Published: July 19th 2012July 18th 2012
Minsk was something like a bonus destination on our trip, since we didn't originally plan to go there, but it is on our route home, and makes a good one day stopover on our way from Kiev to Vilnius. 12th city of the trip in total.
We arrived by night train at 8.30, again tired and feeling worn after the night on the train. We can sleep ok on trains, but whenever the train journey includes a border crossing we are woken up in the middle of the night by several people checking our passports, asking about our luggage etc. This takes time, so we end up being awake something like an hour in the middle of the night. Also the fact that there are no shower possibilities etc..well, let's just say a night on the train doesn't give the optimal sighseeing mood in the morning.
First thing at the station we had to get cash and get rid of our luggages. The latter involved first queuing to pay and then queuing to give away our bags. Of course there was also a problem with change since we only had a bill of 100.000 roubles to give and the
cashier first said she didn't have change, but eventually luckily found it. I couldn't help thinking how efficient many things are in Finland, you rarely have to queue anywhere and most things are self service.
It was cold and rainy, but skies had cleared somewhat after we had our breakfast. So we started by strolling around the main street. It was a huge street, big buildings, communist style. The buildings then again were not grey soviet blocks like I (for some reason) imagined, but rather nice looking. Again somewhat similar style to St Petersburg. Walking around a bit more we found also a small old town with small old houses similar to those in Tallinn. That area was small and there wasn't much to see, mostly dead ends and mostly it looked like private property. Basically the city center looked quite nice, well kept buildings, parks and extremely clean everywhere. But still, we didn't feel like it was at all cozy. It was too clean and lifeless. If sometimes Helsinki seems like a deserted city, Minsk was 10 times more deserted. There just didn't seem to be much street life at all. People walking around here and there but
For lunch we spotted one Lebanese restaurant and I was dreaming to have some nice couscous meal there. They didn't have couscous and nothing that interesting but since we are quite sick by now of pelmenis, borsch and other Eastern European food, we wanted to try it for a change anyway. We had meat and fries which were mediocre. After lunch we walked to Victory Square where one street was being closed from all traffic including pedestrians. We thought we would see Lukashenko driving by in his car, but the car had Russian flag, so maybe it was Putin instead. Or maybe not.
Then we took a subway to the national library which is a famous building in the city. It looks like a huge glassy diamond. There is a viewing platform and a café with views over the city. We sat at the café for a while looking at the city. We saw parks with looked perfectly kept but had to look for a good while before we could spot any life there. Eventually we saw some people jogging or walking but all in all things seemed a bit too quiet.
Our train to
Vilnius was leaving at 18.50, so pretty soon we had to start heading to the railway station. Now there was a bit more life on the main street, maybe because the sun had come out, or maybe because it was after office hours. But still it wasn't too lively. We still stopped for more coffee at Golden Coffee Club café which seemed quite fancy, and sure enough, we found the first working wifi in town (after two which didn't work). Working and working, it took the whole time just to get one blog entry published, but at least some improvement!
At the railway station we had to spend the rest of our roubles. We had 30.000 and got water and chips. This still left us with a thick pile of cash worth about 15 cents. Currently we are sitting on the train to Vilnius where we arrive quite late in the evening. General feeling about Minsk is that it was "ok", more pretty than we thought, more clean, more well kept, but we are glad we don't live there, because things seemed a bit boring all in all.
We arrived in Vilnius at about 10pm. It was cold, dark and seemed as if it had been raining. Our hostel was right next to the old town gate, so we still went to take an evening walk there. I actually had to dig out the coat I bought in Kiev to keep warm enough and gloves would not have been exaggerating at all..hrrrr...Vilnius felt so cozy and nice compared to Minsk. It was Leo's first time in Vilnius and he stated that it felt like it would be nice to come back sometime to see more of this city, but perhaps no need to go back to Minsk. I agree.