 10 Things You didn’t Know

  1. Joseff

    There are so many things to know more about Chernobyl. I heard about this place almost a hundred times but when I started to read about it, it gave more ideas how this place become historical and I am still now very interested to visit and get to know more about this place personally.

  2. Sara

    I really would not recommend anyone going to Kiev given the current civil war conditions.

    • Sara I think we can all agree that this article has been written while ago and that people are aware of what is going on in Ukraine. I do not think Kiev is actually dangerous to go rather Donetsk, Slowiansk and the whole region around it. But indeed I agree that it is not time to explore beauty of Ukraine. Unfortunately!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #84My Profile

  3. Adrienne

    Very interesting post. I’ve always been so fascinated with this.

  4. Whitney

    That is really attention-grabbing, You are an overly skilled blogger.
    I’ve joined your feed and look forward to searching for more of your fantastic post.

    Also, I’ve shared your website in my social networks.

  5. Bob OBowey

    A friend of mine went to Chernobyl on a guided tour, but somehow he never made it back. If anyone has any news about him, please let me know. His name is Eric ETM Lynch.

    • Great stunt Bob lol And actually I think I have heard that they found him completely drunk with some friends from Bunny Ranch in Sacramento.
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #76My Profile

  6. Matt

    Hi there! This post could not be written any better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this. I will send this information to
    him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Bob B

    Very good article.

  8. Very interesting story. Since I am relatively young, I do not remember this tragedy. Well written article. I learned a lot! It is crazy the times both the Ukraine and Belarus are facing now and in the past.
    Angela Travels recently posted…Visiting the Redwood GiantsMy Profile

    • Angela I do not actually remember it either, been 2 when it happened! I hope I do not look like i can remember this :) ha ha ha
      But we learned about it at school.

  9. Wow cheers for this, absolutely fascinating, so much I didn’t know. Visiting Pripyat is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, hopefully soon!
    Anastasia Sofia recently posted…Stepping Back in Time at Istanbul’s Buyukada IslandMy Profile

  10. Jessica Mary

    Awesome post!

  11. This is great stuff! I’m planning to go this June. Btw – just followed you on Twitter as well – please keep it up. Looking forward to connect! Torsten

  12. Fascinating facts, and a sobering moment in history. Clearly a few things still unresolved, too, all these years later. I think the disaster at Chernobyl was one of my earliest news memories, so it’s a good one to revisit and see how the story’s coming along for me.
    Bronwyn Joy recently posted…KawazuzakuraMy Profile

    • I actually do nor remember that myself, was 2 years old but in Poland it was always widely discussed at school.
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #63My Profile

  13. Marysia, This is a fascinating post. I would love to take the Chernobyl tour, but might be a little scared. I remember the incident well, and that was very scary!
    Corinne recently posted…Copper Store in Beypazarı, TurkeyMy Profile

    • I do not remember so well, I was 2 years old when it happened but we learn a lot about Chernobyl in Poland. I think I’m not scared to visit but maybe would be to live there permanently….
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #63My Profile

  14. Oh wow, great list of interesting facts! I learned about Chernobyl in high school, but most of your facts are new to me (we only learned about the boring stuff in school haha).
    Michelle recently posted…The Anatomy of a BackpackerMy Profile

  15. Wow that is amazing; many of these facts I did not know. I do want to visit when the political troubles settle down. It must be amazing to visit and see what is left after the disaster. Crazy that anyone would return to live in that area; soooo crazy!
    Marsha recently posted…Red Square MoscowMy Profile

    • Yes I think as well that it is a bit crazy, but Marsha it is quiet common around the world, people come back to live in war, man and nature disasters zones. After all they feel it is their home. Out mainds and hearts play many tricks on us. I hope situation will calm down soon so I can go visit this summer.
      Marysia recently posted…Glasgow – Shopping till you drop!? My Profile

  16. Very interesting post! I was in the Ukraine recently but didn’t make it to Chernobyl. I was unaware you had to book way in advance. I intented to go back in May, but unfortunately it looks like it won’t happen…
    Pedro recently posted…Istanbul in 10 Hours – Making the Most of a Flight ConnectionMy Profile

  17. Aldis

    About 1st fact. Ukrainian authorities were under Soviet Union so dont blame Ukrain for keeping that as secret.

    • Nobody blames anybody here, we are just underlining the absurdity of the situation! If you read the comments under the post you would notice I mention couple of times that was Soviet Union.
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #61My Profile

  18. Interesting! I’ve always wanted to visit Chernobyl!
    Jenna recently posted…A Photo Essay: Sedona, ArizonaMy Profile

    • Same here! Actually I have decided a while ago that I’m gonna visit Ukraine this summer!
      Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #61My Profile

  19. Tom

    I have visited Chernobyl last summer! Extraordinary experience… Great facts, it’s great to find out something more about this scary place!
    Tom recently posted…Pripyat (near Chernobyl), Ukraine – Real-life ghost townMy Profile

  20. Ron

    Wow that’s insane, I had no idea they took such a small interest in trying to clean up after the mess they caused!
    Ron recently posted…Going Underground in Nepal: Gupteshwor Mahadev CaveMy Profile

  21. Fantastic article and I LOVE the look of the website Marysia, keep up the good work!
    Michael Huxley recently posted…Forget the gap year itinerary, go with the flow.My Profile

  22. I’ve always wanted to visit Chernobyl. I hope things smooth out soon in Ukraine, they really need to catch a break!
    Beth recently posted…The Many Architectural Styles of MalaysiaMy Profile

  23. One of the most unfortunate and disastrous accidents in our 20th century. At the same time this accident caused that many people talk about the risks of nuclear energy without knowing anything always visioning another Chernobyl to come. It’s striking to see these pictures with bright colors and sunshine, while my mind imagines grey fog when reading it. Thanks for this article, I agree that people should know much more about this place than they usually do.
    Gabor Kovacs recently posted…Photowalk #1 – PatagoniaMy Profile

  24. What an amazing post! Absolutely fascinating. Super, yet disturbing, photos. Very well done!
    Erin recently posted…Chelsea Market: Food Porn Paradise or Tourist Trap?My Profile

  25. Really enjoyed reading this post about Chernobyl and learning a few things I didn’t know. Would love to visit the area someday.
    Vicky recently posted…5 Day Tasmania Road TripMy Profile

  26. Despite my obsession with Chernobyl since I first heard about it in grade 11, I admit there were a couple points here I didn’t know. So, kudos!
    I really hope to make it there one day. I’ll risk any radiation poisoning. :P
    Meggie Kay recently posted…Flying Hungover: The Longest 8 Hours of my LifeMy Profile

  27. I’ve always wanted to visit Chernobyl yet for some reason never had a chance. I have catch up next time I’m in Ukraine! Such difficult places fascinate me big time!
    kami recently posted…Sunday with Pictures: Two faces of Knysna, South AfricaMy Profile

  28. Wow what a great post! I didn’t realise you could visit inside the exclusion zone. Def looking into this!

    I do agree with you about the “legal levels of radiation” seems like it’s a moving goal post.
    Roma recently posted…Rome in 72 hoursMy Profile

  29. Siri B

    I have been lucky enough to be in the exclusion zone twice – one day in 2012, two days in 2013. It’s fascinating – and sad – and very beautiful – and those who wish to visit, should do so before Pripyat is hidden beneath the vegetation. Even from 2012 to 2013 we noticed a difference.

  30. I really enjoyed this post – thanks for sharing.

    I really want to go to Pripyat and Chernobyl, and this is a great guide! Obviously now, with everything going on, is not the right time. The problems in the Ukraine make me so sad. It seems to just be a constant battle for them.
    Sammi recently posted…Walking Off the Night Before in BudapestMy Profile

  31. Sam

    Thanks for the history lesson!
    I have heard a little about Chernobyl but not a lot of information is around about it.
    I do remember reading something about the volunteers and firefights who died horribly after being exposed. Its a terrible tragedy!
    Sam recently posted…Handy Tips for a More Enjoyable FlightMy Profile

  32. It sounds like a fascinating place to visit although the whole disaster is very sad to read about. Were the photos taken on the trip written about? It seems very nice and sunny and dry – not what I imagined winter to look like!
    Sharon recently posted…The random experience of spending my birthday in LaosMy Profile

    • Sharon pictures are from Tom, and indeed he was lucky enough to take a trip on the sunny beautiful day. Iulia had less luck and decided her pictures didn’t really show how it looks like!
      Marysia recently posted…Things to Do in Lake Atitlán, GuatemalaMy Profile

  33. NZ Muse

    Those photos are pretty cool…!

    We couchsurfed with a Ukrainian girl living in Bangkok. We had a lot of interesting conversations.

  34. I’d like to tour Pripyat. Stark and ghostly images intrigues me. Thanks for the write up, I didn’t know about Belarus, that’s sad!
    Shaun recently posted…Edinburgh – In on a whim out with a bang…literally.My Profile

  35. Wow, some fascinating facts here. I cannot believe they tried to keep it quiet, that’s crazy!

  36. Jen

    Very interesting post Iulia. Visiting Chernobyl is something I have always wanted to do.
    Jen recently posted…London in picturesMy Profile

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