Scottsdale Osborne Hospital, USA Summer of 2017:
I'm sitting in the emergency room for the first time since 1987 when I fell out of a 2 story window, the docs don't know whats wrong with me yet, but I've lost over 30lbs/14kilos... It's serious, and there was legitimate fear it could have been the big one. The Doctor approaches me and tells me about the option of a CT Scan... "Well we can do a CT, basically scan your insides and hopefully find the issue, if you want of course?" My reply... "What would be a reason one would not do the CT Scan?" "Just radiation exposure." The Doctor answers. "I was in Chernobyl this year Doc! Lets do it!"
True story... and I ended up being okay after that. So Ukraine....
On my way to Iran in 2017 I decided to extend my trip and add a brief stopover in Ukraine, but as I began to plan I saw that there was too much to do in just a stopover and I had extra time so I stayed a week instead.
On arrival to Kiev my apartment from airbnb had a sign posted not to open the door to anyone even if they are in police uniform warning they may be mafia. So an interesting start... but that being said, I had no safety issues in Ukraine. Is it the safest place in the world, no of course not, but use your wits and street smarts and you will be just fine.
The things that drew me to this incredible country was of course the price, Ukraine is ridiculously cheap, there are so many things to do not just see which I'll talk about below, and of course the idea of visiting a place that is uninhabitable for 20,000 years was too enticing to pass up. So lets get started on my tips and highlights.
- Kiev is a great base to travel out from, besides the obvious that it is the capital the city is amazing and really easy to navigate around.
- Kiev underground tour was definitely a highlight, crawl through sewers, visit abandoned buildings, and visit old soviet bomb shelter. The amazing part about this is how hands on it is, it's not a museum, it's not replicas, it's the bomb shelters with all the original gear, propoganda etc.
- Shoot guns! Granted you can do this a lot of places, but something about firing old soviet weapons at a police base was pretty cool.
- Drive a tank! Okay this wasn't exactly budget, I believe it cost me $400, but again, how many times will you be able to drive old soviet tanks?
- Party in Ukraine night clubs, no cover charges, drinks for 1 or 2 euros, you can't go wrong.
- The food: it goes without saying you will have some Borscht while you are there. But my favorite that I had to eat 3x in that week had to be Varenyky, pasta type dumplings stuffed with meat, veggies, cheeses, and even desserts.
There's something about being in the only place in the world where this disaster happened, an entire city essentially gone in a matter of a few very wrong moves by the nuclear power plant. It's a place frozen in time and hell and a sad look at what could be if things ever go wrong in terms of war or accident by the power of man and the power of nuclear matter.
It is of course a dangerous place, even with tour guides we knew going in we were exposed to radiation, they say it's equivalent to an international flight, they also say that we visit the safer areas, and you do wear Geiger meters but who knows... But would I do it again? Absolutely. I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story. For Ukraine what was going to be a brief glimpse turned into one of the most exciting, interesting, and dangerous places I have ever been to... I can't wait to go back.