Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bus Station, Pripyat

This is the former bus station in Pripyat.  The map on the wall are some of the destinations formerly served by this bus station, most of which are towns that no longer exist.  Well OK, they do exist, but people no longer live there, except in a few cases.

The authorities in the Exclusion Zone can be a bit schizophrenic about which buildings you can enter and which you cannot.  The further you are from the disaster epicenter, the more likely they are to let you enter, even if the building has rotting wood floors.  But the main attraction has always been the buildings in Pripyat.  I've been of the notion for a while that as radioactivity in the area subsides, the danger of buildings falling apart increases.  So I felt I'd better not wait too much longer or all buildings would be off-limits.

So imagine how surprised and disappointed I was when our official government guide said many of the places I really wanted to enter were off-limits.   No entry allowed.  And when I first got off the bus in the center of Pripyat, I really thought I understood why.  There really was more decay and more wreckage then there were in photos I had seen.  But maybe those photos were five or more years old.  I had not been paying attention to dates.  But yet, having read many stories of trips to this area, I had not come across any account of restricted access to buildings in Pripyat.  (The power plant itself, even the three non-affected reactors *are* off-limits without special permission).

The bus station was one of those buildings were entry was permitted.  But as the trip progressed, every one on our trip had made at least one unauthorized entry into a building.  That really is a main attraction of the trip.  While there is still some radioactivity lingering in the buildings, the real danger now is plaster falling off walls, crumbling brick facades, and a lot of rubble and broken glass.  But if you look and step carefully, you'll generally be fine.  If you are not careful, the rubble can do a lot more harm than the radioactivity can.  And rushing in and out to avoid the watchful eye of the government guide doesn't help safety either.

I recently saw photos people took two weeks after we had visited, and it seemed there were a lot more photos taken inside buildings.  Maybe it all depends how determined the government guide is to keep you out, and how determined members of  your group are to get inside.

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