As you can tell by the title, I was on a little trip once again! This time I was accompanied by eight of my classmates. Planning this trip was a nightmare. Why? Well, originally, we were meant to go from Kiev to Minsk, Belarus, where around 50 other geography students from the University of Helsinki were because of this so called “Kuma-retki”, which is our annual trip to some nearby (preferably cheap) country and city. You need a visa to get to the country, and due to some ridiculous regulations stated in the terms of the application, we were not able to get the visas on time, hence why we needed another plan. Instead of leaving Kiev for Minsk on Wednesday, we decided to stay in Kiev until Saturday when we would fly to Riga (the trip took place between 1st and 7th of April, Monday to Sunday that is). Instead of Minsk we got to see Chernobyl, so I really don’t complain. From Riga we would then get on a bus and travel back to Finland on Sunday.
First we flew to Copenhagen, where we had some 12 hours between our flights so we got to see the city quite nicely. We arrived there around 10 a.m. on Monday morning. The weather was beautiful and the skies were clear, perfect for walking around and sitting in some park for a bit, and to just enjoy the experience before having to head back to the airport for the flight to Kiev late that night. When we arrived at Kiev, it was already Tuesday. We landed around 00.30 and took a taxi to get to our AirBnb we had booked for the week. Tuesday morning came and the daylight revealed to us just how big the city was. It was huuuuuge. People everywhere you looked, cars going back and forth on these eight-lane streets shadowed by enormous, super tall apartment buildings and other business buildings etc. We basically just walked around the city as much as we could every day and sunk in all the different elements of the culture that is quite a bit different from ours. We also had lovely weather for the entire week (!!!), which was more than we could’ve asked for.
Then came Thursday, the most anticipated day of the trip for the whole lot of us. We would go and get to see Chernobyl! We had booked this tour that took us inside the 30 and 10 kilometer exclusion zones, to the city of Chernobyl, then right beside the actual exploded reactor number four itself and finally to the abandoned town of Pripyat. I can’t even begin to explain how excited we all were, and how f****** awesome the tour was. It was like we’d traveled back in time to the days of the Soviet Union. Nature had taken over the whole place once again: trees were growing in places that once were covered only by concrete, small insects crawled everywhere, and the buildings and other structures were mostly covered by some sort of plants and trees. There time had stopped. It was so cruel and harsh, but in a way also very beautiful and calming; no matter how bad we humans mess up, nature will still prevail in the end. After the tour we then drove back to Kiev and celebrated my birthday a bit, so it was just a perfect day.
One more flight awaited us on Saturday morning. I had never been to Riga, so it was nice to get to see that city as well. In fact, all four cities (including Chernobyl of course) were new to me, so I really got to see new places within the space of one week. The fortune of good weather followed us to Riga as well and we took advantage of that by eating outside and walking around as much as we could and had the energy left to do so. We stayed the night in a downtown hostel from where it was possible for us to come and go with ease. Last thing to do was to get home the next day, and let’s just say – even though the whole trip was amazing and it’s always a privilege to get to see new, exciting places – there’s never a place like home after a bit of travelling!
The hours I counted towards this course from our little trip mostly came from different conversations. The Kievians didn’t exactly speak English that well, but luckily our Chernobyl tour-guide, Sergei, spoke excellent English, so we talked with him a lot about… well, all kinds of stuff: politics, the Ukrainian people, culture and sports just to name a few topics. We spent essentially the whole day with him, so I recon that we talked with him in total for like five hours. That’s about all I dare to count, because the other conversations with other people were so subtle and not very high-flying if you will.