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Into the exclusion zone

Into the exclusion zone

I was born in 1986, and one of the names always being associated with this year is Chernobyl. Yesterday I had the ambivalent “pleasure” to visit parts of exclusion zone: the buffer zone, the Pripyat zone and the 10K zone in which the reactor is located. Towards the end of 2017 a new shelter, or sarcophagus, was put in place over the reactor. This, together with the old shelter and the work of 500.000 liquidators after the catastrophy, makes the zone a safe place to visit for a shorter timespan, and today it’s grown an industry around taking people into the zone and show them around.

Following a test run on the reactor on 26th April reactor 4 at the Chernobyl power plant exploded sending a huge amount of radioactivity into the sky. The cloud created by the accident first blew north and then westward increasing radioactivity levels throughout the Soviet union and the rest of Europe. The accident became known in the West as radioactivity levels were picked up outside the Soviet union, but within Soviet it was kept as a secret and the consequences were played down. In fact, already on the 1st of May, a few days later, the mayday celebration in Kiev, a few hours by car to the south, went uninterrupted.

At the same time, a huge operation were initiated to get control over the fire and constant radiation being spread by the accident. At first fire men tried to take out the fire without any protective gear. At this point any direct exposure was lethal. Later helicopters were used to throw sand, clay and later lead into the fire. Still this job was leathal. Much was done; water was drained from under the reactor to avoid a fatal reaction which would leave large parts of Europe uninhabitable, in the area around the reactor villages were emptied and buildings demolished, Pripyat of around 50.000 people were evacuated and people were to never move back. Above the reactor a sarcophagus was erected. First by robots as the radiation was leathal from as little as 20 seconds exposure, but as some of the robots malfunctioned humans were used as well; bio-robots covered in makeshift protective gear. The human tragedies, still continuing to our day, was and are immense. About 500.000 people were involved in the clean up, many exposed to large amounts of radiation.

The first sarcphagous was built to last for around 30 years, the new will last for another 100 years, but this area will stay uninhabitable for thousands of years.

Stories from Turkey

Stories from Turkey

Earlier this summer, after delivering our exams, Jules and I went to Turkey for an inexpensive and spontaneous holiday. Here is a short summary of what we saw and did. Hopefully this could prove useful if you’re planning a trip to the Anatolian peninsula, if not maybe it could teach you one or two things you did not know about Turkey.

Planning the trip
During the last months of the semester, the urge for a short holiday became more imminent. All day reading sources and writing academic papers is something which consumes a lot of willpower and energy. With the papers almost done we decided to find an inexpensive trip and not spend much time planning our holiday in advance. We decided to use Restplass.no to book our trip. This travel search engine searches through many travel agency databases, and present the results in a good and organized way. The possibility to exclude results which does not match your own criteria is useful, and when you can do a search organised both by time and prices you can really find a valuable travel. We found a trip to around 1300 NOK with travel, hotel and breakfast included. The trip was through a Swedish travel agency named Nazar which is arranging affordable trips to southeastern Europe, primarily Turkey. The only problem we experienced was that we had to make our reservation by phone, since the online order system did not work. Since they do not have any fees on travels booked on telephone the only problem is the time spent trying to refresh the order page on their web-page.

The travel included a flight with Turkish-German SunExpress both ways, and this airline company was nothing more than OK. The flight included a very very small meal and lots of noise. The flight took off when it was supposed to and arrived on time both in Oslo and in Izmir airports without delay. There were many children on the flights, and since children combined with a three hour long flight means yelling, crying, dribbling and pooping I strongly recommend that you bring with you a book and a pair of earplugs.

Safe and sound on Turkish soil we were pleased to find out that the kids were going to Aqua Fantasy – another hotel with a combined aqua theme park-, and that our trip with the poo-troop had come to an end. From the airport we got a lift with a bus chartered by Nazar, and on the way we got some basic travel info from our Swedish guide.

Kuşadası
Even though our guide book didn’t really say anything nice about this city it had its beautiful places and moments. The pigeon island, the beaches and the view from some parts of the city had a good postcard potential, but the main street didn’t provide anything else than tourist bars, tourist shops and tourist restaurants. The first thing to do in Kuşadası is to get used to be perceived as a western tourist thus being a potential to earn some dough. The local tourist industry is cynical and noisy. Of this reason you should always be prepared to say “no, thank you”, “Sorry, I don’t want anything today” and “I’m not interested” This could sound fair enough but believe me, after going through the city three or four times you will get tired of people running after you trying to get you into one or another business deal. If you want to avoid this, just keep on walking. For God sake do not window shop. Do also stay away from the tourist industry restaurants. There are several of them located along the main street, but the tacky factor is incredibly high. If you want to sing along to “I beg you pardon, I never promised you a rose garden”, have a waiter that dances to the music next to your table and expects you to like it and brings cowboys hat and light sticks you are welcome to go to one of these restaurants, if not, you have been warned.

On the other hand, there is more to Kuşadası than tacky terrible restaurants and people interrupting you more than on a Ryanair flight. Let us take a stroll on the bright side. During our week in Turkey we spent every second day in Kuşadası, and we enjoyed it. The pigeon island, the local market with small local restaurants and the beaches. There are many things worth a visit in Kuşadası. During your stay you should pay Yusuf at Albatros a visit. This restaurant is, like the other restaurants located nearby, an oasis where you can eat great Turkish food at affordable prices. Service is good, and it is an enjoyable place where you can go to speak with the locals and have a cup of Turkish coffee or Apple Tea. This market square is located between the city center and the central bus station.

If you want to indulge with a drink and at the same time enjoy a spectacular sunset, the restaurant at pigeon island is a nice place. Here you can enjoy an Efes beer or a glass of wine near to an old Ottoman fortress. Here are some pictures from Kushadasi:

Ephesus
Once one of the most populated cities in the world, just second to Rome, Ephesus consists of a great collection of old ruins from a once a mighty city in a mighty empire. Containing some really nice buildings such as the Celcius Library it is worth a visit. Are you staying in Kuşadası it is also very short and cheap to get there traveling by Dolmus. Stay away from the tourist companies’ travels unless you want a guide to show you and tell you about the escarvation site. A book explaining the interesting story of the city, a bottle of water and good shoes are the only things you really need, and of course money to pay for the entrance.

From Ephesus the local town Selçuk there is just a short walk. After visiting the escarvation site you can go here by foot, and if you want to see another attraction you can walk past the caves of the seven sleepers on the way. Just follow the small road to the right before the main road. You can’t miss.

Pamukale

Pamukale literary means “Cotton Castle” in Turkish. The area is located around three hours with bus east of Kuşadası. According to our Tukish guide this place is worth a visit when the cotton flowers blossom, but it is also more to this place than cotton. Located on the hill ridges nearby are several hot springs with high mineral concentration, they give the local hill sides a characteristic white colour. The aestetics of this area and the health bringing effects this water bring have made Pamukale a well known attraction (Also a Kebab shop in Hamburg). Already in archaic times these hills were popular and the Romans founded two cities in this area, the Heliopolis and Necropolis, meaning health and death city. You will find many interesting tombs here, and also a natural spring in which Cleopatra of Egypt had a bath long long time ago. This bath is said to have an health effect. The most interesting part of this trip however is the lovely white ridges which you have to walk in order to get to the top. Here hot water is flowing down the hillside tickling your feet while you enjoy the bright white hillside. Great success.

Izmir

Izmir is the third most populous city in Turkey, and is the “capital” of the region bordering to the Anatolian sea. The city is worth a visit, and there are buses going between Kuşadası and Izmir each hour. The bus station is located outside the city so you have to take a Dolmus or Taxi to get into the city center. Once you get here you can stroll around without any further need of public transportation. The city has a nice promenade alongside the sea, and this is worth a visit. Here you can find the Ataturk museum, and a lot of places to enjoy apple tea, a beer or a cup of coffee. A great venue we found in a nice old house, 1888, here they have a great selection of food a la carte, but they do also do barbecues. This is also a place where small artists (by publicity, bit size) play under colourful lanterns. A place to visit if you are in Izmir.

The last bus back departs around midnight and plan around 40-50 minutes getting from the city center out to the bus terminal.

Summary

If you are in need of a holiday, traveling with charter company can be an inexpensive solution since they will sell the travels at a low rate right before departure. The destinations may be crowded with tourists, but if you have a look around, and get a couple of tips on the surroundings the holiday can be great. Even though you can not communicate with the locals, they are in most cases interested in helping you and with a smile and interest you can experience a lot. I wish you a nice travel.

The post is lacking some pictures from the last three destinations. This will be added later.