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Published: October 11th 2019
After a bad night’s sleep (a combination of the potato pancakes and sleeping next to the main railway line from Moscow to Europe, with freight trains thundering by every few minutes) we get up and go for breakfast. Surprise, surprise it’s pancakes. Add some jam – call it breakfast. I google potato consumption and am not surprised to see that Belarus has the highest per capita consumption in the world.
After breakfast we set off for Belazkaya Plushcha National Park. It’s only 80 miles, but Google Maps takes us on an interesting cross country route which involves less tarmac than is ideal, but enables us to see plenty of rural Belarus.
We reach the park around midday. Outside of Minsk, very few people speak English but I get by with my few words of Russian combined with plenty of mime. The old man gets very embarrassed when I go into mime mode.
Cars aren’t allowed into the National Park so we walk to the hotel, check into our room and hire some bikes. Security, reception and bike hire - that’s 3 mime conversations successfully concluded.
I have been on a bike twice in the past 30 years,
so today is a bit daunting. Especially when I realise the hire bikes are very basic and don’t actually have any brakes. The bike hire lady sees my fear, disappears inside and returns with two very nice mountain bikes.
We start our tour at the animal cages. The park is the only place in Europe when bison roam free. We don’t fancy our chances of spotting them naturally. At least in the cages we get to see some.
Then we cycle in a 11 mile loop through the forest. We have to stop short of Santa’s grotto (yes, the real Santa lives in the forest in Belarus) because the old man’s blood sugars have dropped. So we return to the restaurant to refuel with potato pancakes.
In the afternoon we go for a walk in the forest. The amount of wildlife we’ve seen on our visit is zero, but the trees are very pretty in their autumnal colours and we do find a tree trunk with a knot which resembles a bison.
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