Blogs from Belarus, Europe

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Europe » Belarus » Brest Voblast October 13th 2019

Our time in Belarus is almost over. It’s time to head towards the airport. We check out of our Soviet era hotel with one last journey in the terrifyingly jolty lift. The drive to Minsk is basically 240 miles along one long, straight, flat road through mile after mile of flat fields with occasional flat woodlands. It’s so dull I find myself longing for hills – a rare occurrence in my world. After 3 hours, we break the journey at Nesvizh Castle, a picturesque 16th Century castle surrounded by a moat. Inside is a museum charting the castle’s history. The floors are a mixture of polished wood, marble, tiles and silk rugs which all need to be negotiated whilst wearing plastic bags on your feet. Health & safety isn’t a thing in Belarus. Afterwards, we continue ... read more
Nasvizh Castle
Nasvizh Castle
Nasvizh  Castle

Europe » Belarus » Brest Voblast 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 ... read more
Driving through Belarus
Belovskaya Pushcha National Park
Hotel complex

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 April 15th 2019

Monday April 15 – The day started with a bit of a lie-in, which was quite nice. I slept from about 11-7:30, so I’m starting to catch up on my sleep. I repacked, used a little internet, and had breakfast in the hotel. It was funny, because I picked the more traditional local breakfast of potato pancakes with bacon, toast, cheese and tea, and was told it would take 20 minutes. I said ok, and then ran upstairs to get my computer, thinking I could be productive while I waited. But when I got back, maybe 5 minutes later, my breakfast was ready. Not sure what that was about, but it tasted good. Back in the room I got everything together and headed down at 9:25 to meet my driver for the day. A friend in ... read more
First view into park
And we're off
Me and my ride

Europe » Belarus » Brest Voblast » Brest 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, ... read more
My fave church
My fave church
Pedestrian street




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