Before going to Pripyat there were two things I badly wanted to do: I wanted to take a really good picture of the ferris wheel at the Amusement Park – and I wanted to have a good view over the city from the top of one of the buildings.
Of course officially it’s way too dangerous to allow people to go on top of any of those buildings, in countries like Germany and Japan they probably wouldn’t even let you inside most of them, but of course nobody really cares about those rules as seen many, many times in magazines, on TV and the internet. So after we left the supermarket we drove through the city for quite a while to get to the northwestern part of Pripyat. There was a 16-story building rather far away from the main attractions and in close proximity of some unfinished buildings. Maxim, who still looked a little bit… well… hungover… told us that he would “guard the car” and asked us to be careful and to stay away from the edges so we won’t be seen by the units policing the area occasionally – and he gave us 30 minutes to get back. (Strangely enough Maxim wasn’t worried that much about 35 minutes later when we running late a bit. We were on our way down and at around the 9th or 10th story we heard a car horn making quite some noise. Being used to unofficial explorations I panicked for about a second or two until I realized that I had no reason to really worry about anything. And neither had Maxim… obviously.)
The entrance of the building at Lesya Ukrainka Street 56 didn’t exactly look like a building you really want to enter, let alone stand on top of, but that didn’t cross the mind of either of us – we were eager to experience a view to remember. On the way to the roof I made a quick stop at one of the floors to see with my own eyes how much damage the liquidators and looters did to the apartments. Most of the rooms were indeed empty, electronics were nowhere to be seen and of course both wallpapers and paint were falling off the walls. At the top floor was a machinery room where we had to climb a wooden chair to get to the opening to actually get onto the flat roof. Climbing that chair and looking outside was another magic moment, almost as intense as when I saw the ferris wheel for the first time at the gymnasium of the Palace of Culture – not even two hours earlier, but it seemed like it had been weeks ago.
Stepping onto the roof I actually saw just green and grey-ish blue at first – the almost endless forest west of Pripyat and the impressive dramatic sky of that late summer day. The view was breathtaking and seeing Pripyat for the first time from that perspective I realized how big the city really was and how much of it was re-claimed by nature. Lots of the smaller buildings were completely swallowed by the sea of trees and even some of the bigger ones looked like they were drowning. In the south the Jupiter Factory was rising from the forest and at the horizon the remains of the Russian Woodpecker, part of the Soviet Union’s anti-ballistic missile program, were still defying nature. And in the distance in the southeast the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant was reminding everybody why the city to our feet was abandoned…
(If you would like to know more about my trip to the Zone Of Alienation please *click here* to get to the “Chernobyl & Pripyat” special. For a map of the area please *click here*.)