Blogs from Belarus, Europe - page 4

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Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk April 26th 2011

As Hannah and I boarded the train to Minsk, Belarus, it should have been a sign of things to come as our ‘seats’ were actually beds above the seats as we were on a sleeper train that had started much further west in Europe and wasn’t finishing until Moscow. So we sat as best we could as I read and Hannah wrote her journal. We would have talked with the others in our section but we were the only English speakers around. This was especially helpful when we came to border and despite having the correct visas, they wanted to see our medical insurance. I pulled out our travel insurance which covers us for the world but apparently this wasn’t acceptable, and after the pulling out his phone, the border guard called someone who spoke English ... read more
What?
Communist art
Main Square

Europe » Belarus January 1st 2011

I spent my birthday building a fence around some compost in Belarus, which, as strange as it sounds, is stranger still as the compost heap didn't look like it was about to escape. We were in the middle of a visit to the capital city, Minsk, when it was decided that a sojourn out of the big smoke and into the countryside was in order. Karina's Grandmother had a cottage out there somewhere and the prospect of digging up vegetables and eating them too was delightfully foreign and appealing to me. (Back home, I rely on an excellent fruit and veg supermarket just down the road...) What's more, the house had no heating, no running water, no phone, and no internet. I've experienced this once before after not paying the bills in a London share house, ... read more
Oosh snake
Well well well
Compost Fence

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk September 7th 2010

In the last post about Minsk, I talked a lot about Sovietisms, and ended with a frankly pathetic "life goes on". It's hard for me to know how to feel about Minsk. Even in the USA's darkest days under George W. Bush, and in spite of some liberals' worst fears, W never did some of the creepy things Lukashenko has done in Belarus - like a rigged referendum to abolish term limits which, since the presidential elections are rigged as well, allows him to serve as president for life if he wishes. (Even Putin didn't do it quite that way.) What does that mean for Belarusians? I have no idea. It depends what the president does with his power, right? Lukashenko is criticized in the west for being cozy with Russia; I don't know what that ... read more
Tea and biscuits (cookies)
Мне шкада дурня!
Metro station

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk September 6th 2010

"You know, some tourists come to Minsk because it's supposed to be the most 'Soviet' city. Can you believe that?" - Natalia, a Belarusian "(mumble)" - me So, this place is supposed to be "Soviet"? Let's see.... Hammers and sickles, stars, and other Soviet emblems still prominently and non-ironically displayed? Check. Minsk's relationship with Lenin is complicated. Плошча Леніна/Площадь Ленина (Lenin Square) was renamed Плошча Незалежнасці/Площадь Независимости (Independence Square), and for a while its associated subway station was also ostensibly renamed to Independence Square, except no one ever changed the signage on the subway. Residents of Minsk protested the confusion and demanded that the signage be updated. Instead, it was decided to rename the subway station back to Lenin Square,... read more
Smiling Belarusian
KGB Building
Felix

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Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk September 4th 2010

Oh, Belarus. Are you as difficult and strange as you seem, or am I sabotaging myself with my own paranoia? The first noteworthy thing I learn about Belarus is that more people speak English here than in Kaliningrad. As in, I met two. The uniformed дзяўчына (girl; she was quite young) at passport control cheerfully helps me fill out my migration card, and I'm admitted into Belarus with pretty much no fuss at all. Nice. I had arranged to stay with a private apartment-rental service in the city, rather than a hotel, and they'd efficiently processed my visa invitation as well. So far so good. Until... a few days ago I got an email that the current occupant of the "luxury" apartment I'd reserved back in May wanted to stay an extra night, so they were ... read more
Apartment #1
How do you say "nemesis" in Polish?
Use the extender

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk July 8th 2010

The land that perestroika forgot. While some of its neighbours are now fully fledged EU members Belarus (classified by the US as an outpost of Tyranny) is firmly clinging to its past. The last remaining European communist dictatorship, current president Lukashenko has been in power since 1994. The economy is one of the most restricted in the world with controls on prices and wages. To top things off the state security committee has kept the Russian name KGB. Throw in the hurdles to get a visa why on Earth would you not want to visit?... I had planned to get a transit visa before I left Ireland which would have given me 2 days in the country. It’s pretty expensive and there’s not a huge amount to see so I figured it’d be enough. Unfortunately I ... read more
University Building
Maccers!
Metro mural

Europe » Belarus May 20th 2010

After a difficult time getting visas organized we headed into Belarus for five nights. Diana has a good friend living their also so we planned three nights in Minsk before going to visit Ilona and her family in the country side. First, border security takes around two hours to pass by the time they check everything and it is a good sign of the things to come. You will see military presence all over the city in Minsk and can be said that the people are afraid to do anything wrong since ‘they are been watch’ all the time. This can be noticed with the large antenna looking thing above a building that was a gift from Russia that is able to listen into phone calls. Whilst on the government, Diana had a nice little incident ... read more
P1060061
P1050486
P1050672

Europe » Belarus August 16th 2009

Day 1 Arrive Kaunas, Lithuania, night time. Ask young man in airport shop where to get bus to town centre. He smiles and replies in English. Very un-Soviet - in Russia would have had head bitten off for daring to ask such a question. Ask minivan driver in car park which stop to wait at. Jumps out of van and walks me over to right one. Town centre cleaner and roads better quality than most places in Russia. Meet host from couchsurfing near central train station. Completely devoid of usual filth, wasted people and dog / cat shawarma stands found in this sort of area in Russian towns. Why am I comparing everything to Russia? Guess was expecting high degree of Sovietisation based on impressions of Latvia and Estonia but couldn't have been further from truth. ... read more
Coming into Vitebsk region
Polotsk
Didn't expect so see any of these in Belarus!

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk June 25th 2009

Now I have the time to write a little about Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Several months ago I started learning the Byelorussian language, and now stopped for a while. I have been to Minsk twice, first in June 2009, and then in November 2009. I like this city very much and it is perhaps in my top five of the cities I have seen. My general impression from staying there is a feeling of complete comfort, and it is difficult to explain this. It is not too huge, and it has many wide streets and green areas which make the city look spacious. Its centre is very harmonic, to my mind. I have in mind to go to Belarus for several weeks sooner or later and visit its major attractions, because the country is perhaps ... read more
Privokzalnaya Square
Saint Peter and Paul Church
Shopping Mall Nemiga




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