We're back from Chernobyl (and we didn't turn into the Hulk)!
What a trip! It only lasted 4 days, but the amount we managed to squeeze in was huge! I'm going to be doing several in-depth articles on Pripyat and Chernobyl, so this article is the background and lead-up of what we got up to.
Travelling to Ukraine
Being about three and a half hours away from the UK and two hours ahead, we lost most of the first day to travelling, but that didn't stop it from being eventful. Unfortunately it was for entirely the wrong reasons. We were advised NOT to get our money changed in the UK, but to exchange it in Kiev. I should have trusted my gut instinct here and done it in London, as we travelled on Sunday, arriving in the Borispil Airport just outside Kiev at around 7pm. In a tired daze, we stumbled through the security checks (of which we 'failed' as we have so many batteries, but they accepted our reasons and let us on our way), straight into the arrivals terminal. We had pre-arranged a taxi with the hotel to take us straight there and we found the taxi driver waiting for us at arrivals and he lead us to the car.
And that's where we went wrong. The taxi was fine, but we should have exchanged our Pounds into Hryvnia at the airport! I spent all evening trying to find somewhere that would exchange British Pounds, but very few places would and those that could, were closed. It got to 11pm and I ended up having to take a taxi back to Boryspil Airport (which was booked by using Google translate!) and using the 24 hour exchange booths there. At least is was a better exchange rate than in London!
Our hotel in Kiev, the KievInn, was right in the center of the city; about 25 minutes from Borispil and 100 metres away from independence square. For 1000 UAH (about £50) we were able to get an amazing apartment complete with Jacuzzi, Sauna and much needed Air Conditioning, as it was 25+ every day!
Kiev and Independence Square
Ok, so you know how I said that Kiev had calmed down considerably since February? Well, by and large, I was right. The atmosphere was very relaxed, everyone was going about their daily lives and the streets were lined with stalls selling standard tourist-ey things. The majority of the shops were open. The only thing slightly unexpected was... well, this:
Not only that, but the day-to-day running of the city seems to be returning to normal. Shops were open and we could freely walk through the square, minding out for tent ropes and holes in the pavement, as the protesters had literally torn up the paths to build blockades.
Looking forward to Chernobyl
Eventually, around 1am, we had all the money for the trip and crashed out, sleeping straight through until 8am, when the tour began...