These are going to get shorter, I promise.
Mostly, that's because I spent Day 3 almost entirely in Pripyat, and there's not much I can do to convey Pripyat other than bombard you with a ton of pictures, or try - and fail - to explain it with words. Eventually I suppose I'll just upload the 8 or so gigs of JPEGs I've shot to someplace and be done with it. The other "serious photographer" in the group is shooting for HDR, and RAW, so he's going through 16 gig CF cards at a rate of 1 an hour. While I'm sleeping he's cursing and shuffling cards and making backups on a jump drive and waiting while lightroom tediously loads them so he can examine them. Somewhere in all of this I decided that I don't want to try to make an artistic statement about this experience; my pictures are just going to be tourists' "gee, wow!" pictures. I felt the same way when I was in New Orleans 6 months after Hurricane Katrina hit - I just don't feel profound enough to try to say something meaningful about something so big.
Breakfast at the canteen (mm! boiled eggs!) is good. None of the other guys want the boiled eggs so I take on a huge load of cholesterol in the form of eggs. There's also raw bacon (!) and a deep-fried thing of fish on a bed of sauerkraut. Eggs, Red Bull, peanut M&Ms and pistachos sounds like a good food-plan for the day. We load into the van and head off to the administrative building at the reactors. Arekadiusz has a possible scheme that will get him and one of the other trip-members in to tour Reactor #4's control room. The bribe for this is about $800. I decide I'm just not that interested. One of the operating nuclear reactors might be interesting but Reactor #4 is pretty screwed up and I'm assuming that there will be concrete walls all over the place forming the coffin around the core; the control room will (I predict) look like
a) a mess
b) mostly cannibalized
c) a bunch of junk
("No shit, there I was") (Google map)
Meanwhile, we park the van right outside of Reactor #4 on the other side of the wire, and gawk at the beast from about 300 yards away. When you read about the current state of Reactor #4 it's usually described as being in a "concrete coffin" but really it's more like "it's buried under a mound of metal an' stuff" It looks like it was thrown together in a hurry. Apparently the ventilator stack somehow helps keep the mass underneath from getting too hot and re-igniting or cracking open and re-igniting.
(The rad meter makes little unhappy fleeping noises when you point it at Reactor #4.
I entered those GPS coordinates in google maps and it didn't seem to take me there. I don't know what's wrong but that's where I was standing)
We pile back into the van and head to Pripyat.
(Marcel Duchamp, this!)
The plan for the day is to explore Pripyat on our own. We're going to drop off in various interesting areas for an hour here, or a half-hour there, but otherwise we can go wherever we want and see whatever we see.
(Stairs in a high rise)
Pripyat has everything you'd expect in a good-sized town: shopping center, hotel, cultural center, theaters, cafes, hospital, schools, police headquarters, fire-fighter's headquarters, etc. Basically, we visit each of those locations. I want to see if I'm going to feel creeped out by being on my own in this crowded emptiness or not, so I grab my camera and start a slow jog straight north for a large tower in the distance. As I get closer, about 1/2 mile from the van, it turns out to be a light-tower. And there's a bunch of bleachers looking out over a forest. The forest was a soccer field 30 years ago.
(The bleachers overlook nothing) (Google Map)
That sort of brain-wenching "oh! that's what that is!" happens constantly as I
recognize things that have been overgrown, fallen over, and then overgrown.
(I guess that climbing the remaining light-tower -- there were 4 -- isn't a good idea)
(Amusement park near the center of the town) (Google Map)
Now, next time you're out and about in your town, you can imagine what
it might look like 30 years after being abandoned. Imagine all the cars are
gone, everything of value is gone, and what's left has fallen over, gotten
wet, grown mold, and rusted. That's what Pripyat looks like.
(Film, in the cultural centre)
(The parquet floor from the hotel's lobby.)
(Grand Staircase, the department store) (Google map)
The wreckage just goes on and on and on.