Chernobyl Miniseries Prompts 35 Percent Spike in Travel to Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

iStock/fmajor
iStock/fmajor

Since HBO released the first episode of Chernobyl on May 6, the miniseries has grown into a sensation, receiving glowing reviews and surpassing The Wire and Breaking Bad to become the top-rated show on IMDb. After watching the chilling recreation of the 1986 nuclear disaster, many viewers had the same question: Is the Chernobyl exclusion zone open to visitors? It is, and as CNN reports, tourism there has risen 35 percent as a result of the show.

Following the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant's RBMK reactor 33 years ago, a 2500-square-mile exclusion zone was established around the disaster site. Radiation levels are nowhere near where they were in 1986, but the vegetation, buildings, and wildlife in and around Pripyat, Ukraine are still radioactive. It isn't safe to live there, but by signing up for a tour you can visit the area surrounding the power plant.

Victor Korol, director of the tour company SoloEast, said that bookings for trips to Chernobyl have spiked 35 percent since the miniseries premiered. He told CNN, "It's almost as though they watch it and then jump on a plane over."

A day tour of Chernobyl costs $99. Once inside the exclusion zone, adventurers can explore the town of Pripyat, which was abruptly evacuated in 1986; stand under the Ferris wheel at the abandoned amusement park, and see the infamous nuclear reactor (safely enclosed in a steel structure to contain radiation) from an observation point 1000 feet away. Though the company says day trips to Chernobyl are "100 percent" safe, guests are asked to stick to approved routes, wear clothing that provides maximum coverage to their bodies, and avoid touching buildings and shrubbery to keep radiation exposure to a minimum.

If you can't make it to Ukraine to see Chernobyl, or aren't interested in being exposed to even mild levels of radiation, you can check out photos taken inside the exclusion zone from the safety of your home. You can also learn more about what it's like to visit here.

[h/t CNN]

This London Pub Might Be the Most Ethical Bar in the World

Ridofranz/Getty Images
Ridofranz/Getty Images

Pub owner Randy Rampersad is doing his part for sustainability. In June, he opened the Green Vic—a play on the fictional Queen Vic pub in the soap opera EastEnders—in the East London neighborhood of Shoreditch. The Telegraph reports it’s aiming to be the world’s most ethical pub: Rampersad eschews plastic and paper straws and opts for gluten-free wheat “straws.” He sources the bar's 100 percent recycled toilet paper from green-minded company Who Gives a Crap, and the communal wooden tables are upcycled.

“I wanted to make the world a better place and run my own business, but I was waiting for that eureka moment,” Rampersad told The Telegraph. He discovered no one had done anything like this before.

There’s no meat on the menu—the food is totally vegan, healthy-ish pub grub. You can add CBD oil to the “chkn" bites appetizer, and the burgers are made from ingredients like soy, seaweed, and sweet potato. The beers are produced by ethical brewers, too: Toast Ale uses unsold loaves and crusts of bread; Good Things Brewing crafts its beer from 100 percent renewable energy; South Africa’s Afro Vegan Cider donates money to an organization that funds equal pay for female farmers; and Brewgooder donates to water projects.

In fact, everything the Green Vic does has charity in mind. “We don't care about the money, I’m planet first and profit after,” Rampersad told The Telegraph. Up to 80 percent of its profits will go to charitable causes, including local food banks. As for the staff, one in four are from marginalized groups. The Green Vic plans to operate as a three-month pop-up pub while scouting for longer term investment.

The Cat Sanctuary That Sits Near the Ancient Roman Site Where Julius Caesar Was Murdered

ClaireLucia/iStock via Getty Images Plus
ClaireLucia/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Cats will sleep anywhere—even in ancient ruins. Located in Rome, Colonia Felina di Torre Argentina is a cat sanctuary on the site where conspirators stabbed Julius Caesar 22 times outside the Theatre of Pompey, on March 15 44 BCE. Centuries later, in 1929, Mussolini excavated the area to reveal four temples that are 20 feet below the street level. Today, it’s the oldest open-air spot in Rome.

Bystanders can view the temple complex known as Largo di Torre Argentina from the fenced-off street, but according to Conde Nast Traveler, after a $1.1 million restoration process, the sanctuary will open to tourists in the second half of 2021. For now, the only living things allowed in the sacred area (area sacra) are feral cats.

According to Colonia’s website, they are "the most famous cat sanctuary in Italy” and also the oldest in Rome. Many of the cats fall into the special needs category: Some are disabled, missing part of a paw, or are blind; the special needs and elderly cats live in a walled-off area. Volunteers—a.k.a. gattare, or cat ladies—take good care of them, and some cats are available for adoption.

Atlas Obscura reports that “since the mid-1990s, the population has grown from about 90 to a peak of 250” cats and notes that the sanctuary has a spay/neuter program. From the street, visitors can watch gatti like the three-legged Pioppo and Lladrò—known as “poisonous kitten” because of how angry he was when he got there—sunbathe and sleep under pillars.

It’s unclear if the cats are respecting Caesar or disrespecting the fallen leader. However, a gift shop is open to visitors, and people can donate money toward the cats and/or volunteer.

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