Originally my first trip to Chernobyl in 2008 was planned to be a big event with a lot of friends on board. I was already looking for a van for 10 people to get to Kiev instead of taking a train. Suddenly, a few weeks before departure we were left with only 3 people, the others being stopped by their parents, wife or partners. Probably it is from then that I now enjoy taking tours to Chernobyl with foreign people, who I can really get to know well over the two days.
What is even more interesting, when talking to strangers I realised they faced the same issue as I did when travelling to Chernobyl for the first time. Friends and families used to encourage us to do things but thanks to the prejudice of radiation in Chernobyl or the war in Ukraine, they help us to give up or postpone our travel dream. They do so because they love us and it is totally OK to respect their wish.
I did not. My mother was worried, so I took a respirator and even my jockey strap filling it with a lead cover (to protect my little warriors). Arriving at Chernobyl zone I realised two important things. First, seeing people working and living there, as well as the readings on our Geiger counters, I felt like a dummy taking all the precautions. It was more dangerous to fly going on holiday than it was to stay in Chernobyl! The second thing I realised was that I fell in love with Chernobyl zone and Pripyat. I remember the feeling of stepping out of the bus in Pripyat and the silence, genius loci, legacy. I always get goose bumps talking about it. And the people who had the same experience are the ones I meet often in the zone who have now become friends. To their own friends they seem like freaks because they go on vacation to Chernobyl every year, but when they take them with them, most of them also become what I call Chernobyl-holics.
Having fun on my 68th trip
I have personally been to Chernobyl zone over 60 times (I stopped counting after 10) and I have to confess every tour was special and I see new things every time I visit the zone. Talking to people coming with me we soon become friends and some of them stay with us the following days, going to a party or sauna, some visit me in my hometown, and some I visit when traveling – especially guys from the UK, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany. Chernobyl was a place that ruined many lives, but now it connects people. After the first night at the bar or hotel I can’t even describe the magic that happens and how a strange group of people get together, exchanging addresses and even invitations for weddings. I do not know how they manage but some groups even come back in almost the same set up to Chernobyl to have a great time again!
I can definitely tell you, if you come to Chernobyl with friends, you will leave with much stronger friendships and even more friends. If you are coming without your friends, you will definitely leave with many new friends. That’s how powerful this trip of a lifetime really is!
P.S. There is one more thing to mention about taking friends to Chernobyl – when you are a group of 4 or more you get a 10% discount each on the price of a group tour. How cool is that?
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