Chernobyl Trip Part Three - Pripyat, Sports Hall and Swimming Pool
On the road to Pripyat - Death Bridge
It was only a couple of minutes drive from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (CNPP) to the Pripyat sign. The town itself was never originally intended to be a permanent town, instead it was a temporary settlement for the workers of the CNPP. However, as expansion to the plant progressed, more and more came to the town. At the time of the disaster, around 50,000 people called Pripyat home.
Lying a few kilometers north west of the reactors, they were linked by a single road, crossing one of the rivers on the way. The bridge offered an elevated position over the relatively flat land, where many people gathered to look at the exploded reactor. Tragically, the radioactive 'cloud' that was released passed directly over the bridge making the it lethally radioactive. Many of the people to stopped here died, earning the name "Death Bridge"
Another couple of minutes down the road and we were at the entrance to Pripyat - a rather unspectacular hut, with a barrier. After Dennis had finished his banter with the guard, he lets us through.
The road was in a bad state. Almost 30 years of ice and high heat had broken up the surface and the forest that has consumed the town didn't help. Turning left, we went what we thought was just a normal road in the forest. The trees were dense, but you could see something was behind them. Eventually, there was a break in the trees. About 10 meters back from the road were rows of Soviet-style housing.
Pripyat Sports Hall
As we were driving down one of the roads, we hit a large bump, and Yuri, our driver, pull over to inspect if there was any damage. Thankfully it turned out to be fine, but instead of waiting around we walked onto the Sports halls. The pathways were very overgrown. It being mid-spring, everything is growing fast, so we had to weave out way around bushes and trees.
Eventually we came to the entrance. Heavily decayed and the floor littered with broken glass and rubble, it wasn't hard to see why heavy shoes were required. The humidity was through the roof, due to the storms the night before. As walls and roofs have broken up, water has been soaked up by insulation and plaster, making the smell very musty. The only relief was that indoors, the temperature was noticeably cooler. It would have been pleasant, if it wasn't for the drips of water that constantly fell from the ceiling hitting you.
The ground floor was very wet and being overrun with vegetation. Pools of water were covered the floor and broken furniture was everywhere.
Pripyat Swimming Pool
Turning left, we walked up a single flight of stairs, where the sports hall was waiting. A leaking roof had caused the majority of the floor to rot and warp. Much of where we stepped was spongy. Gusts of cool air were pushing dust through the windows as we moved into the next room.
Through some double doors and down a empty connecting room was the swimming pool. At first, were were quite surprised at the condition of it - the majority of the tiles were still there, and despite someone senselessly spraying graffiti on the pool walls, it was mostly free of debris.
Dennis then informed us why. As I explained in the article about the Chernobyl reactors, number 3 was in service until 2000 and the same was the case for the Pripyat swimming pool. Amazingly, it was maintained and operated for the CNPP workers, and was only abandoned just before the final reactors shut down.
Now, all the glass was broken and tree were starting to come in. The only sounds were the trees rustling and the occasional bird songs - it was strange to have no background noise at all.