This is part four of my travel photo journal to the Chernobyl zone of exclusion. Check out the Chernobyl Journal page for the full story, all pictures, videos and sounds.
After letting us get a first impression and pictures of the square, Yuriy showed us the way into one of the old apartment blocks. I must have accidentally wandered into the wrong building, because most of the rooms were empty – almost no furniture and no personal belongings apart from occasional books and papers on the ground. He also warned us not to spend too much time in these blocks, “not for physical danger, but for emotional danger”; as opposed to other areas in the city, I didn’t find the blocks especially depressing or unsettling, as they consisted of mostly empty rooms with similar layouts.
Underneath the apartment block was a former supermarket, which was used as a storage for a lot of furniture. About the size of a gym hall, it was well-lit and contained an immense number of cupboards and shelves, as well as more interesting items such as cash registers, sewing machines and musical instruments (including a smashed bass).
After the shop, I spent some time wandering around the central square with Yuriy, while discussing the causes of the accident. The sidewalks and streets were all covered with moss, off-white grass, wild trees and thorny bushes full of wrinkled rosehips that Pripyat’s mayor wanted to have planted before the accident (“one rose for every citizen”). Yuriy showed me the entrance to the Hotel Polyssia, its main attraction being the spectacular view from the top floor: A surprisingly clean, covered terrasse, layed out with large white tiles. A beautiful, peaceful detail: a small birch tree, growing out of the middle of the room.
Our group reunited at the Palace of Culture, a building that was dedicated to sports, education and culture. It featured a stage (with rather loose floorboards), a gymnasium, a library (its contents now mostly floor-based) and several large meeting rooms. It must have been a beautiful place before the accident. Visiting it was a strange experience, not only because of the urban exploration aspect, but because I had played the Pripyat level in the Call of Duty 4 game shortly before the trip. The Palace of Culture is one of the buildings featured in the game, so I was visiting a place that I knew virtually.
Map of this Journal Entry
(Chernobyl Journal is continued in part 5)