Chernobyl Revisited – The Star of the East (Travelogue Special)

December 10, 2007

This being the holiday season and all, so I am going to take this opportunity to share with you some of our travelogues. This happens to be one of my all time favorites, a tour headed by Nacramanga to Chernobyl. 

I can’t describe to you all, how it’s like to visit Chernobyl on a muggy day. The feeling is weird, bordering on the surreal, but this report goes a long way to capture both the mood and the nadir of it all – the travelogue is about lost hopes and dreams, its also about the great experiments that go awry and how in the middle of it all people just have to pick up the pieces and carry on as best they can.

One of our greatest travelogues ever. I hope you enjoy it as much as me! 

Darkness 2007

In the infamous “Red Forest” just 30 km away from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor nothing ever survives. There are no roses or sunflowers; there are no geraniums or wild mushrooms. Only an endless stretch of sickly yellowed canopy. The locals in Prypyat call the red forest – the Sakura of Russia, here everything grows at double or triple the rate – from one day to the next, the once empty fields fills up – they blossom. Then, just as quickly, they die. It’s an apt description of life in the dead zone.> Biking through the red forest to the South towards “atomic city,” the once prosperous model Soviet city of almost 60,000, is a mere 15km away. We needn’t have bothered with maps the Geiger counter is already generating disconcerting crackling noises. It reads nearly 1470 micro-roentgens. A few kilometers deeper into “the zone of death” and the counter, begins to whirl off the scale. We have to proceed by foot from here, vehicles are strictly prohibited.

In the distance lies the silhouette of atomic city beyond it across a barren plain the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear stack. There entombed within an enormous steel and concrete sarcophagus lies the number 4 reactor. Twenty odd years ago on April 26, 1986, the reactor core exploded. The complex simmered for fourteen days, contaminating tens of thousands of square miles in northern Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia’s Bryansk region. It was the worst nuclear accident the world has ever seen.> The fallout, 400 times more radioactivity than was released at Hiroshima, drove a third of a million people from their homes and triggered an epidemic of thyroid cancer in children. Over the years, the economic losses—health and cleanup costs, compensation, lost productivity—have mounted into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

As we pull up at the edge of Prypyat a tall barbed wired fence cordoned off the city area. It too had seen better days like rows of rusting soviet vehicles which stood frozen leaning against each other like drunkards splayed out. We slipped through the fence. Curiously radiation levels here were lower than the red forest, but as soon as we climbed a platform, it stirred up the dust and the counter began whirling again.

‘Better get down from there,’ said Atomic Monkey. He should know, he was the science officer on this exploratory mission. I complied. We stood in a row embalmed in the eerie silence clicking away on our cameras. Like a tour through a gigantic cemetery, it’s a trip that provokes the question, “is this the end of the world?” The mood that Chernobyl imposes on the visitor is almost climatic, oppressive even. Here and there strewn all around us, remnants of the past – a ragged doll, decaying bumper cars in an abandoned carnival, a skeletal Ferris wheel squeaking against the wind – not a sign of life except for a few stray dogs. We might as well have been on the surface of Mars.

In and around atomic city, creepers grow in profusion. They grow in the ruins of an old hospital and outside it stacks of medicine boxes appear to be haphazardly stacked some with even decomposing trailers of parachutes. They grow along the dilapidated town hall, beside the remains of the barracks, around the hollow shell of what used to be a nursery. They grow inside the partition of apartment blocks, built in the days when the city still believed it would continue to grow on the dream of the nuclear promised and abandoned when it became clear that the great experiment had turned into a nightmare. In the distance as the sun began to dip the clouds looked dark. The day was ending and with it the wolfs howled.

“Kakh vamn nravitsa Prypyat ?” asked the guard: “How do you like our little Prypyat?” It is hard to imagine the contemporary inhabitants of the dead zone asking visitors to share their civic pride, but those who once called this wasteland home do expect praise even if they it’s a sprawling cemetery which once boasted the best facilities in the whole of the Soviet Union. For Prypyat was more than just an embodiment of a nations hopes, it was the short lived realization that Soviet man had managed to successfully conquer, tame and harness nature to produce in vast quantities a cheap source of energy. The Soviet authorities fashioned Prypyat as the model city where the forces of nuclear energy could subsist along side modernity, it was a sort of show case with its modern apartments which boasted even lifts, malls, swimming pools and schools: those who once lived, worked and played here were the brightest in the Soviet Union, they came from all over Russia, united in their goal to see the dream through – well-paid, praised, flattered and fêted these Soviet heroes of labor, patriots represented the hopes of the entire communist party and beyond that cradled the great hope to the masses throughout the Comecon (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance.)

Walking around ghost city, around the cemeteries, around the ruined theatre, a once proud structured, complete with Corinthian columns, Leninist portico and red emblazoned star – one cant help but feel the cost of the dream finally proved astronomically high; its enough to make one stop and ask the question;

“Where did it all go so wrong?”

Not that anyone else readily admits that this is what happened either.

“There will always be hope,” one of the former residents of Prypyat told me a few days later. Hundreds have since returned to ghost city around the periphery of the “dead zone,” reclaiming their former life’s in the contaminated region outside and even within the zone.

I soon realized the irony of it all: If your whole life has been associated with a place, it is hard to admit the place never once existed. Even if that place is widely famed for being the most radioactive spot in the world and a monument to Soviet stupidity, mismanagement and inefficient, it makes little of no difference, not to those who once called this ghost city the star of the East – it’s even harder to admit that it ought to be shut down good.

“This is our home!” 67 year old Yuri banged his fist, a touch over-dramatically, on the table. Then he proceeded to share his radioactive vodka with us and even offered a slice of radioactive wild boar meat that he hunts regularly in the red forest, to explain why recently pensioners and old couples have begun the pilgrimage back to ghost city. It offers one way of closing the chapter of sorrow in their glorious past – it helps them to move on, to even make peace with their broken dreams – as Yuri shared with us a sepia print of a young man who once lived and died here during the first few days of the Chernobyl meltdown – his only son – Vladimir an engineer, the pride in the fleet, who once worked in the fame star of the East, Chernobyl.

“They will come back someday,” the old man insisted banging the table again.

“They always come back. I see them sometimes, I do. There is nothing out there in the world. Nothing! Here is where it all began the dream and we will live it through again with or without the damned government.”

In between swigs of vodka and mildly radioactive ham, Yuri punctuates his sentences with the words, “Etuh bolshayar problyemah?” (It’s a small problem isn’t it?) His wife Olga nods silently in one corner her eyes wide with excitement or radiation sickness we’re not sure whenever her husband talks of the glorious days. When Brezhnev and before him Stalin visited Prypyat with foreign dignitaries. He was young and strong then one of the elite who were considered the classic candidate for resettlement in atomic city. Looking out of the window I couldn’t help but feel a sense of passing of a great era – sort of lingering death. A pack of wolfs howl in the distance it cuts through the conversation. We fall all silent.

As the night seeps deeper into the darkness, it begins to rain. Stepping out into the verandah I looked out across the horizon towards, the great soviet star that once showed the way for all to follow. It was so very dark. In the foreground Yuri prepared to cut his quota of radioactive firewood, his wife says – it’s a form of therapy. He has been suffering from depression lately.

Turning towards us, the once proud soviet man smiled weakly. I couldn’t tell if his face was wet with rain or tears. That I am certain was how he wanted it.

Footnote:  According to our guide the radiation dose you get from a day at Chernobyl is less than the dose an cosmonaut gets in orbit for 3 days. It’s very safe though certain places require a face mask – just keep your hands in your pocket and don’t lick anything. Two types of tours are currently conducted in Chernobyl – tourist and scientific – they have been going on since December 2000. They cost between US$140 per pax which includes two non radioactive meals transport and a complimentary guide book, but because we ran out of money, we realized that it can be had just as well for USD$50. Please note photography and filming is strictly prohibited by order of the ministry of information – that just means you need to bring along a carton of cigarettes to smooth the way. 

Scientific tours are free but booking ahead is a must (roughly one and half years); the KGB need time to vet you. Scientific tours are preferred as one can explore the ghost city unescorted – but bring along a Geiger counter (can be rented!) and some Yeo Hiap Seng tin curry. 

The Chernobyl mission was conducted recently by a four men scientific team from the 130th and funded by the Interspacing Guild – its mission objective being to document first hand the aftermath of a radioactive fall out and its effects on the environment – the information will be used for a book which darkness is currently working on. This exclusive travelogue has been brought to you exclusively by the Intelligent Singaporean and the Brotherhood Press. All travel in Russia is conducted using BMW touring motorcycles.

“Trust me, when you’re on the saddle 10 to 12 hours a day and tearing through god foresaken stretches where you dont even see a single human being for hours – the last thing you want to do is worry about is your bike dying on you – its not a matter of choice, BMW takes you there and back again.”

Only Dummies Drink and Drive!


(By Nacramanga, Trajan, KOHO, Atomic Monkey – Exclusive Travelogue Special Series – Chernobyl Revisited – EP 9902382 – 2007 – The Brotherhood Press 2007) 

To get the latest Brotherhood Press articles, click here: or just click on the brotherhood press ticker at the end of this article, it will take you there.

16 Responses to “Chernobyl Revisited – The Star of the East (Travelogue Special)”

  1. captured thread from Singapore Daily said

    bear bear Says:
    9 December 2007 at 12:23 pm
    This is for baby bambi Darkness Boy

    Enjoy and do comment.

    observer Says:
    9 December 2007 at 6:25 pm
    Bear Bear,

    I think, most of them are here right now

    However, Veronicatan has written something nice and it seems to hit the spot for me, whenever I think abt Bad Boy Bambi,


    Darkness Says:
    9 December 2007 at 7:21 pm
    That’s one hell of a great cupboard you have there.

    Darkness Says:
    9 December 2007 at 7:36 pm
    You know I want to be nice, but I cannot, bc this is stupid, it is stupid when another human being regards another human being more than just another human being.

    If you really want to do that, there is even a pastor who goes around building malls in the name of Jesus Christ, maybe you want to go him and sell or body to him or something. That loser will take it from what I hear.

    I am just not interested.

    This is just incredibly stupid. You want to know the truth, I am just like you, no better or worse.

    Darkness 2007

    I expect this kinda of post to be moderated in future!

    long time reader Says:
    10 December 2007 at 2:04 pm
    Hello Obby,

    Long time no see, thats just incredibly sensitive and sweet of veronicatan, nearly had another cavity just day dreaming abt it. Btw where did you dig out those old vids from? Sounds nice.

    catherine the great Says:
    11 December 2007 at 1:02 pm
    I met Bambi Darkness once long bfr he had his run in with his church. He came across as a remarkably well educated man with manners impossibly hard to fault, a man of wit and a great humanitarian, who had this genuine sense that he actually believed in what he said. After the incident with his church, he changed completely, it was slow acting poison. I dont even believe, he realized it himself. These days I dont even believe, I can pick him out in a crowd any more. The Bambi Boy, I used to know just disappeared.

    Zombie the Minor Says:
    11 December 2007 at 7:52 pm
    pp. 53-54 of a book

    As a parable of a gifted person, “The Shoemaker and the Elves” is also a parable for artists. Most artists early on find themselves in the position of the shoemaker on the first night — a talent has appeared, but it’s naked, immature. Ahead lie the years of reciprocal labor which precede the release of an accomplished gift. To take a literary example, George Bernard Shaw underwent a typical period of retreat and maturation before he emerged as a writer. The young Shaw started a career in business and felt the threat not of failure but of success. “I made good in spite of myself, and found, to my dismay, that Business, instead of expelling me as the worthless imposted I was, was fastening upon me with no intention of letting go.” He was twentry. “In Marche, 1876, I broke loose,” he says. He left family, friends, business and Ireland. He spent about eight years ‘in absentia’, writing constantly (five novels, published only toward the end of his life — and then with a note by Shaw asking the buyer not to read them). Erik Erikson has commented:

    “Potentially creative men like Shaw build the personal fundament of their work during a self-decreed moratorium, during which they often starve themselves, socially, erotically, and, last but not least, nutritionally, in order to let the grosser weeds die out, and make way for the growth of their inner garden. Often, when the weeds are dead, so is the garden. At the decisive moment, however, some make contact with a nutriment specific for theif gifts. For Shaw, of course, this gift was literature.”

    For the slow labor of realizing a potential gift the artist must retreat to those Bohemias, halfway between the slums and the library, where life is not counted by the clock and where the talented may be sure they will be ignored until that time, if it ever comes, when their gifts are viable enough to be set free and survive in the world.

    Zombie the Minor Says:
    11 December 2007 at 8:08 pm
    if it ever comes

    Zombie the Minor Says:
    11 December 2007 at 8:47 pm
    I think I can understand what Bambi Darkness might be going thru. I’ve read of it before. Sometimes, when things pile up, the gift can be exhausted in totality.

    koalabear Says:
    12 December 2007 at 1:34 pm
    I dunno, I find it really strange when he just prefers to be alone all the time. I don’t believe its healthy. I remember he wasnt always like that. However, Zombie girl you could well be right, I remember having read abt such morose characters myself, they are always ripped apart by something and they just split open like firewood.

    I heard from a friend that darkness wasnt always like this. According to this friend, as he went deeper and deeper into the gaming world, he realized that all his ideals and illusions abt a better world etc were being systematically stripped away, till he stood completely broken and naked.

    That was the point when he was re-born that was also the point in his life when he began to identify very much with the main protagonist in Conrad’s book, the heart of darkness. Bambi wrote long tracks abt it, often they were written in a style as if he was reflecting to himself. He said he saw the terror, violence and destructive nature of even those who played such a thing as the game, like the hero in the novel, he couldnt understand where it came from, and it ripped him into a thousand pieces.

    Then the church dropped the atomic bomb on him, that I believed was the straw that broke the camels back.

    Since that day, he turned his back on them and became known as Darkness. In his mind, I reckoned, he figured out, they were just a bad, just better at pretending that was all.

  2. Obby said

    Koalabear, Cat the Great you can yap as much as you like here.

  3. CTC said

    Now that all the distractions have been put to an end; will someone pls share with me, what exactly this church did to him? And why?

  4. chronicler said

    Next time ‘test’ or ‘raremeeting’ or shall I say Mr Brown 7 Co appear again, just post his IP here in public. We have had enough of this ppl, we will work with our allies to close the loop on the other side.

    Obey this Dotty!

  5. inspir3d said

    hi boys.

    long time no see.

    looks like dotseng is doing a good job 🙂

  6. dotseng said

    Hello Inspir3d,

    My, my this is certainly an unexpected surprise yard ah dee dah dee dah. I have heard so many good things abt you from my pal Aurora. I am sure the boys will be happiest to touch base with you again. You’re after all something of a hero to them, ya know? (blushy blush) Thank you for the compliment yar Inspir3d boy and be sure to stick around when the message goes a round that you dropped by, I am sure a few of them would like to talk to yar (winky wink, peace sign and big bear hugs).

    Peace Out



  7. scholarboy said

    Nice of you to drop by Inspirid, long time no see, that’s an understatement. Great to see again. You know how the bullshit works lah, most of them are cycling tonite, we have a 40 km race with a rival bike team, fatso chronicler is fighting the world and as for darkness, he is doing his song and dance in Singapore Angle. I am just chilling with AB here catching up with some real old DVD’s in his house. Great to see you again and you make sure, you hang around, the rest of them will be thrilled to see you again.

    Need I say, long live the brotherhood!

  8. Astro Boy said

    Hi Inspir3d,

    Glad to c u again buddy! Hey, you notice brotherhood com has dropped by 100% in this site. U know why? Bc we regularly get censored, no more red neck jokes from Dotty, you have no idea how I have been asking kokopops to keep the IS alive, you were the best wb we ever had.

    Tell me are we going to start up again? Like the old days, let me share with you this, blogosphere has exploded recently, we average 1,500 hits per day. Dunno wot happened could be anything.

    Really great you dropped by again, you have no idea how many times we talked abt u in our biking sessions.

    Long live the brotherhood! Brother!

  9. Astro Boy said

    Just to keep u up to date, we are still fighting a war in Sardonyx, our troops r bogged down, but I believe, we will be making a big push very soon.

    You hang on there, I have com-sat the rest, you have dropped by.

  10. Astro Boy said

    We also took over the Senate in Primus, one day darkness and Nacramanga just got sick and tired of the Council, so they rolled their heavy tanks in with 51 divisions of Sardo-Khan shock troops.

    FC boys have 95% of the seats in the senate now.

  11. Astro Boy said

    Long live the brotherhood!

  12. Pumpman said

    Chronicler has sent out an EAM. He wants us to increase production by 50%. Is he crazy? Tis the hols season no?

  13. chronicler said

    Dear All,

    You all have to ask what does this mean?

    Squirrel Says:
    12 December 2007 at 2:50 pm
    “the only thing that looks good on me is you”

    then better fitting, that you should feed our lands with cyanide, kill our families and relatives, and give me a shot of morphine. END

    Now I dont want to add or subtract, but both readers and writers alike must ask what is the meaning of this?

    We must remain united and mindful always.

  14. The Chronicler said

    Dear All,

    Pls dont accuse me of putting words in others ppl mouth, look for yourself what does this mean? Whose land will be poisoned? Whose families and loved one will be thrown out of the balconies? And whose sons and daughters will be made into drug addicts?

    See for yourself

    Post Extracted from The Singapore Daily /

    Squirrel Says:
    12 December 2007 at 2:50 pm
    “the only thing that looks good on me is you”

    then better fitting, that you should feed our lands with cyanide, kill our families and relatives, and give me a shot of morphine. END

    I never add our take out anything, it is all the there. You decide for yourself.

    The Chronicler

  15. Darkness said


    How’s it hanging man? Great to see you again – are you enjoying the show?

  16. Darkness said

    Dear Readers,

    As we prepare to close on 2007. I just want to share with all of you, we have never in our history been so motivated before to bringing all of you a very unique and enjoyable internet experience.

    2008 will bring with it a new era in blogging -we will be testing out broadcasting technology that we will hopefully debut for the coming olympics – a new series of travelogues numbering 20 over is in the pipeline – and as always you can all be assured, we will still be regularly producing interesting and thought provoking reads.

    I just want to say to many of our readers, Thank you so much for being there. I want to share with you all and this even applies to those who just read and do very little else that without you, none of this would ever have come about, life has never been so good and things can only get better!

    Darkness 2007

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