Kiev #3: Underground Urbex

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Europe » Ukraine » Kyiv
December 28th 2019
Published: June 22nd 2020
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I sorted out all my stuff and got ready to check out after my breakfast. I love the hidden storage space in this small apartment hostel. The manager/receptionist just lifted up the mattress on his day bed and I left my bag in there. While researching Kiev, I came across an Urbex tour that looked really interesting. I was looking into booking it, when some of the others on my multi-day tour mentioned that they were going to do it, so I decided to go with those. The tour we booked was an underground one, exploring the underground tunnel system and a former cold war bunker. I made my way to the subway station that we were meeting at, and since I got there a bit early, decided to go for a little walk around. It was drizzly and overcast and as I walked along the road near the Dnipro River, there wasn't a lot to see, some kind of official looking building that could have been police or army and a restaurant that reminded me of a Korean wedding hall. There was also nothing in the subway station to see as it was really small. I met the others that would be on the tour and the guide and we headed over to a small lock up to get the stuff we needed for the underground tunnel; a torch and some waterproof boots/leg coverings (waders). Then we headed to the other side of the metro station to the entrance to the underground tunnel system.

The entrance to the tunnel was next to the official looking building I had seen earlier, which turned out to be a police station. Our guide was a really great guy, chatting and informative, telling us lots about urban exploration. He said that because urban exploration isn't really well known here, that the police don't care/turn a blind eye to it most of the time. He pointed out a small boarded up and gate entrance to the tunnel system, which obviously we couldn't use. Instead he directed us toward a manhole a few paces away and removed that for us to enter the tunnel system. The underground drainage system was built in 1916 to protect the Pechersk Lavra Hills from landslides. It was nice to think I'd explored the area above ground the day before and now I was exploring the underground. Heading down through the manhole wasn't too difficult as there were some stairs that lead us down to a kind of antechamber. it was bigger and roomier than I had imagined it to be. I quite liked the random collection of junk in one corner. The dirty, stuffed rabbit added an eerie touch and I wonder if it had been placed there for the purpose of better instagram shots. We headed up a ladder onto a small ledge and then through to a smaller tunnel. I think we would explore about a three kilometre section of the tunnel. I had expected it to be cramped, but it wasn't too bad, although I am pretty short. it was really cool to wander through the underground tunnel system and I wondered about others that had wandered through it. Our guide told us that there would be a big New Year's Eve Party in one of the tunnels in a few day's time and that the admission was candles. That would definitely be a unique way to experience ringing in the new year. The tunnel also got bigger the further in we ventured and there was no problem standing straight and it was also pretty wide. We saw an underground waterfall that was pretty cool and then continued on to the furthest point we would go. Here, we did a couple of things. One was our guide headed a bit further down the tunnel and he set off a fire cracker and he threw it even further down the tunnel. He warned us to cover our ears as the sound would be greatly amplified in the tunnel. I really didn't expect it to be so loud (seeing as I know nothing about sound or science), but even with my ears covered I was shocked at how loud it was. The other thing we did was take some insta worthy shots. The guide set up a light further down the tunnel and we each took turn standing in front of it and doing poses as we were just black shapes. I really enjoyed the trip down the underground tunnel system. I would hate to go down there alone or with other inexperienced people as I could totally imagined myself getting lost and starving to death.

We had some free time before the driver would come to take us to our next location, so a couple of us headed to the kiosk outside of the metro station to warm up with a tea. The tea was dirt cheap and hit the spot. The driver turned up and he took us to our next location that was a short drive away. This was further into the city centre and after getting dropped off, we wandered into a very Soviet looking high rise housing estate. It wasn't run down or anything, it just had a bit of an old school aesthetic. The rain, cloudy weather and some old cars in the carpark did make it feel a bit like stepping back in time. There are old Cold War bunkers all over Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Empire. Urban explorers and others have discovered some of them, but there are still many that are undiscovered. Our guide had to go and check some of the other entrances to the bunker hadn't been tampered with, this was the guide's way of knowing that the bunker hadn't been reclaimed by the authorities or claimed by someone else. He told us that when they discovered this bunker, they just changed the lock on the main entrance to their own. He also told us that the tour used to go to a different bunker, but they had to stop using it, I think because the authorities had re-claimed it. While we went to check those, we stood around in the middle of the housing estate trying not to look too conspicuous as local residents came and went.

After getting the all clear, the guide let us in the main entrance of the bunker and we headed down the stairs and underground. I wonder how many of the residents of the housing estate know about its existence and if any of them have been down to have a scout about. We headed past some huge steel doors. There were a few discarded bottles on the floor, so I am presuming other people have been down here for a nose about or just to drink. I loved the creepiness of the dark and how worn out the building bunker looked. As we headed further in the small room/space wee were in had quite a collection of thin stalactites growing from the ceiling. We passed what looked like, to my untrained eye, pumps and other equipment needed to check the bunker operational. We headed deeper past more thick steel doors and through corridors with air vents above us. Being in the dark, with only a torch, is really disorientating for me. I don't think I would have been able to find my way out if it wasn't for the guide. We wandered through the different rooms of the bunkers. It was like they were frozen in time as everything was just left piled up. There were loads of books and files. I really wished I could read/speak Ukrainian or Russian to know what they said, but I'm presuming that there wasn't anything really important as it wouldn't have been left lying around. In one corner of one room, there was dummy dressed up in a hazmat suit and gas mask. That was quite creepy and would have been frightening to come across alone. We also came across crates and crates of discarded gas masks. The threat of nuclear war was a lot more real back then.

We came across a lot of other equipment, some I didn't know what it would be used for and some looked similar to stuff I'd seen in the Chornobyl Museum. There were also quite a lot of posters, showing weapons and how to dress to prevent radiation. These informational posters were really creepy as the 'people' in them have been so dehumanised. Another strange thing that we came across were a few jackets that looked like they belonged to workmen, just left, hanging abandoned on poles. The last main place we went on the tour of the bunker was a meeting room with dust covered desk that still held name tags dictating who sat where. There were more creepy posters covering the walls showing the detonation of nuclear bombs and how to protect oneself. Judging by the stuff left on display, it seemed that the room was used to brief people on what to do and that they would pass it along to those working under them. While we were in the meeting room, I decided to be nosy and open one of the desk drawers. I'm glad I did so, as I found a stash of black and white photos in there. The pictures were of female soldiers, some in formation, dressed normally and in gas masks, and in others they seemed to be helping civilians while wearing the gas masks. I didn't know if they were real pictures or staged for some purpose. We also came across quite a few old televisions, I'd forgotten how bulky TVs used to be. We also came across the bathroom which was in a pretty sorry state. Something really creepy that we came across were these plastic models of the lower part of a face; mouth, chin and jaw, and in some cases a nose, too. They were mounted on to plaques and I don't know of they were used for training purposes or to teach first aid, but just finding a pile of them abandoned in the corner of a room sent a little shiver up my spine. Also two red hand prints on one of the walls was a little spooky. We spent ages in the bunker and I really enjoyed it. There was no rushing at all. I think everyone on the tour was impressed with what we had seen and done, and for me it was one of the highlights of my trip. The only thing I was scared about was that Chernobyl was going to pale in comparison when we visited there the next day.

After the tour, I made my way back to my hostel. The subway was really, really busy. At the hostel, I decided to be cheeky and have a cuppa and a late lunch with some stuff I bought from the shop across the road. Once full and rested, I grabbed my stuff that and headed off to the next place I was staying. I took the subway to the train station, and it was about a ten minute walk to the hotel. I was feeling pretty tired so I stopped at a small coffee kiosk for a coffee. It was also good to warm me up as it was pretty cold. At the hotel, I checked in and met my roommate for the trip. She was really nice, so that was a good sign. We spent an hour or so chilling and chatting before heading off to meet the rest of the group. We were going out fir dinner and drinks at a place that was about a twenty minute walk away.

The place we went to was called Палата №6 and is known as hospital bar in English. It is meant to be quite unique and a popular place to go in Kiev. We had a table reserved, but it was rather cramped and as it was a Saturday night and the bar was busy, we couldn't add any extra tables. It was nice to get to know the people on the trip over a few beers. We ordered food there, too. I can't say I was too impressed with my meal; chicken schnitzel with vegetables. It was just a bog standard deep fried breaded chicken fillet with generic frozen vegetables underneath. The others seemed to enjoy their food, so maybe I just made a duff choice. The bar has a hospital theme to it and the staff wear white coats. There is also a shot challenged, where you have to don a metal helmet that is set on fire and you have to drink some shots. A couple of people from the group did the challenged and it was fun to watch. However, on the whole, I wasn't really impressed with the bar. I think it was a bit over-hyped and the staff were a bit rude. I think I left around ten or eleven and got an uber back to the hotel. We headed to the convenience store to pick up some water, coffee for the morning and some snacks, as my dinner hadn't filled me. There were some nice looking savoury pastries on display and the woman was lovely translating them into English for us. I munched one of those and it filled me up. Back at the hotel I was quick to get to bed as it would be a very early start in the morning. However, the hotel had little soundproofing, so it was hard to get a good night's sleep.

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