‘Chernobyl’ miniseries sends curious tourists to Lithuania | TribLIVE.com

‘Chernobyl’ miniseries sends curious tourists to Lithuania

photos: Pixabay
A rooftop view of the Lithuanian capital city, Vilnius, which has seen an increase in tourism since the filming of the HBO miniseries, “Chernobyl,” at sites around the country.
photos: Pixabay
The HBO miniseries “Chernobyl” has increased tourism in Lithuania, where it was filmed. Shown is Trakai Castle on an island near the capital city of Vilnius.

An HBO miniseries featuring Soviet-era nuclear nightmares has sparked global interest in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and boosted tourism in Lithuania.

The Baltic country, which served as the filming location for “Chernobyl,” has become a destination of so-called atomic tourism since the program aired earlier this year.

At Ignalina nuclear power plant, Mikhail Nefedyev was staring grimly at the row of blinking green lights on a control panel when another group of curious visitors poured into his realm. The 64-year-old engineer explained to them what exactly happened when a similar reactor exploded in Chernobyl, Ukraine, 33 years ago.

The Ignalina plant is of the same prototype as the one in Chernobyl. It has similar blueprints and the same water-cooled graphite-moderated reactors with a capacity of 1,500 megawatts of power.

Disaster tourism

Ignalina was shut down a decade ago. Closing and decommissioning it were key conditions of Lithuania’s entry to the European Union in 2004.

In 1986, Lithuania, then part of the Soviet empire, was one of the republics affected by the nuclear disaster. Thousands were sent to clean up the mess in Chernobyl. Many of them are dead.

Today, the nuclear disaster is helping Lithuania grow as a tourist destination.

“Chernobyl,” a highly rated miniseries, continues to send curious watchers to the filming locations in the capital Vilnius and at Ignalina, where glowing uranium rods cool in concrete pools

The plant, which is still open for tourists, drew 2,240 visitors in 2018. By July, 1,630 had visited the plant. And demand is growing, plant officials said.

“They have made a good movie, I guess. But what happened long ago does not bother us now. I think looking backward is not good,” Nefedyev said, after explaining how the RBMK-type reactor blew up.

Filming locations

Tourists who come to this Baltic coastal country of 3 million to see the HBO filming locations first visit the KGB museum in downtown Vilnius, where interrogation scenes were shot.

They are taken to a Soviet-era district of gray condos built in the mid-1980s that look somewhat like Pripyat, a nuclear city that served the Chernobyl plant.

“People come to see these places that we never used to promote. This is very new and unusual to see them not in the Old Town taking photos of Baroque churches, but sporting selfies here,” said Inga Romanovskiene, general manager at Go Vilnius agency.

Already a popular movie-making destination, Lithuania has benefited economically from the HBO miniseries. The amount of foreign capital spent on filming reached 45.5 million euros ($50.6 million) last year.

After locations in Vilnius, atomic tourists may opt to travel 100 miles north and join a three-hour tour of the nuclear plant. They are given dosimeters, plastic helmets, white clothes and shoes before venturing through a maze of long, poorly lit corridors, reactor halls, turbine hangars and the control center with the red button which was pushed just before the explosion.

Cellphones, cameras, eating, drinking and smoking are strictly off limits.

The plant tour costs 67 euros ($75) per person and tickets are sold until Christmas, said Natalija Survila, spokeswoman for Ignalina power plant.

Step back in time

Lynn Adams, a 49-year-old psychotherapist, came from the United Kingdom to see the whole thing with her own eyes.

“It feels like you are stepping back into one of the scenes, actually. It’s very, very authentic. And I remember seeing about Chernobyl on the news, but I’m so much more interested in what happened and the events, having seen the drama series.

“So I think it has kind of ignited an interest that I wasn’t aware of at the time,” Adams said after the visit to a Soviet-era district used by HBO as a filming location for Pripyat.

Antanas Turcinas was among those sent to Chernobyl weeks after the disaster. He hopes the buzz from the miniseries leads to better care for survivors.

“This movie has brought back old memories. Emotions are very strong, because in 1986 we did not understand what we faced. I am happy to be still alive,” he said.

Categories: Lifestyles | Travel
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.