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Published: April 14th 2019
Sunday April 14 – My alarm went off at 5:30 today and I woke up with a headache. Never good. I ate a few peanuts and took some advil, then started to get everything packed up. I’m not bringing that much, so it all fits in my daypack, but with the water and laptop it’s a little heavy and inconvenient. I checked email and facebook, which was a waste, since the “most recent” feed is coming up random, so I’m not seeing most of what anyone posts now. I don’t even have a reason to use it now if nothing is there.
I left at 6:20 and walked to the train station. It took just over 10 minutes and there was hardly anyone on the large, open streets. The city doesn’t have a lot of feeling, which is a shame. They had to rebuild everything after WWII, and they choose sterile and cold. The train had just arrived when I got there, and from the board in Russian, I wasn’t sure which was the platform number. I thought it was 3, but it turned out to be 5. I found my wagon easily enough, and then realized that my “seat”
was a sleeper bed. A former colleague was just in Belarus last week and bought my train tickets for me. So convenient, and it was a fun surprise to find out I could lie down, as I was still tired. And the tickets were so cheap. I paid $12 for a roundtrip of 3.5 hours each direction. I arranged everything and laid down for a couple of hours. It was really hot on the train – or at least, moreso than expected. I didn’t need any covers for a while before I felt a little cooler. I read and rested, though I don’t think I slept. There was a couple next to me, as it was 4 bunks, 2 up and 2 down. He was in the bunk above and she below. They got up to eat as I laid down, but then they laid down again. Eventually by 9:30 or so we were all up. I ate my sandwich from the plane and my little chocolate snack and read while they were chatting. As we got closer to Brest, I folded up my bedding.
When we got into Brest, I walked out of the train station with the
map I printed of my 4 minute walk to the hotel in hand, thinking “I got this.” What I got was lost. More than once. At some point I almost asked for help, but speaking a really different language is not easy. But my Cyrillic letter study paid off. Eventually I passed a hotel I almost booked and recognized the name, and I had that one on my map, since it was close. From there I was able to get to my hotel. I’m still not sure how to get to the train station from it, though, as there is some construction around it. Check-in wasn’t until 2pm, and it was only just after 11am, but I went in to see if I can check-in early, or at least get a map, and she had no map, but she did let me check into my room. Such a nice surprise. She also registered me for Belarus (necessary if you stay more than 5 days, I think) and helped me with the wifi. It required a cell phone to get a code, so she used hers. I still like not having a phone, but the world is making it harder. She
also showed me the map on her computer and showed me an easy way to walk to the Brest Fortress Monument, where I was heading. It takes about 45 minutes to walk there, but I could do it on two streets, so that was great. In my room I traced a quick map of the route on some paper, labeled what I needed, and headed out.
Brest is right next to Poland, and used to be Poland, and it looks for European than Minsk, which looks much more Soviet. It’s an interesting dichotomy. Quite quickly I spied a church I had to see, so I walked over one street to see it. Another orthodox church and beautiful. They were having a service, and no pictures were allowed, so I just looked around a bit. The church was located on the corner of a pedestrian street that is popular, so I walked that until I had to turn onto the street that would take me to the fortress. The day was cool but sunny, and I had to alternate between wearing my fleece with my jacket and without, depending on the wind. The walk was very straightforward until I got
near the end. The road kind of tapered off into a more nature trail, and it looked like my map so I followed it. At one point it was unclear if I should turn or continue, but then there was a car and I asked the driver and he said yes, I needed to turn there. And it was right there. I’m not sure how I missed it. The site is really large and impressive. There is a large tunnel you walk through with some dramatic talking and music, and it leads out to the rest of the site. It is very open and spacious with several monuments, a church, some museums, etc. There is also a nice walk around the outside of the old fortress that follows the river. I walked a bit there and then by the river to eat an apple and some peanuts I had brought from home. It was a nice place to sit.
Afterwards I headed into another Orthodox church. There was beautiful light coming through and it made it even prettier, though it was far less flamboyant inside than the other had been. All the women cover their hair in babushkas and
everyone crosses themselves continuously. And the crossing is different – up, down, right then left. I decided to go to next to one of the museums, specifically the one about the Fortress itself. It was mostly in Russian, but there were panels in each room that gave a description in English, which was a nice surprise.
Eventually I’d had enough and set about walking home. I came out a slightly different way than I’d gone in, and passed a toilet on the way. Score. The walk back felt quicker, and I came in to scout out possible restaurants. The one I’d heard about was closed, according to their website, so I wrote a couple others on the map and headed out. I stopped back at the pretty church, but no way to take a photo. Then I headed to the Café Buffet, to see what they had on offer. The prices looked good, but I couldn’t read the menu, so the woman at the front spent about 5 minutes getting her phone to translate it into English. She only did one page, but it worked out as I decided to get potato pancakes with chicken and onions in cream
sauce. It was very nice. The waitress spoke some English so I also got water. From there I decided to walk down the pedestrian street some more, and followed it until the end. There were a lot of families out with their kids. On the way back I stopped at the supermarket to pick up a couple of snacks for tomorrow. I’ll be heading to a national park before taking the train back to Minsk.
Overall, another good day.
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