No Reservations: Anthony Bourdain's Radioactive Trip to Ukraine

bourdain wonderwheel.jpg
Travel Channel
Anthony Bourdain and friends at the radioactive wonder wheel.
In last night's episode of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain once again goes to places people only dream of going (if you happen to dream about nuclear holocaust).

Our intrepid traveler, always in search of a good meal and lots of booze, meets his old travel buddy, Zamir Gotta, for a tour of Ukraine. If you seriously think that this episode is going to be all about pounding vodka and eating borscht... you're pretty much on the mark, actually. Throw in a parade and a Geiger counter and you know exactly what's coming. So here goes:

Over a leisurely dinner consisting of some local fare and five decanters of vodka, Tony confesses to many things, including the fact that "I want to commit many felonies before I die" and that "Bruce Willis sucks" before proclaiming that "I look forward to projectile vomiting in my hotel toilet later." 

Tony also gets the brilliant idea to visit Chernobyl, site of the 1986 nuclear accident that threatened the Soviet Union and most of Europe with, as Tony puts it, "200 tons of untreatable, unobtainable still-cooking nuclear material." Sounds like a day trip!


bourdain reactor.jpg
Travel Channel
Here's a family vacation photo we bet you don't have. Tony and friends with Chernobyl in the background.
Eighty miles from Kiev lies the gated entrance to the 30-mile security zone leading to Chernobyl. Permits are required for entry (but we learn that there are frequent tours of this radioactive ghost town). Instructions are given. Do not leave the road. Do not pick up leaves or dirt. Do not walk on grass or moss. In short -- don't touch anything.

Tony and Zamir visit Prypriat. Once a small city that housed mostly plant workers, it's a wasteland. They're given the "OK" to take a quick walk around, as long as you don't touch or walk on any dirt or mold. They pass what was once an amusement park, marveling at the bumper cars and wonder wheel. A quick check of the Soviet-issued Geiger counter shows radiation readings off the charts. Tony suggests they high-tail it, lest he "grow a big pair of radioactive man boobs."

Back in Kiev, it's Victory Day. Parades in the streets celebrate the Soviets' victory over the Nazis. Though Ukraine citizens have no love for the former Soviet regime, one thing everyone can agree on is a common hatred of the Nazis.

So now that we got vodka, nuclear devastation, and parades out of the way -- it's time for borscht! Tony wants to try green borscht. He decides to have beer to give his brain cells a rest from vodka and is firmly scolded by his buddy Zamir. So vodka it is, but only one decanter this time. After the borscht, which is filled with hunks of meat and dill, chicken Kiev is served. When Tony cuts into the football-shaped object, melted butter leaks out "like a busted condom."  As the vodka flows, Zamir tries to interest Tony in investing in his latest get-rich-quick scheme -- vodka made from chicken shit. Tony's not that drunk...

The next morning sees the duo at the local farmers' market, which is clean and stocked with good food. Tony is looking for a nice light breakfast of caviar, but alas, buying the good stuff is illegal in Ukraine. As Zamir buys some soupy fish eggs and muck, Tony scores some contraband caviar, the kind that sells in New York for about two grand a tin. They enjoy their simple fare of caviar, bread, and pepper vodka (vodka is always involved) on a "pigeon-crap-encrusted" park bench.

Time for lunch! Tony wants to try some local street food. What's the version of a Ukraine food truck? A stand that sells hot dogs dipped in batter and deep fried -- sort of a hot dog doughnut. In a flash of brilliance, Tony notes that "two of these would kill Paula Deen. Maybe not... Two of these would interest her greatly."

It's almost time to leave Ukraine but not without a stop at their version of a fast-food empire -- McFoxy's, which is pretty much a blatant copycat of McDonald's. We're talking a lesson in pure corporate trademark theft. What's even better is that McFoxy's is doing business next door to the Ukraine McDonald's. Tony notes that "Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar are next door trying not to notice that McFoxy's next door is f**king their Yorkie."

As Tony dines on Foxy Burgers and Foxy Balls, he gives McFoxy's an "oooh la la" for giving the evil corporate empire a stiff middle finger.



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