Standing proudly on the beautiful shoreline of a vast lake, Cafe Pripyat, or “the Dish” as it was affectionately known by locals, was naturally a popular destination. A place where young city dwellers (the average age in Pripyat was 26) would gather to chat and drink on the round sun-drenched terrace that overlooked the water. From the stone clad terrace a wide stairway leads down to the boat dock and on to the water’s edge.
Sailboats would use the lake during the summer months and BBQs would be a common sight along the tree-lined shore. In winter when the lake froze children and families would ice skate and men would cut holes to fish.
Those wanting a 360-degree view could climb up to an observation platform located on the roof of the cafe. With the view now obscured mostly by trees, it was only when I returned home and read of its existence that I realised the intended function of what I had stood in.
At ground level, the striking stained glass of the windows remains largely intact and with the low afternoon sun breaking through the trees it was an impressive sight. The figures formed from slithers of coloured glass stacked side by side. Outside solid V-shaped columns follow the route of the covered walkway.
Compared to the uniform blocks that form the basis of much of the city the architecture of the cafe, a building designed purely for pleasure, is a radical joy and provides an insight into the forward-thinking attitude and optimism of the city at the time.
26 years on from the disaster the cafe sits just outside what’s left of the barbed wire fence that now encircles Pripyat and while the city now crumbles the view across the lake retains its beauty.
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