ALLEGRO IN CHERNOBYL!!!!!!!!
Andrei Ellman

After the success of last year's allegro.cc meetup in Amsterdam, I thought it would be about time for another one. This time, I suggest that the venue is ... Chernobyl.

Located in the Ukraine, just 110 km north of the capital Kiev (Kyiv), Prypiat was a town close to the Chernobyl (Chornobyl) nuclear reactor. When it exploded in 1986, the town of Prypiat was immediately evacuated. Prypiat is now a ghost-town - an abandoned town preserved in time. See what Soviet-era towns were like in the 80's. See the remains of a civilisation (and it's preserved propaganda) that has completely transformed since 1986. Not only that, but you get to experience the eerie feeling of a deserted ghost-town. I am told that this can be quite intense.

Nowadays, the radiation levels have long since returned to safe levels, and there are now guided tours. The only snag is that to get a good price, you must come in a large tour-group, and it's no good just assembling a tour-group at random, you must actually be in one. And this - my dear Alligators is where you come in. One web-page about tours to Chernobyl is http://www.ukrcam.com/tour/tour_3.html - For a single person, the price is 394 Yankee Dollars, whereas if I can organise a group of 7 or above, it will cost $87 per person. If enough of us are interested, we would be able to get a decent per-person price, and have a good turnout for an allegro.cc meetup.

For more details, see http://wikitravel.org/en/Chernobyl

To make things more interesting, after being in a place overcome with death, spend the evening in vibrant Kiev (Kyiv), a city overcome with Life. Just being in the central square gets you going. It's truly something to remember and a complete contrast/juxtaposition to Prypiat.

If anyone else is interested, please reply to this thread. I'm thinking of going on the first free weekend I have after the Speedhack weekend. Going during a weekend would probably get the highest turnout, but it might turn out to be a case that they only do tours on weekdays. Assuming we can go on a weekend, my first definitely-free post-Speedhack weekend would be the one of 6/10, but might also be able to do 29/9 or even 22/9. If anyone's a bit reluctant to go at this time of year, I'll also consider picking a date much further in the future. [EDIT: I've decided that it's better to go next year to give people time to plan and save up].

And remember, if Denmark is famous for Legoland, the Ukraine is famous for Chernobyl.

AE.

Thomas Fjellstrom

Does that price include travel there?

Andrei Ellman

This is just the price for the tour. Travel costs depend on how far away you are, although the trip between Kiev and Prypiat is included in the tour-price. Also, accommodation in Kiev is not included in the price.

AE.

gnolam

Are the visa (etc) requirements as convoluted as for Russia? Chernobyl is a place I'd really really like to visit some day...

I wonder if there are any cheap flights to the Ukraine...

Richard Phipps

Is growing an extra eye a good side-effect?

Andrei Ellman
gnolam said:

Are the visa (etc) requirements as convoluted as for Russia?

Thankfully not. For citizens of the EU and many other European countries (And USA, Canada and Japan), you can get in without a Visa. When I visited the Ukraine in 1995, it was just after they waived the visa-requirements. Initially, they did it for the Eurovision song-contest and a few months after that, but it became so successfull that they made the visa-waiver permanent. See http://wikitravel.org/en/Ukraine#Visa_requirements_and_customs for details.

[rant]
And yes, I've had the "Russian Visa Experience". Was lucky enough to find a place in Vilnius, Lithuania that could arrange Russian visas, but even so, the registration requirements once in Russia involved a lot of hoop-jumping. We got our visas registered in Moscow, but when we got to Irkutsk, we couldn't find the place to register our visas (each place in Russia that we visit requires visa-registration). After a bit of research, we determined that it was #37 on some street or other, but later found out that it was actually next-door at #37a, and #37 had no indication whatsoever to direct us to #37a. When we got on the train to Mongolia, there was a whole coach full of foreign backpackers who had not registered their visas in Irkutsk, but once we got to the Russian border, this did not seem to matter, although for some reason, the border-guard did pick on two Danish girls who also hadn't registered their visa in Irkutsk. Needless to say, Ukraine was like a breath of fresh air, but I did still have to fill out an immigration form and state how much foreign currency I was taking with me (not an easy task when your trip involves 9 countries and I take several other foreign bank-notes with me for the hell of it).
[/rant]

gnolam said:

I wonder if there are any cheap flights to the Ukraine...

Don't know about cheap flights. All I know is that there's a train that goes from Berlin to Kiev and stops at many cities on the way (eg. Warsaw). One thing I do know about Kiev airport is that it's about 40km from Kiev. I think it's possible to get to Kiev by public transport, but even the proprietors of the youth-hostel I stayed at recommended a taxi which they reckoned would cost $20. The taxi driveres I saw at the airport wanted to charge $60, but I eventually found one who would take me for €20.

Richard Phipps said:

Is growing an extra eye a good side-effect?

Yes. Especially if it can see in the Infra-red spectrum. :)
But seriously, Wikitravel has the following to say about the radiation.

Wikitravel said:

A lethal dose of radiation is in the range of 300 to 500 roentgens an hour. Levels on the tour reportedly range from 15 to several hundred microroentgens an hour. A microroentgen is one-millionth of a roentgen. Stay on roads, the radiation levels on areas covered by vegetation are signficantly higher.

Although one thing not mentioned is the effect of the chemical pollution. Radioactive elements decay into non-radioactive elements, but these by-proproducts of radioactive decay can themselves be toxic. Not sure how this effects the tour.

AE.

Simon Parzer

A trip to Chernobyl definitely sounds interesting.

Steve Terry
Quote:

Is growing an extra eye a good side-effect?

No but growing a second penis would be considered a good side-effect ;D

nonnus29

Yeah right, I hardly use the ONE I've already got....

:-/

Airfare from North America would probably be over $1500; add accommodation's. That's quiet prohibitive; plus you'd want to schedule in a lot more time visit more of Europe.

Samuel Henderson

Can a person get into the town of Prypiat without being on a tour? Or is the entire barricaded to prevent random people from sneaking in?

Either way I'd like to go, but I would need to save up some cash.

BAF

I'd consider going, but classes start on Wednesday and I can't really afford to be gone this time of year. Next summer would be great, but i don't expect you to rearrange it just for me.

Paul whoknows
Steve Terry said:

[quote Richard Phipps]
Is growing an extra eye a good side-effect?

No but growing a second penis would be considered a good side-effect ;D
</quote>

nonnus29 said:

Yeah right, I hardly use the ONE I've already got....

;D Priceless! :-*

Goalie Ca

I give your proposal a glowing review.

gnolam
Andrei Ellman said:

[quote I]Are the visa (etc) requirements as convoluted as for Russia?

Thankfully not. For citizens of the EU and many other European countries (And USA, Canada and Japan), you can get in without a Visa.
</quote>
Yay! That makes it a lot more feasible.

Hmm. After checking a couple of different shady airlines, it seems a round-trip ticket to Kiev costs about 3000 SEK. It's a lot for just a single weekend, but... I'm still tempted. :)

Andrei Ellman

Now that I think about it, maybe it is best to postpone the trip until the spring/summer next year. As well as giving people time to save up and organise a trip, the weather will be much nicer. This will make travelling to the Ukraine a nicer experience as well (although the Crimean peninsula still has pleasant weather in the Autumn, but that's on the other side of the country from Kiev).

If you have the time and money, I would advise you make this part of a larger trip - especially for those comming outside of Europe. The rest of Ukraine is definitely worth spending some time in too.

nonnus29 said:

Airfare from North America would probably be over $1500

I managed to get a flight from Amsterdam to New York (Newark Airport) for about €400, although I could have gotten one for €250 had I stayed less than a month. This was back in the day when the exchange rate between the Euro and the Dollar was about 1 to 1.

Samuel Henderson said:

Can a person get into the town of Prypiat without being on a tour? Or is the entire barricaded to prevent random people from sneaking in?

Unless you're a worker in the area, you need to be part of a tour to get in. This is to keep out people who have nothing to do with the decontamination effort.

AE.

gnolam

Just don't dare schedule it for May. :)
Because 3000 or not, I'm going...

Neil Black

I'd love to go, but there's no way I can save enough money.

Andrei Ellman

Ok, I've decided to postpone the trip until next year. Not only does it give us time to plan a longer trip, but also allows us to save up for one.

AE.

PS. Gnolam: Does the usage of Russian in your .sig mean that you can speak Russian, or is it just there for decorative purposes? Although many of the younger generation can speak English, most of the people in Ukraine can only speak Ukrainian or Russian, and a few can speak German.

bamccaig
Andrei Ellman said:

Nowadays, the radiation levels have long since returned to safe levels, and there are now guided tours.

Chernobyl travel guide - Wikitravel said:

Chernobyl reactor 4: You'll not be able to get too close, but the nearest observation point will be about 100m from the reactor sarcophagus. Although radiation levels here will be much higher than elsewhere in the region, you will not be able to pick up a significant dose during your stay. Typical dose at the site seems to be about 0.5 - 0.9 micro-Roentgens/hour (winter), slightly higher in the summer.

Vehicle scrap yard: If you're lucky you'll be able to see the scrap yard containing the irradiated emergency vehicles which tended the disaster. There are a number of fire tenders, ambulances, trucks and helicopters in the vehicle graveyard. You'll not be able to gain entry there, but as some of the vehicles are still carrying lethal doses of radiation, this isn't a bad thing. There is a viewing platform there for photographic purposes.

Pripyat: The famous abandoned city, which once housed 49,000 residents. Sights to see are the schools, kindergarden, public buildings and the amazing culture palace which contains a swimming pool, cinema and gymnasium, and overlooks the famous ferris wheel. Hazards are the crumbling buildings, and decaying wooden floors in places - so be careful.

The villages: There is a great number of abandoned villages in the exclusion zone, and all are extremely interesting to view - you'll see farmhouses, small cottages and plenty of vegetation. Be careful entering any of these areas, as vegetation always carries far higher levels of residual radioactivity than concreted areas.

...

A lethal dose of radiation is in the range of 300 to 500 roentgens an hour. Levels on the tour reportedly range from 15 to several hundred microroentgens an hour. A microroentgen is one-millionth of a roentgen. Stay on roads, the radiation levels on areas covered by vegetation are signficantly higher.

- Source

So it may be "safe" to visit for a short period of time, but you still can't get too close to the reactors and you will be exposed to elevated radiation levels. The amount of radiation you're exposed to can vary greatly depending on where you go. I find it interesting that they mention the lethal dose, but don't mention the dose required to cause permanent damage.

It might be exciting, but I don't think I care to risk it for a ghost town (which, since you can't really get too close to the reactors, is the main reason for going). There are ghost towns all over the world with safe radiation levels. ;D

gnolam
Andrei Ellman said:

PS. Gnolam: Does the usage of Russian in your .sig mean that you can speak Russian, or is it just there for decorative purposes? Although many of the younger generation can speak English, most of the people in Ukraine can only speak Ukrainian or Russian, and a few can speak German.

Well... I do have 10 study points worth of "Russian Language and Culture" under my belt, but I've forgotten most of it by now. The alphabet still sticks, at least, and just that can take you surprisingly far. :)

Quote:

It might be exciting, but I don't think I care to risk it for a ghost town (which, since you can't really get too close to the reactors, is the main reason for going). There are ghost towns all over the world with safe radiation levels. ;D

Not entire towns stuck in (Soviet) 1986 there aren't. :)

Quote:

I find it interesting that they mention the lethal dose, but don't mention the dose required to cause permanent damage.

That's because, depending on your point of view, that applies to either all doses or no dose at all. Radiation is a tricky thing to risk assess. :)

(Someone should edit the Wikitravel page to use civilized dose units, BTW)

Andrei Ellman

I think you can see the reactor from a distance within the town. I'm more interested than seing the town, but you can see a lot of other things from a safe distance.

If we follow the guide we should be alright. Just don't jump up and down on a patch of dust off the recommended path.

bamccaig said:

There are ghost towns all over the world with safe radiation levels.

But howmany of these ghost-towns are snapshots of life in Soviet Russia frozen in time?

AE.

Neil Black
Quote:

But howmany of these ghost-towns are snapshots of life in Soviet Russia frozen in time?

42

Jakub Wasilewski

If it's some time next year (Spring?), I'll be more than glad to tag along. I know a little Russian, and Polish is somewhat similar to both languages used in Ukraine, so I might even be of some use ;).

EDIT: Now that I think of it, I might be able to bring with me someone who speaks perfect Russian and some Ukrainian. It's just a matter of whether he'll be interested in mildly irradiating himself for curiosity's sake :).

gnolam
Jakub Wasilewski said:

EDIT: Now that I think of it, I might be able to bring with me someone who speaks perfect Russian and some Ukrainian. It's just a matter of whether he'll be interested in mildly irradiating himself for curiosity's sake :)

I'm trying to do much the same thing myself. :)

People have such an annoyingly high sense of self-preservation... ;)

Neil Black

I thought this thread had died.

gnolam

It merely passed its half-life.

Neil Black

;D

le_y_mistar

how about my back yard?

Neil Black
Quote:

how about my back yard?

Is your backyard a historical and slightly radioactive site?

FMC

I'm interested, if we plan it well and ahead of time (so we can get a good deal from flight operators) i'd come. :)

And as curiosity vs self-preservation, this is what i always like to quote:

Divine Comedy, Inferno Canto XXVI said:

118 '"Consider how your souls were sown:
119 you were not made to live like brutes or beasts,
120 but to pursue virtue and knowledge."

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