I know it’s a little late to be posting my Belarusian adventure, but to be honest I am not use to writing things for anyone other than my lecturer! But anyone who knows me, and it doesn’t even have to be well, knows that I can blab on for hours about my travels. So here goes….
Belarus. Wow. I arrived late to a concrete block of an airport in the capital of Minsk. Everyone on the plane had painstakingly organized their visas, or was presumably Belarusian or Russian, and went through immigration with no hassle. As an Australian, with no Belarusian embassy, I was entitled to get one on arrival. I was the only person doing this and had to be escorted after everyone else was cleared to a smoky room for this to be processed. An hour after the guy whose job it is to do this was located, I was on my way. But I missed the bus into Minsk by 2 minutes. It was to be another 58 minutes for the next one to arrive, by which time I had missed the annual Victory Day parade.
It turns out that missing that bus was the best thing to happen to me, as on the next bus was a girl named Irene. Irene was the only English speaker I met during my 10 day adventure in this Russian speaking nation. Irene and I talked for hours about our everyday lives over dinners and vodkas. Irene taught me much about what it was like to be Belarusian, and yes there are differences between our nationalities, but the core of our needs and values are basically the same. How lucky I am now to have Irene as a friend.
Travelling in a Russian speaking country has its difficulties. There was absolutely no English. Not on signs, not on products, not on tickets, not on tourist information, not on maps, not on menus, not on anything. Nothing. But I managed. I even got away with things simply because people could not be bothered even trying to explain things to me. One thing I did really want though was ballet tickets. I went to this gorgeous local theatre, managed to explain to the lady that I wanted 2 tickets for Irene and I. I had written on a piece of paper the date and passed it through the sales booth. She wrote down the price and I agreed. Easy! I was stoked at my efforts and with tickets in hand met Irene the next evening. I was dressed up in an outfit I had packed for the occasion, and whilst walking along Irene wanted to double check the time and place, to which she announced “These are movie tickets to Iron Man 3”. What!? Oh the joys of travel. A night of vodka eventuated.
Whilst Belarus had its difficulties, it also was a fascinating country to visit. Remnants from the soviet era are everywhere. From Lenin statues in front of government buildings, to hammer and sickle symbols on the metro system, it has it all. I stayed in an old soviet hotel in Brest, where shared showers and toilets could be found at the end of each block of rooms. I spent one of my days visiting the massive concrete statues at the town’s fortress. For a different experience I also visited the beautiful town of Grodno. Much like it’s other Eastern European counterparts, this town was cute, by a river and dotted with onion domed church’s and local-run bakeries. Every turn was a ‘must have’ photo.
I’m so fortunate to have had this experience. Belarus is a diverse country with a fascinating history. They also have some of the best ballet in the world, or so I’ve been told.
Victory Day Monument – Minsk