Blogs from Minsk Voblast, Belarus, Europe

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Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast October 10th 2019

Old men need a lot of sleep. You can get a lot done between normal getting up time and old man getting up time. Today I go for a run. Inside, in the gym – the weather outside is hideous. Which is a shame as we had planned to spend the day visiting castles. The gym is not well used. It takes me a while to locate the ‘on’ switch for the treadmill. I start running at a reasonable (for me) pace but the machine has other ideas. Every 2 minutes, the speed and gradient increase dramatically and I have to try to adjust the controls before I get spat off the back. It’s all very stressful. After 4 km, I admit defeat and leave. Once I have done my run and we have collected our ... read more
Mir Castle
Mir Castle
Mir Castle

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk October 9th 2019

One of the many things I love about the EU is its stance on smoking; throughout half a continent it is unacceptable to smoke in public. To remind yourself of how good this is, travel to the other half of Europe which smells like a 1980s British pub carpet. The non-smoking Hotel Minsk is one such location – there is so much smoke oozing through the ventilation system that you need breathing apparatus to go for a pee. The morning is filled with complicated simple things. First, I want to find a supermarket and buy a bottle of Diet Coke. According to Google Maps, the nearest supermarket is 43 feet away, but it refuses to give directions. At first, I think this must mean that it’s in the underground shopping centre, but a full search of ... read more
 City sculpture
Church of Saint Simon and Saint Helena
Post Office

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk October 8th 2019

I had worried that with temperatures below zero, I would get cold in Minsk, so last week I purchased the world’s thickest (well, Primark’s thickest) pyjamas. But the Hotel Minsk isn’t skimping on the heating – last night was like one long hot flush. We get up and set off for some sightseeing. One of the first things you notice about Belarus – jaywalking is not a thing. You stand and wait for the light to go green, even if this means waiting for hours when there isn’t a car in sight. Then, when the light finally does go green, still nobody moves. This is either because they’ve been there for so long they’ve forgotten where they’ve going, or because they’ve frozen to the spot and can no longer move. We start by heading to the ... read more
Communism v KFC
Holy Spirit Cathedral
Old town

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk October 7th 2019

It’s time for a little trip. We usually go away in October and in recent years have been to Mexico, Cuba, Israel, Greece and Turkey – all places which delay the inevitability of having to deal with the cold, damp British Autumn. This year, as the old man attempts to notch up 100 countries and our destinations become more obscure, we are heading for Belarus. The weather forecast is for minus 3 degrees and snow. As I return home the night before the Great South Run, I get up early and go for a run before setting off for Gatwick. We’re flying with Belavia Belarusian Airline, which isn’t bad, apart from the in flight meal – chicken sausages which taste as bad as they look. We arrive in Minsk on time, immigration and baggage reclaim is ... read more
Belavia dinner
Hotel Minsk
Hotel Minsk from Independence Square

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk April 27th 2019

April 27, 2019 – Vipassana *Spoiler alert If you’re interested in taking a course, you may not want to read about my experience, as it’s different for everyone.* The Location The course was held at Borok, a children’s summer camp about an hour outside of Minsk. It was in a nice location, with a small wooded area that we could walk in during free times. There were several residential buildings on site, but we all stayed in one, with women on the ground floor and men on the floor above. I was in hallway 7, room 3, bed 14. There were 8 beds in the room, and only 6 had numbers, so that seemed ok. The layout of the room was such that the beds were arranged so that there were 4 on each side of ... read more
My spot
Borok Camp
The residence hall

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk April 16th 2019

Tuesday April 16 – Saturday April 27 Today I’m leaving Minsk to attend a 10-day Vipassana meditation course. It is an hour or so outside of Minsk, in a rented children’s camp, and I am getting a ride there with another course participant. They had a board that allowed people to offer and request rides, so I put my name on the list as needing a ride. At first no one was offering, but then I saw someone was, so I contacted him through the Vipassana website. He emailed me his cell phone number and didn’t respond back when I emailed him to let him know I didn’t have a mobile. But my friend Kat sent him a message for me on Friday and found him on facebook, so we were able to correspond and he’s ... read more

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk April 13th 2019

Saturday April 13 – This vacation will be similar to others in some ways – new country, new adventures, no idea which shoes to pack – but it will also be something new, as I’m going to attend a 10 day silent Vipassana meditation course which begins on Tuesday evening. This will be new for me in many ways. Today, however, I did my normal thing. Went to bed last night more stressed than I wanted, got me and Jeroen up at 4am so he could take me to the airport for my 6:45am flight. We left 20 minutes later than I’d intended, but somehow we were there nearly when I’d planned, and it didn’t take all that long to get through security though I do still have a knack for picking the slowest lines, whether ... read more
KGB Building
Park
Fast food is everywhere

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk December 2nd 2018

Belarus: the final frontier. The last vestige of the former USSR, the last bastion of Soviet Communism. Located far behind the old Iron Curtain, Alexander Lukashenko has ruled here since 1994, the country known as Europe's last dictatorship. Isolated from the world, Belarus is a place most average people have never heard of and a place seldom in the news. But what kind of place would it be? Exactly the kind of place that fascinates me apparently; exactly the kind of place I had to check out. Belarus is also a final frontier for me. The first time I tried to go there, things went horribly, horribly wrong. About a year later, a second expedition had to be prematurely abandoned. It has been one of the most difficult countries I have tried to get to. Therefore ... read more
Modern Minsk Skyline
Presidential Administrative Building
Holy Spirit Cathedral

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk September 24th 2018

We are having a break this rainy Monday, which is appreciated since so many on this tour are sick. The coughing and sneezing and various aches and pains spread quickly through the bus, especially since many do not cover their coughs and sneezes, even though all of us are adults. Our immune systems are getting a strong workout anyway, going from sunshine and 80s/28 (Fahrenheit/Celsius) in Moscow (such a gift this time of year!) to chilly rain and 40s/8 (F/C) in the space of one day. Add in three new countries so far, plus sick people on our bus, and everyone's immunity is quite challenged. I've spent this down time packing, trying to catch up on insidiously, continuously accumulating emails, taking Echinacea root tincture prophylactically, and giving my raincoat and boots a chance to dry out, ... read more

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast August 21st 2018

Day 10: What on earth have I done to myself? I wake up at 9am the room still spinning in a rollercoaster of nausea. I repeat the phrase that has been my first thought every morning of this holiday. “I am never drinking again!” I don’t need to today to be honest as I stagger to the toilet I realise that I still have a skin full from last night. I return to bed and lay next to Yuliya wondering how I am going to manage for the next 24 hours before our return to the farm. Tonight we are staying at Sergey’s flat. I tell Yuliya to text Natasha and say I will not be drinking tonight. She says it is up to me when I get there. Anya knocks and barges in. I grab ... read more
Minsk independence square
Yuliya being patriotic
Holy Spirit cathedral




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