HBO’s acclaimed mini-series Chernobyl has been all the talk amongst movie-lovers and historians alike recently. And we can now let you into a little secret; it wasn’t filmed exclusively in Ukraine! In fact, realistic locations were identified and captured in a number of other places, some of which we include in this fascinating tour. Unique to Belarus Prime Tour Company, let us take you back to the days of the Soviet Union in this fully immersive, time-travelling experience.
The tour includes
Kiev and a visit to film locations there, the atmospheric and somber abandoned corners of Chernobyl itself, the Soviet architecture of Belarusian city of Minsk, the Belarus film studio that provided costumes for the mini-series and finally Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, where scenes resembling government ministry buildings in Pripyat (the now-abandoned city adjoining the stricken power plant) were filmed.
Optional features include a meeting with ‘liquidators’ of the Chernobyl power plant, the heroes involved in the clean-up operation, as well as an autograph session with Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich, whose internationally lauded masterpiece Voices from Chernobyl was used as background material for the HBO mini-series, together with an excursion to the decommissioned Ignalinskaya nuclear power plant in Lithuania, which served as a film location for some scenes within the Chernobyl plant’s interior in the mini-series.
Arrive in Kiev. Transfer to hotel. City tour.
Our tour of Chernobyl mini-series film locations begins with a short ride to the intersection of Volodymirska and Bogdana Khmelnitskogo Streets in Kiev’s Old Town, the backdrop to scenes from the Soviet past. We also visit the nearby districts of Tereshenkovskaya and Kreshatyk, the Kiev city council building and Tarash Shevchenko National University, all of which eagle-eyed viewers of the mini-series will recognise!
Next we take in filming locations around Zhovten cinema and the Institute of Hydrobiology.
Our final visit today will be to the Chernobyl Museum dedicated to the 1986 catastrophe and its consequences. It houses an extensive collection of visual media, artefacts and scale models, all giving an accurate eye-witness feel for all that transpired on that ill-fated night in April 1986 and in the days and weeks that followed.
*note; there will be an optional meeting in the evening, either with one of the ‘liquidators’ or one of the so-called ‘resettlers’, who were displaced from their homes in the 30-kilometre exclusion zone.
Overnight in Kiev.
Transfer to Chernobyl.
This full-day tour inside the 30-kilometre exclusion zone will be like nothing you have experienced before, offering as it does a window into a world that no longer exists, a modern-day Pompeii. It represents an utterly unique invitation not only to witness at first hand the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, but also to travel back in time. You will visit the decommissioned nuclear power plant itself, as well as the ghost-town of Pripyat, with its abandoned schools and houses left just as they were when the authorities came to evacuate everyone living there.
We continue on to the ‘Red Forest’ and the ambient noise of crackling Geiger counters, to meet local ‘resettlers’ who moved back to their native village after the original evacuation. We also make a stop at the nearby apartment building where Anatoly Stepanovich Dyatlov (the plant’s Deputy Chief Engineer) lived. The Soviet authorities held Dyatlov responsible for the disaster. Was he a criminal, or a scapegoat? Perhaps he was also a victim himself. Draw your own conclusions as the tour progresses.
*note; the advice of experts is that the exposure to radiation during a one-day visit to the plant and 30-kilometre exclusion zone is similar to that experienced during a trans-Atlantic flight or an x-ray scanning procedure.
Transfer to Kiev.
Night train to Minsk, to feel the emotions of residents who were evacuated from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
City Tour of Soviet Minsk
Our journey begins at one of the city’s iconic symbols, the Gates of Minsk opposite the main railway station. We proceed to meander along the city’s main avenue, where we pass many exquisite examples of the Stalinist classical style of architecture. We visit the grand Post Office building and pause to shop in GUM, an example of the Soviet Union’s finest and instantly recognizable brand of department stores. We indulge our taste buds with Soviet cakes at Tsentralny, the Central Store of Minsk, still proudly boasting its décor from the days of the USSR, where we lean on the counter to watch the world go by.
Refreshed, we continue our journey of discovery to make friends with more of the city’s landmark architecture, including the Palace of Culture of Trade Unions and the State Circus building. We also visit the Azgur Museum and its collection of busts of former Soviet leaders, one of the largest such collections anywhere to be seen. Don’t be alarmed if the eyes seem to follow you around …
An unforgettable experience will be the opportunity to ride the red line of the Minsk Underground, opened in 1984 and with its interior décor unchanged to this day.
The day’s excursion ends with a visit to Belarus Film, the production studio that was extremely successful in the days of the old USSR. Since those days a collection of thousands of costumes and props from different Soviet films has been amassed. The visit takes in a tour of the vast stores of weaponry, furniture and costumes arranged by period of history. And here’s a relevant fact; more than 20,000 items within the studio’s collection were used during the filming of Chernobyl! There will be plenty of time to get into character as you try on the clothes of the main characters from the mini-series, as well as medical gowns, Soviet school uniforms and many other items of clothing.
Overnight in Minsk.
*note; the evening includes an optional dinner at Tovarisch (Comrade) restaurant in the city, with an opportunity to taste the dishes that were popular in the days of the Soviet Union.
Optional meeting. Transfer to Vilnius
*note; there is an optional morning meeting and autograph session with Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich, author of internationally acclaimed Voices from Chernobyl, used as background material for the HBO mini-series.
Transfer to Vilnius. Overnight in Vilnius.
Vilnius City Tour
We visit a small district in the city built around the time of the Chernobyl catastrophe and chosen as the mini-series main location site, for the marked resemblance of its architecture to the city of Pripyat, now the ghost town adjoining the ill-fated plant. All in all the show took almost 1,000 hours to make in 40 different locations, with a cast of close on 5,000 extras participating in filming.
We continue on to see the precise locations of some of the main scenes, including the former cultural and sports centre of the Ministry of the Interior (doubling as the Pripyat hotel restaurant) and also the Faculty of Architecture of Gediminas Technical University (doubling as the courtroom).
Overnight in Vilnius.
This features an optional tour to decommissioned Ignalinskaya Nuclear Power Plant, chosen as the location for some of the interior shots in the mini-series, due to its resemblance to the Chernobyl plant.
*note; requests to visit must be made no later than six months before the date of the visit itself, which can only take place during normal working hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.