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I can still remember the first time I KNEW I was going to go to Chernobyl. I was a freshman in college at a small private college in Louisiana, sitting outside before a history class with some friends, and I saw this picture on a guy's laptop. It was this ferris wheel surrounded by trees with snow on the ground. I asked him where it was and he said it was Chernobyl. I filed that knowledge away to search for on my phone during class, because I had never even heard of Chernobyl (I know, ridiculous).
I looked it up, and they were calling it "extreme tourism." I wouldn't say that I follow "extreme" anything, but I told my mom anyway. My mom is ALWAYS on board for a trip or adventure, but even she was a little skeptical. She didn't want go all the way to Ukraine, which is far, to go to a nuclear power plant. I just put it on the back burner and decided I would plan it later.
Well, fast forward six years and I'm in Scotland at a girls' night. Somehow I end up talking to a friend of mine and we decide to do it. So we book a backpacking trip around Europe, with the last stop being Kiev, Ukraine and a Chernobyl tour.
We booked a tour with Solo East Tours and it was fantastic. We met in Independence Square in Kiev and hopped in a yellow van to head to Chernobyl. They gave us wristbands and everything. We watched the trailer for the Chernobyl Diaries on the way up and I got yelled at for smoking outside a gas station. #winning.
The tours have lots of rules, actually, like you have to wearing sleeves and close-toed shoes. You can't sit on the ground. You can't take anything out of the site. But other than that, there's really nothing. We had a really cool tour guide/driver combo—Sergi and Ivan. They were legit and entertaining. We saw the power plant and the reactor, the Russian woodpecker, the amusement park, pools, schools, restaurants, and giant catfish. They fed us after, like a legit meal: roast chicken and soup and dessert.
I suggest a trip, if it's possible for you. Chernobyl was amazing. Kiev was amazing. The people in Ukraine were so nice. The food was good. The city is beautiful.