Published: October 19th 2009October 19th 2009
A few belated notes about Chernobyl. The tour-bus ride from Kiev was about 1.5 hrs; about 28 people, mostly Brits were on the bus. The Brits were in Ukraine for World Cup Soccer (England lost). The tour began at Hotel Rus--a fitting start. The Chernobyl disaster occurred Apr 23, 1986, when a safety test went wrong. Radiation from fallout was at least 100 times that of Nagasaki and Hiroshama combined. 40% of Ukraine forest was contaminated; 6% remains contaminated today. Ukraine estimated 25,000 to 100,000 fatailities (I bet they understated by 50%). Initial winds were to the North, so Belarus got biggest initial fallout chunk. Winds then shifted to the West, producing a classic cigar-shaped fallout pattern. RADIAC meters carried by our guide consistently showed at least 15 micro-roentgen per hr--a small, but measurable amount. Current Ukraine rad workers on site work four days on and three days off--insuring they are exposed to no more than two roentgens per yr. As I remember, US rad workers can be exposed to no more than five per year, so these guys are OK. I was amazed that tourists can be exposed without dosimetry--no EPA, no OSHA (I say we are overcontrolled
anyway). Before the accident, the Chernobyl area had 50,000 people (workers, families, etc); now it is a ghost town. 1,000 busses were marshalled to evac the area--took less than two days. The entire area is now a ghost-town. The old Russian-type block buildings are still there, withering away. Saw dusty wine bottles in empty hotel rooms. An amusement park was slated to open a couple of weeks after the accident--obviously never did. The rusted merry-go-round and ferris wheels are still there.
The workers at ground zero got 3,000 to 4,000 roentgen--six to eight lethal doses. The close-by area is still virtually lifeless, except for a few birds, some fish in the former reactor cooling ponds and one producing apple tree. A few miles from Ground Zero, trees are growing back, but radiation lasts forever. Saw some old gask masks--useless against gamma radiation. Trip cost $140 US--worth the money.
Riga, Latvia's capital, is around 808 years old. Sadly, the city has only been an independent country for under 40 of those years. They have been defeated many times. Like Lithuania, they were under German and Soviet rule for many years and just fully gained their independence in 1991. Riga serves
as the main port for Latvia. It has a population around 750,000.
One would never know what suffering this country of Latvia has endured. Today, its capital, Riga, is a vibrant place. It has definitely embraced capitalism. I predict that it will continue to be popular with tourists. I would love to come back in August or September.
The women in Latvia are very fashionably dressed. They wear fitted wool coats, high boots, and knitted caps & scarves. Many of the women have black hair. People have been very pleasant.
Latvian food is heavy and starchy. The cost of everything from food to goods seems to be higher in Riga. In all of these E.European countries, you have to pay extra for mustard, catsup, mayo, etc. I had a funny thing happen at breakfast today. On the menu under coffee, they had Expresso, Cappuccino, and Coffee with Cream. I chose coffee with cream. It had about 2 tablespoons of coffee and was topped with ice cream. A spider's web design of chocolate syrup was on top of the cream. It was tasty but not what I had in mind to go with my omelet. There are many sweet shops where
W & E in Bastion Hill Park in Riga
We are standing in front of another Lovers' Lock Bridge
you can go to have pastries, cake, desserts.
We have enjoyed the colorful foliage in the Bastion Hill Park across from our hotel. This central park is surrounded by the Old City Moat (now a canal.) Some of the fort's walls are still standing. I will include pictures of them and of the Pulvera Tower. It was a gunpowder tower and is the only one still standing. The Riga Cathedral (also known as the Dome Cathedral) is located in the center of the Old Town on a square. It is the largest cathedral in the Baltics. At one time, it had the largest organ in the world - 6,718 pipes.
We have now covered most of Europe including all Eastern Europe except Belarus. This trip has been very interesting, but I would not say that it is for everyone. Walt is in withdrawal from not getting Fox News. That will change soon! We have ridden a lot of trains, buses, and taxis. We have walked a lot of kilometers and breathed a lot of fresh, cold air. Armenia and Georgia were our favorite countries; Odessa sucks!!!
There are more photos below