Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Minsk - Day Three
First place we visited was a Russian market there was a lot of artwork icons and dolls. Next stop was the musium of the great patriotic war (WWW II to you and me). The musium like a lot of places in Belarus there is a different price for residents than for tourists.
The first thing to notice is that the Russians date the war from 41-45 not 39-45 as we westerners do because Hitler and Stalin signed a non agression pact which Hitler promptly broke in 1941.
Belarus had it pretty hard the Nazis did not like Communists and totally flattered Minsk and attempted to exterminate as many of its people as possible (probably about 1million people). Their hatred was directed mainly at the non airian population they wanted to save the nordic looking to help futher the master race. All in all it walking about I saw the Russians have a very different war then the one fought in the west.
After the musium went for a bite to eat then off for a look round the Botanical gardens, I was a bit heistant but actully enjoyed strolling around with Maia. We sat for a long time next to the lake there watching the Swans and chatting about things.
On the way out we went the wrong way and found ourselves in the amusement park next door. I found out that Pancakes with filings are a common (and tasty) Belarusian meal. Maia insited on feeding me more medication including rather disgusting cough syrup. Watching the Russian school children file through the park I could have been anywhere in the wetern world on the terrible russian techno pumping from one of the cafes reminded me I was in Belarus.
We made a quiet trip to the bus station to buy the tickets for the Dacha trip and I got a chance to see the Belarus staggering national library. Its simply increadible, ugly and imposing over the ladnscape it boggles the mind as to why! Dispite being a university professor and having had to make a donation towards it Maia had never been inside. Seems like a giant waste of money to me.
Thanks to the fact I was still feeling ill and wanted to get well in time for the weekend trip to Maia Dacha after grabbing a coffee I headed back to the hotel for an early night.
Minsk - Day Two
I woke up feeling terrible, not just from the drinking last night that was just the tip of the iceberg. The cold and sore throat I had felt on yesterday was now much worse, I was running a temperature my throat felt sore. I was generally feeling sorry for myself. Maia was working in the moring and though I had intended to sleep in I couldn't stay in my room. I needed to get out and see something so I walked round the old town and the river to kill time whilst Maia was lecturing; She is a lecturer of Italian at the univeristy.
Fortunatly when she arrived Maia came to my resque again she pumped me full of Russian medication (available over the counter nothing dodgy!). We spent the afternoon mooching about Minsk various parks and looking at some of the buildings there. It was really a day of exploration Minsk is phonominally different to any city I have been to before. Totally demolished after WWII the Soviets rebuilt it making the roads three times as wide, huge pavements and massive parks so big that whilst in the city allow you to feel like your in the country, yet are still stood right in the centre. I forget the names but we saw quiet a few.
One of the parks was a park dedicated to Kids in which Maia couldn't smoke but one great thing we could do was go on some rides. Now I felt pretty ill and these were Belarussian rides they didnt look particuarly well maintained but what the hell nothing ventured so we went on a couple. Maia screemed on the teacups, but that was nothing compared to one Belarussian girl who was so afraid she clung to a nearby tree rather than get on a spinning ride! Her friend and the attendant laughed loudly at her but she didnt budge until the ride was over.
After an afternoon of wondering we went to the Circus which was really good fun. I have never been to a circus before this one wasnt the standard Minsk one but a travelling Russian show from Moscow. They had clowns, dancers, trapez artists bears, and even trained dogs. It was really good fun I am glad Maia took me, I even managed to get a photo of myself with a bear. Ill scan it in when it arrives Maia txted me this morning to say she had recieved and forwarded it on. To be honest the treatment of the bears was not very good certainly the dogs got treated a lot better I felt very sorry for them though I enjoyed seeing them.
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Minsk - Day one
Waking up has never come easy for me, so having to wake up at 4am to catch a 6am flight was hard, very hard.
To be honest I was totally afraid. I wasn't sure what to expect, I guy from the travel company was ment to meet me at Minsk 2 airport other than that I was on my own. The journey to Warsaw passed in a sleepy trance and after an hours wait I was on my way to Belarus. It was only a hours flight which passed pretty quick though I did get a little worried that the pilot annonced we were about to land and all I could see were trees no airport or civilisaion at all. Minsk 2 aiport was the pits, it was really hard to understand where to go as there were no signs and you arrive into the departure lounge and have to march down a different set of stairs, if you got the wrong way scary looking Russian people shout at you. I know becoause I was one of the first (there were not many of us) off the plain and not knowing where to go went wrong.
Passport control was harsh it seemed to take forever I dont know what the women was doing but it seemed important she took many long hard looks at me asked somenthing in Russian seemed very upset I didn't understand and answered in English. After about 10 minutes I was let thought only to have to go through a security point to leave the airport! Then one of the best moments of the trip after all the worry over whether she would turn up my friend Maia was waiting for me in the arrivals lounge. along with Alex from the travel company.
Alex drove the 40km to Minsk dropped us off at the hotel. Maia and I then went walking about the city. She showed me the old town and Afgahanistan memorial. Its a memorial to the mothers of soldiers lost in the Afgahnistan war, its a favorite stop for newly weds to put down some flowers and to touch one of the statues, we even saw one newly married couple heading there. I was like a kid wowed by all the different sights around me. Riding along an almost empty motorway passing forest and villages totally unlike anything I have seen before.
In the evening we went out to a bar I got rather drunk on Russian beer and listened to a rather strnage cover band, there were good musicians but had a tendancy to play a really uptempo song followed by a real downer! Strange Strange Strange!