Funny you should mention Chernobyl in the Ukraine. The following is an extract of what I wrote in the former Rogov Forum in 2008 :
" I spent three nights in the Ukraine this week for a client based in Brussels.
I flew to Kiev and then on to Chernigov, about 90 miles north on the way to Belarus. Wikipedia writes that Chernigov is famous for having the highest rate of thyroid cancer in the world.
On the first day we had lunch behind a cash dispenser. I needed a cash dispenser ( aka ATM ) so we stopped at a bank outside Chernigov on one of the sprawling factory estates. You opened the door behind the ATM and inside was a small canteen. I asked what the ryba ( fish ) was and they said it was salmon, so I had salmon with kasha.
In the evening I was taken to a bar in downtown Chernigov opposite the Ukraina Hotel at the corner of Prospekt Mir ( Peace Avenue ). I asked for a beer but they had run out of beer. I asked what fish they had to eat and they replied salmon. I noticed borscht on the menu but they had run of that as well. So I had salmon with peaches and rice. As there was no beer I ordered a glass of red Ukrainian wine, the less said about that the better.
After dinner my colleagues suggested that we went for a beer. Walking down the street they went into a small shop to buy bottles of beer. ' Is Ukrainian custom to drink beer in street ' they told me. I really didn't like the idea of walking along drinking beer out of a bottle so I found a bar that looked like a MacDonalds inside and bought three bottles of Chernigivkye beer for 13.50 gryvnia, about £ 1.50. It's the same beer as Stella Artois, brewed by the same company, Interbrew.
On day two for lunch we went back to the canteen behind the ATM. I asked what fish they had to eat and they replied salmon. So I had salmon with kasha.
In the evening I returned to Kiev by taxi from Chernigiv. It is a straight and flat road passing through several villages, the driver slowing down in the villages for any police speed traps, otherwise driving at a constant speed of 110-120 kilometers an hour. We reached Kiev at dusk and in heavy rain, the driver maintaining the same 110-120 kilometers an hour through the city, weaving between lanes in the rain, over a wide river, through underpasses, over bridges, the entire city seen in a blur of rain and spray from trucks, until we reached the Mir Hotel near Holeevskaya Park which the driver found without problem. I had intended to visit the Podol, the old quarter of Kiev where I understood there are several fashionable bars and restaurants but the heavy rain stopped that and I stayed in the Mir Hotel, a 1960s construction, the lobby of which looked like the entrance to a 1950s NHS hospital.
The hotel had a PECTOPAH or restaurant. I followed the signs from the lobby, down some stairs, along a long corridor, up some stairs, down another corridor, down more stairs until I saw the restaurant which appeared closed as it was dark inside. However this was just dark glass on the windows or they hadn't been cleaned. I pushed open the door and walked into what could have been the stage set for Vera Drake, a film set in London in 1950. Two drab and gloomy converted bedrooms put together. I asked what fish they had and the waitress replied salmon. I started with Ukrainian borsht. Instead of a deep beetroot colour, this came up the colour of blood orange with bits of egg floating on top and cheese. In the 1990s at the erstwhile Cafe Eilat in Warsaw I had fantastic borsht. This one was just horrible, tasting vaguely of beetroot and cheese. I left it.
Then the fried salmon with rice was served, the third helping of salmon and rice in as many days. I paid the bill and ran.
Early next morning I went to Borispol airport to fly back to civilisation. This place looks like an airport in 1959. Before going through passport control I was stopped by a Ukrainian woman in a uniform resembling Rosa Kleb in From Russia with Love. ' Ukrainian Customs. How much money you have ? ' I had not been asked that question for about 30 years. Haven't these people heard of credit cards, cash cards or debit cards ? Don't they know that not many people walk around with wads of the wonder wallet-filler on them anymore ? Haven't they heard of free global capital flows ?
What a pleasure it was therefore upon returning to Belgium yesterday to have a simple dinner in the conservatory at the Oratienhof in Leuven, just the other side of Brussels airport. An Italian trattoria, with their own home-made pasta. I had tagliatelle napoletana, a rich tomato sauce , with two glasses of Dolcetto. No salmon. The Oratienhof has other simple pasta dishes plus pizzas. Good stuff. The trattoria is at 111 Mechelsestraat, Leuven. "