After the world-famous HBO series ‘Chernobyl’ went viral, thrill seeking tourists flooded Ukraine. I am sure many of you have seen ‘Youtubers’, bloggers or your friends visiting the infamous exclusion zone and the town of Pripyat. While, I am certain, that the site is one of a kind, there are many other unique post-Soviet places that are must sees. Earlier this year we went to Kiev for a weekend trip and it really impressed us. In the previous post about the city, we have shared our itinerary with you. However, now I would like to talk about one of the craziest travel experiences we have ever had – going underground in Kiev.
When we booked the ‘underground Kiev tour‘, we expected to explore the abandoned metro tunnels. Which, in fact, are one of the deepest in Europe. What we actually got, was a chance to wonder in the drain tunnel system and a nuclear bunker. It is important to keep in mind that both places are actually ‘active’ and in theory could be used for their initial purpose. What I mean is that it’s not a museum-type places. It’s in fact not entirely legal to even go in… -”It’s a grey zone”, as our local guide called Vlad has put it. – ”If they catch me, I will find another way to go in”.
Another important thing to keep in mind, is that it was just two of us and our tour guide. Normally, the groups are up to 8 people. But, I guess, there weren’t many volunteers to go underground in Kiev in deep winter. I think, that being by ourselves strongly enriched our experience. The whole time we felt that we are breaking in, doing something wrong. We had no ‘alibi’ as there were no other travellers with us. Thus, the whole time we were slightly parannoyed or even frightened.
The meeting point of the tour was Dnipro metro station. After a short wait, a young lad greeted us and took off to pick up some nuclear waste proof boots. They were legit army boots that Soviet soldiers have used – pretty sick! Once we put them on, he brought us to a manhole located nearby… After seeing our confusion, he explained that we actually have to go in through that.
As said, it’s not a tour adjusted for travellers! Going underground in Kiev is something very different. Everything is raw and in the natural state. On top of that, the manhole is located just at the footsteps of a police station… It didn’t take long before an officer came to ‘greet’ us. Event though we got really scared, the guide handled the situation pretty well. He explained that technically he can’t forbid us to go in. So, next thing you know we were in the tunnels after going down a ladder in the darkness.
Surprisingly, deep down it was much warmer than expected. So, we took off our hats and scarves and followed the guide. The tunnels really differed in size. Sometimes we could stand up straight, but occasionally we had to crawl to cover some parts of the track. The experience was insane as we could discover almost untouched underground labyrinth. We saw waterfalls, deep drops, various gates and much more. We were fascinated that different parts of the city are connected via these underground roads.
To enhance our experience, Vlad decided to blow some fire crackers in the tunnels. At first, we thought it was a joke, until he took his lighter and put some explosives on fire. – ”Fully cover your ears!”- he insisted. The bang was insanely loud and slightly terrifying. -”I’m sure the policeman heard us”, -he laughed. It was not a joke… He actually heard us! Though, we were deep underground and there was no way for him to catch us.
While discovering the underground world, our tour guide told us some stories. Apparently, coal diggers like to ‘lock’ themselves down there and party for days. It seemed insane. Actually, they drink and take drugs in that claustrophobic underground world to experience something different. Well, I am sure they do! After 1,5h of exploring the deep down we got back to the street level. We felt really strange. Like as if you were gone for a day or so. So, to be honest, I can’t imagine how sane can you be after spending there longer periods of time. And, especially, if you are under the influence.
Right after the first adventure, we took an Uber and went to one of Kiev’s residential areas. – ”The nuclear bunker is right here”!,-Vlad said. We looked around and saw some apartment buildings and a playground. No way in hell it’s here! Well, it was… While older generation knows about it, younger families don’t even have a clue what is under their house.
To clear the confusion, the guide showed us an obvious reason for the hideout’s odd location. We were standing just beside a former Soviet department of statistics. This government entity was responsible for giving quotas to Soviet factories all across the Union. So, the bunker is designated for them. Well, was… Let’s not argue about that. Basically, if a nuclear attack would happen, the institution’s employees would have a safe hiding spot.
Everything would kind make sense, except of the fact that the bunker is ‘active’ and is regularly visited by officials. Of course, this was not an issue as the guy had put HIS OWN lock on one of the entrances. Not to mention, that he had to go around and check if no one from the officials was there at the moment. So, once the area was clear – we went down. It felt like going to a basement of an old apartment building. Once we were quite some meters under the ground, we had to climb through a hole in the wall. Which once again was MADE BY HIM.
It is hard to explain what we saw inside, but the experience was insane. Basically the area is divided into different rooms. Such as engine rooms, class rooms, storage units etc. The place is full of original instructional posters on how to behave in certain situations. There were books, bottles of vodka and UNPACKED boxes of gas masks. We could not believe our eyes! Everything was still standing as 30-40 years ago. You could touch and read whatever you found inside. Literally, I sat at a desk of the training room, where once a general was giving a speech.
Surprise surprise – the air purification machine powered by a massive engine was still operational. Our guide freaking turned it on! It was so loud that even he could not hide his fear. We all got shivers in our bodies… And since we felt paranoia the whole time already, we decided to make our way out of there.
The whole excursion was an emotional rollercoaster. At first, going underground in Kiev seemed unbelievably awesome. Then, it was terrifying as you always thought that you could be busted. But at the end, it was an incredible experience which I could not recommend enough.
Everything that you see is as it was years ago and in a very good shape. Nothing is adjusted to tourists and you are guided by a crazy local. On top of that, the stories about adventures that you get to hear are above all. Definitely, one of the sickest travel adventures ever.