Chernobyl Will Soon Be More Accessible to Tourists, Ukraine Says

kefirm/iStock via Getty Images
kefirm/iStock via Getty Images

The Chernobyl exclusion zone, once considered one of the most dangerous places to step foot in on Earth, has taken on a much different role in recent years. The site of the 1986 accident that blew open the core of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and flooded the surrounding area with radiation is a tourist attraction today. The HBO miniseries Chernobyl has made the spot more popular than ever, and rather than discourage the public's fascination with the disaster, Ukraine is deciding to embrace it.

As CNN Travel reports, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky issued a statement declaring the 1000-square-mile exclusion zone around Chernobyl to be an official tourist destination.

"We must give this territory of Ukraine a new life," Zelensky said in his decree. "Until now, Chernobyl was a negative part of Ukraine's brand. It's time to change it. Chernobyl is a unique place on the planet where nature revives after a global man-made disaster, where there is a real 'ghost town.' We have to show this place to the world: scientists, ecologists, historians, tourists."

In order to boost Chernobyl's profile as a tourist attraction, the Ukrainian government will take steps to make it more accessible to the public. These will include establishing a "green corridor" that acts as a safe entry point into the area, and building new paths and checkpoints as well as renovating old ones. Pointless restrictions—such as rules against taking photos—will also be done away with.

Tours that take visitors through Chernobyl exist today, but they're much more complicated than a walk through the Louvre. Tourists must receive special permission to visit in advance, stick to approved routes, and undergo radiation screenings at various checkpoints. Despite the precautions required, tourism has exploded in the area by 35 percent since HBO's Chernobyl miniseries premiered earlier this year.

The Chernobyl exclusion zone is still radioactive, but safe enough that even the Ukrainian government is encouraging people to take day trips there. Even if you don't plan on booking your next vacation to Chernobyl, you can check out some photos of what the area looks like today.

[h/t CNN Travel]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Meet Ian Brackenbury Channell—the Official City Wizard of Christchurch, New Zealand

In Christchurch, New Zealand, wizards ride buses, not brooms.
In Christchurch, New Zealand, wizards ride buses, not brooms.

Gandalf and Saruman aren't the only wizards New Zealand can claim. The city of Christchurch has employed its own official wizard for more than 20 years, and as CNN Travel reports, he's preparing to pass off his staff to a wizarding apprentice.

Ian Brackenbury Channell has been dressing up as a wizard for decades. Though originally from the UK, his career in academia brought him to the Universities of New South Wales and Melbourne in Australia. He assumed his magical role, simply titled "The Wizard," at both institutions. Responses to the character varied, but he finally found a permanent home for the act in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Brackenbury Channell had been living in Christchurch for 24 years when the city offered him an official wizarding contract in 1998. His new role would require him to "provide acts of wizardry and other wizard-like-services as part of promotional work for the city of Christchurch." Every year since, The Wizard has collected an annual salary of 16,000 New Zealand dollars, or $10,400 USD, from the government.

At age 87, Brackenbury Channell is spending less time in the spotlight and looking for an aspiring wizard to take over the job. Musician Ari Freeman, 39, threw his pointed hat in the ring several years ago when he introduced himself as a young wizard. He's been training as his apprentice ever since.

Freeman already sports a long beard that would make Merlin proud, but the role of official wizard goes beyond looking the part. Other duties include promoting local events, welcoming foreign dignitaries, and rambling in Cathedral Square. The Christchurch City Council for "wizardry," which manages the position, hasn't stated whether it plans to extend the contract to Freeman.

[h/t CNN Travel]