Travel Gone Wrong at Chernobyl

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

After a day of exploring the beautiful (and affordable) city of Kiev my friend and I found ourselves on our way to the scene of a terrible nuclear disaster that occurred in the 1980’s. Thirty years on it's a popular attraction for dark tourism, Chernobyl tourism is booming.

You’ve probably seen the pictures before; the abandoned buildings, rusting fair ground and nature reclaiming its territory. Well, the reality is just that. I have visited plenty of places that are nothing like those pesky marketeers portray it to be, but Chernobyl and surroundings were as eerie as expected.

For once I had an incident free trip. On the journey to the exclusion zone they tell you about the history and subsequent clean-up operation. They assure you that it is now perfectly safe to visit, provided you follow the rules and don’t touch anything you shouldn’t. On account of my wanting to carry on living, I decided the safest course of action would be to touch absolutely nothing, this included the many stray dogs that our guide assured us were safe to pet. For all we knew the dogs might have come directly from one of the many radiation hot-spots, under which tonnes of contaminated materials are buried. Most of the group gave them a hug anyway.

You may be wondering why, if nothing went wrong, am I writing about this? Well, I thought I would relay the tale of a young lady (let’s call her Silly) who’s trip to Chernobyl did go wrong, very wrong. I should point out that this was a story told to us by our guide so I can’t account for its validity.

Silly was apparently something of an Instagram star and was keen to get all the best angles for her pictures, apparently this involved laying on the ground, sitting on walls and leaning against metal structures. Nothing wrong with that, unless you’re at Chernobyl where the metal is still highly contaminated with large amounts of nuclear particles. Like I say, they do warn you about touching things, quite a lot, because you will be scanned for particles before you are allowed to leave exclusion zone.

Predictably, when Silly passed through the scanner it detected some particles in her clothing. Procedure is to simply treat the affected area with soap and water and pass through the scanner again. That didn’t work. The next step is to cut away the suspected area of clothing and dispose of it. That didn’t work either. The very last resort is to take all your clothing from you to be safely disposed of. That, allegedly, did work. In a scenario that gives me uncomfortable flashbacks to my school P.E /Gym days, the days that I forgot my kit, Silly was given an old t-shirt and pair of shorts to protect her dignity for the journey back to Kiev.

I would imagine that, after holding up the entire tour group, the journey back to the city was a little awkward. Great pictures though I’m sure.

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