Apparently taking photos of the KGB is not allowed...

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Europe » Belarus
May 20th 2010
Published: May 19th 2010
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Diana just about to get into trouble. A joke the locals have is that, people who are taken into that door never come out.... A funny thing is that most people will be able to tell a story of someone who has gone missing in this place..
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 with the KGP (see photo). We did not realize that photos are not allowed of this building but anyway Diana was sitting up on the steps and I about to take a photo and noticed the door open up behind her. Trying to tell her to turn around it was too late so took a picture anyway. It is a joke in Minsk that people that enter that door and never seen to leave haha funny story the people we showed were terrified.
So about Minsk, not much to see at all really. Nothing for the tourist but seeing how it was or is during the Soviet Union period. Since around 80% was destroyed during the Second World War it is completely rebuilt and we could not believe the size of the new streets. The main street is four lanes going right through the middle of the city for about 10k or longer.

About the people… Quite possibly the nicest we have meet anywhere in the world. Everyone was trying to help us even if not a word of English was spoken. One guy that stands out was an army lad who took us all the way from where we were staying to the place we were going to meet our friends. He went completely out of his way, buying tickets and everything just to help us out, and top lad! But it is all over the city people like that. Even our hosts mother, who could not speak English also was cooking us massive meals, taking us to the busses and waving us goodbye. We had a great time with her, she was teaching us how to eat proper Belarusian food and showing medallions of her father for the war. He turned out to be one of the few people he made it all the way to Berlin and it is a big thing.

Diana also got invited to do go to a Swedish class to teach a little also whilst we were in Minsk. I was supposed to tag along and do nothing pretty much but by the end of the class we were discussing travels. People in Belarus have it very difficult to go and to some travelling. Just to leave the country into Europe that need to organize a visa which can be difficult. Te government does not want them to be influenced by the westerners and that it what they are saying. We got invited to come back the next day also for another class and we stayed for such a long time talking as the students and teachers were so interested in travelling but don’t seem to have the chance. It was great to be able to see how they all felt about everything.

We were quite surprised how cheap the food is also. Comparing to Lithuania here it is even cheaper to get out for a meal but alcohol we found is a little more expensive than here. I had better mention the money they use. This is just a quick example, not exact figures but close. One Aus dollar come to 2000 of there money. You can imagine how hard it is to start with trying to work that out! The notes go all the way from 100,000 down to 10 with 9 other notes in between. We got a few pictures of Lennon, the victory tower and tanks that are around the city before heading to Ilonas place.
We were greeted with meat and I think, in the end six different types of alcohol. Also according to them it was not enough! When friends visit it is tradition to have more sorts.

With a little headache the next morning we headed to several places. First was the school where Illona went to school and where her father teaches. We were going through the country side for most of the day and got to see how things are. Horse and cart still getting around, doing the paddocks by hand and a very interesting way of life. That day was a very big day in Belarus and also Russia since it is the 65 anniversary of the Second World War and they do celebrate in style. Each city has a parade but the one in Minsk is massive! The main street in needed complete repairing since the tanks make a big mess of things going up and down. They take all that sort of stuff really serious there and with the government spending 30% of the budget on the army and also 3 million people in the army out of 10 million it can be seen why.

Anyway Gronda was the city we were heading to and is a stone’s throw away from Poland. A very interesting city and we got to have a guided tour by Illona’s Mum who went to uni there. Heading back home was lunch and some vodka to keep us going 😊 They are a great family to be touring with! Finally we got back home after a very long day on the road but not going to bed before a lot more food a more drinks.

Our last day in Belarus we walked around Illona’s home town of.. When we were there the government was doing complete renovations of the city. Every building it seems had something going on with it, older homes and building and new ones built in place. Each year a new city is chosen and it is completely overhauled and looks new once finished. Another thing we noticed that the cities are spotless, no rubbish at all on the streets and maybe that is to come back to the strict rules in Belarus.

So much more we could mention about this very large little travelled country but done enough for now. Overall we had a fantastic time and made some wonderful friends who we are going to be seeing again this weekend 😊

And one more thing, travelers who are heading to Belarus. Make sure you go to the check place if staying for more than 5 days (I think 5 or +- 1) We did not and got a nice little warning at the border when heading out, we had two public holidays when we visited so those days do not count.

Additional photos below
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20th May 2010

What is this photo about. I'm guessing its not good.
21st May 2010

If heading to the WW2 museum in Minsk it is all photos of this sort of thing.. Can not get away from these pictures at all, they want to show how exactly it was during that time. This lady had three more picutres.. pretty much the whole procedings of how she died. Very passionate they are in Minsk about the WW2.
24th July 2010

nothing like a run in with the KGB to get the heart pumping :) What a beautifully morbid place! I love it. As usual I am always on the end of my seat reading your blogs - if you don't end up publishing all these then I will for you :) You have a true gift with words and a magic eye with photos. You keep me entertained for hours, it is like being there with you guys hehe. I am so glad Diana is there withyou to keep you out of trouble hehe. Keep having a tonne of fun and I look forward to hearing about your next mischievous escapades! Love you to bits, Court ox
4th January 2011

Great post. I loved Minsk... in the weird way that anyone could love a place that still has KGB in it...

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