Braslaw & Minsk

Well here I am in Minsk after a wonderful relaxing 2 days in Braslaw. The lakeside town was all the more enjoyable, as I had to investigate all the sites myself having no information at all. Another bout of gratuitous hospitality was provided by Olga her boyfriend and all their friends after I sent the last email. I went next door to the restaurant and got chatting to them just as I was leaving. Olga is an English student at Minsk University (she was on holiday back to her home town for a few days) and is studying English literature and social studies so we spent most of the evening chatting about travel, Belarus and England, the differences and similarities. All her friends and I ended the night in a small bar somewhere having a toast or two with Balsam (the local spirit). I had far too many of these and spent the whole of yesterday recovering. I was on autopilot a lot of the time but still managed to pack in a few bus journeys, see a few sites, hitch a lift and sit by the lake and chill out/sober up. Then get the bus to Minsk on the minibus (4 hours).

When I arrived in Minsk, I navigated my way via the excellent; Moscow inspired metro system and managed to get a room in the cheapest place in town. This is next to the central train station. Cold and cold running water and the whole room vibrates when a train moves off… and I’m on the 7th floor, marvelous.

Today has been superb. Minsk has been a revelation. A true tribute to Soviet urban planning and that is not made in jest. Wide open streets, lots and lots of leafy parks, the river through the center and superb buildings which when you consider Minsk was no more than rubble after WWII it is some testament. Minsk is also very very clean, clinical to a little degree, but it gives the city a certain bit of class and style that not many people realize. It has been sunny and very hot here all day. Everybody has been out in the summer Sunday best walking and sitting in the parks. The people too have that certain style and chic judging by the attire that people were wearing, or not wearing. Fashionable it most certainly is.

As usual I have managed to pack in a great deal between the coffee, food snack, beer, cigar and rest brakes in the many tranquil parks. The WWII museum was excellent even though all the exhibits were in Cyrillic. The pictures and small artifacts give an indication of how proud they are as a nation to have battled, struggled and survived (Minsk has been sacked numerous times during history). The Belarus resistance movement certainly tried its best to keep the nation alive, despite Minsk losing 50% of its population and Belarus losing 25% as a whole. That is why they look after their city and are proud of it and their country.

The Belarus art exhibition was also very good. Not too big to be overpowering with some excellent paintings by three artists that I really enjoy, Repin, Shishkin and Makovsky.

As for tomorrow, I will try to get to one of the old towns outside of Minsk to get a glimpse of older traditions and lifestyles. I must get back to Minsk for the evening though, such a fantastic place to sit and relax.

Whilst chatting to Olga in Braslav she did say that Belarus is looking both east and west and is struggling to find direction as it still retains its hard won independence… sound familiar?

Anyway until the next time.