Jul 24 2007

Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part III: The ghosts of Pripyat

by in Chernobyl Tour 2007, Eastern Europe & the Caucasus, Ukraine

“Stay off the moss. Very radioactive.”

We were standing on another bridge outside the city of Pripyat, this time surveying the lush green landscape below, hoping to catch a glimpse of the rampaging packs of wild boar that were apparently proliferating throughout the exclusion zone – or so our guide claimed. We didn’t see any.

Chernobyl radioactive moss
No boar, but lots of radioactive moss

road to Pripyat
The road to Pripyat

Pripyat town sign
You are now entering Pripyat, Population: 0

Founded in 1970, Pripyat was a model Soviet city built for the Chernobyl plant workers and their families. It contained all the conveniences that a young Soviet family could desire: high-rise apartment buildings, schools, a cultural center, hospital, swimming pools, theatres, stores, restaurants, cafes, playgrounds, and a stadium. On the morning of April 26, the citizens of Pripyat awoke to the sound of helicopters buzzing overhead and a column of smoke rising from reactor four off in the distance. At noon on April 27, the Soviet government informed the citizens of Pripyat that they had two hours to gather their essential belongings and board a bus for mandatory evacuation. They were told that their evacuation was only temporary, for perhaps three days at the most, and so the residents left most of their clothing, photographs, toys, and family pets behind. The 50,000 citizens departed Pripyat on a line of Kiev-bound buses that stretched for miles, all of them expecting to see their hometown again in just a few days. They would never return.

Today, the entrance to the town is guarded by an officer who sits in a run-down shack for hours, waiting for the occasional town visitor. After exchanging a few words with our guide, and checking papers, he waved us into the “ghost city.” We entered the city on the main road, Prospekt Lenina, now lined with crumbling apartment buildings and overgrown trees, and stopped in the center of the city. Our guide was content to let us wander around on our own, with the caveat that we stay out of the buildings (“for your own safety”) and away from the apparently highly radioactive moss. It was hard to avoid the latter, as the stuff was growing in huge swaths throughout the city, so you would often see us hopping from concrete patch to concrete patch, employing a variety of run-and-jump tactics. I’m surprised I didn’t come back from Pripyat with a sprained ankle.

main road in Pripyat
Prospekt Lenina

Pripyat apartment building
Apartment building in the city center

Pripyat May Day decorations
Decorations for the May Day parade that never was

Pripyat Cultural Palace
Cultural Palace “Energetik”

Pripyat steps

Pripyat restaurant
Restaurant

Pripyat theatre
Theatre

Pripyat doll
Some of the things they left behind

Pripyat graffiti
Not even a nuclear ghost town is immune from graffiti

old pripyat square Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part III: The ghosts of Pripyat
Apartment building and city center, pre-Chernobyl disaster (courtesy pripyat.com)

Pripyat apartment building
The same “All power to the Soviets” apartment building, now

old pripyat hotel polissya Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part III: The ghosts of Pripyat
Hotel Polissya, pre-Chernobyl disaster (courtesy pripyat.com)

Pripyat Hotel Polissya
Hotel Polissya, now

Pripyat grocery store
No more fruits and vegetables, just rusting refrigerators and shopping carts

Pripyat radioactive moss
Stay off the moss

At one point the group started to head toward the amusement park. Ryan and I had no idea where Laura went, so we backtracked to the cultural center and started shouting her name. I ran into our guide, who was looking quite bored with his surroundings. After doing this several times a week, it probably does get monotonous. He grinned at me and warned, “Stay with the group. We don’t want wild boars to find you alone.” My fear of stepping on a patch of radioactive moss was now replaced with that of being impaled by the radiation-coated tusks of an angry wild boar.

We eventually ran into Laura and continued past the cultural center until we arrived at the amusement park. Small and desolate, it is probably the most depressing amusement park you will ever come across. The park was scheduled to open on May 1, 1986, but fate intervened and the brand new rides were left to rust away, never once touched by the children of Pripyat.

Pripyat bumper cars
Bumper cars

Pripyat bumper cars

Pripyat ferris wheel
Ferris wheel

Pripyat amusement park

Pripyat amusement park

Pripyat flowers

We probably spent an hour in Pripyat, wandering around this deserted city of 50,000. It was eerily silent, the only noises coming from the flies that constantly buzzed around, the sound of digital cameras taking hundreds of photos, and, at one point, a loud crash that reverberated across the empty buildings. I will admit that walking through Pripyat was, at times, both unsettling and voyeuristic. I felt that I really had no right to be there, but on the other hand, if given the chance, I would have stayed there for hours.

old pripyat pioneer camp Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part III: The ghosts of Pripyat
Happier times – Pripyat Pioneer camp, 1985 (courtesy pripyat.com)



Read more about the tour:
1. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part I: Dude, where’s your Geiger counter?
2. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part II: Liquidators Memorial / Kopachi / Catfish / Reactor 4
4. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part IV: Chisto?

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28 Responses to Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part III: The ghosts of Pripyat

  1. From David Thorpe:

    Lindsay, thanks for the pics, they are truly amazing. I wrote a book about the disaster so am especially interested.

    Posted on November 14, 2007 at 6:50 am #
  2. From Anonymous:

    scary or what????

    Posted on November 21, 2007 at 8:47 am #
  3. From Anonymous:

    Oh…its terrible…

    Posted on February 18, 2008 at 2:44 pm #
  4. From darren fisher:

    excellent images, gonna use them with my class this morning, as a prelude to watching Life After People.

    Posted on April 15, 2008 at 3:22 am #
  5. From Heikki Miilumäki:

    Nice collection from Pripyat.
    I always wanted to visit the site itself. Just looking these make me feel something like homesickness.

    Posted on April 19, 2008 at 2:24 pm #
  6. From Eric:

    I loveee those photos, i will be very happy going there…
    i have some family near from there in keiv.. thank god, they got no radiation, they traveled to another country during this explotion.

    Posted on March 1, 2009 at 11:03 pm #
  7. From Jeff:

    this is amazing
    I learned about the tragedy of Pripyat from the game
    I feel so sad looking at these pics
    Thank you for this article and these pics

    btw, come and visit Taiwan someday:)

    Jeff from Taiwan

    Posted on September 30, 2009 at 2:17 pm #
  8. From sasha ulianov:

    ya love etat gorat ya sam z kieva no mi prashili vozve CHERNOBY

    Posted on October 22, 2009 at 5:05 pm #
  9. From Chris:

    I never knew about Pripyat until I played Call of Duty, but now it fascinates me. Once a town of 50,000 people. Now a cold, empty ghost town. The theme park is especially eerie.

    Posted on February 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm #
  10. From CrayolaMan:

    That scares me. Once I played the Pripyat game I understood how terrible this is. The Pripyat game or anything like it should be banned. It is a disgrace to those who died there and their families. Join the cause.

    Posted on April 24, 2010 at 12:54 pm #
  11. From jklg:

    la ciudad esta muy estropeada si sigue asi en unas decadas mas ya no quedara nada . era una ciudad muy bonita

    Posted on August 3, 2010 at 11:12 am #
  12. From TJ:

    This is great. Kinda scary though

    Posted on November 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm #
  13. From Michaela:

    I wish to visit chernobyl one day, ever since I watch travel documenty on ukraine I have become fascinate about chernobyl and pripyat

    Posted on November 30, 2010 at 4:10 pm #
  14. From Florian:

    Great write-up – but the park was opened for one day to distract people from what happened; it can be seen here: http://pripyat.com/ru/media/studio/2006/06/13/922.html

    Posted on January 16, 2011 at 4:00 am #
  15. From Tommy:

    I really enjoyed Your photos and captions,I’m sure You would be a really great guide…I’m fascinated by Pripyat since a couple of years,and next upcoming summer i think i’ll ride my motorbike there..
    I’d like to ask You a few questions about Your trip etc. …can You write me an e-mail,please?thanx

    Posted on January 25, 2011 at 11:58 am #
  16. From Dan:

    Great pictures. Just wanted to make a footnote; it’s come to light that people did get to use the ferris wheel, albeit for a very short time. http://www.grahamgilmore.com/blog/2011/04/26/gallery-image-4-pripyat-ferris-wheel/

    Posted on June 21, 2011 at 4:30 pm #
  17. From rachel:

    do the apts/stores still have belongings/merchandise inside of them? were all of the bldgs locked or could you enter? great photos!

    Posted on November 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm #
  18. From Lindsay:

    The buildings are all open, and yes, you can still find personal belongings, etc, inside them…but our tour guide would not allow us inside the buildings for safety reasons.

    Posted on November 13, 2011 at 8:40 pm #
  19. From Dr Shé D'Montford:

    I would like to use some of these images in an article – I would be happy to give you a credit – may i please have your permission

    Posted on February 26, 2012 at 11:15 pm #
  20. From duane west:

    that must have bin prudy bad!

    Posted on May 16, 2012 at 8:40 am #
  21. From duane west:

    lest talk!!

    Posted on May 16, 2012 at 8:41 am #
  22. From Kim R:

    I know I’m late to the viewing here but I wanted to thank you for your 4 articles. Very nice pictures and I’m pretty curious about the entire situation. Being now near 40 years old, I’ve just recently started researching this disaster.

    Thank you for your insight, both through words and photos.

    Posted on May 30, 2012 at 12:40 pm #
  23. From Lindsay:

    Thanks, Kim. I appreciate both of your comments and am glad you enjoyed the articles.

    Posted on June 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm #
  24. From John Doe:

    I learned about Pripyat from the game “S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat” but i already knew about the Chernobyl disaster from what i had learned from my parents who saw it all happen. They were residents of Pripyat and it was before i was born that the disaster happened. Call of Pripyat contains a photorealistic copy of Pripyat within the game and it was really fascinating to see what could have been my home, Had the disaster not happened. I showed it to my parents and they were amazed at what today’s technology could do and said that it looked just like they remembered it (Save for the overgrowth and destruction that had taken place, Of course).
    I will go on a tour into the Zone sometime, To Pripyat and the Chernobyl NPP.
    I will bring my parents with me so they can see their old home again.
    It really is a sad story, The city once home to 50 000 people that became a ghost town in a matter of two days.

    Thanks for taking the time to read.

    ~Vladimir Fedorov~

    Posted on June 7, 2013 at 4:04 am #

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Ukraine/Poland ‘07 Roundup | At Home In The Wasteland - July 8, 2009

    [...] 4. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part II: Liquidators Memorial / Kopachi / Catfish / Reactor 4 5. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part III: The ghosts of Pripyat 6. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part IV: Chisto? 7. Kiev: Post-Chernobyl food run/4th of July dinner [...]

  2. Ukraine Photos: Touring the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone | At Home In The Wasteland Travel Blog - September 17, 2011

    [...] Read more about the tour: 1. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part I: Dude, where’s your Geiger counter? 2. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part II: Liquidators Memorial / Kopachi / Catfish / Reactor 4 3. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part III: The ghosts of Pripyat 4. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part IV: Chisto? [...]

  3. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part II: Liquidators Memorial / Kopachi / Catfish / Reactor 4 | At Home In The Wasteland Travel Blog - September 17, 2011

    [...] We spent a few minutes here taking photos and then returned to the bus. Our next stop would be Pripyat, the model Soviet city of 50,000 that housed the Chernobyl plant workers and their families. Read more about the tour: 1. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part I: Dude, where’s your Geiger counter? 3. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part III: The ghosts of Pripyat 4. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part IV: Chisto? [...]

  4. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part I: Dude, where’s your Geiger counter? | At Home In The Wasteland Travel Blog - September 17, 2011

    [...] Read more about the tour: 2. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part II: Liquidators Memorial / Kopachi / Catfish / Reactor 4 3. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part III: The ghosts of Pripyat 4. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part IV: Chisto? [...]

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