Back in the U.S.S.R.!

Old May 24th, 2018, 01:37 AM
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Back in the U.S.S.R.!

Four days in Europe’s “Last Dictatorship” and second least visited European capital (the first is Chișinău).

About a year ago Belarus introduced 5-day Visa-free travel for persons from 80 or so countries, the U.S. being one of them. Though this year I have been exceedingly fortunate to have enjoyed two adventures already: the first, 16 days in Asia, with much appreciation to DD’s successful audition for a chair in the international school annual honor orchestra giving us an excuse to tour Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo; and the second, a week on home leave enjoying the good ole U.S.of A. for DS’s graduation from University, when DH mentioned over breakfast one morning that he had a work trip to Minsk in May I set down my coffee cup, went outside, and collected all of the loose coins from my wagon’s cup holders and bought a ticket to Belarus. I purchased my flight on the Belavia side of matters; and though the flight was code-shared with, and operated by Austrian, it was a fraction of Austrian’s cost and I would still accrue Austrian miles. More rubles for souvenirs! This little city break was already off to a grand start.

The hop from Vienna to Minsk was but an hour and change, over what mostly begins as Poland’s fields and then merges into the forested, and still flat, lands of Belarus. The futuristic and gorgeous Minsk Airport was a sci-fi sight to behold upon landing. Inside, perhaps MSQ could add a few more directional signs beyond “Transfer to the Russian Federation,” and perhaps there were too many guys with guns wandering about for my tastes, but the airport was a breeze to get through. No fewer than 10 Passport Control Officers were stationed and ready at “The Territory of Checkpoint,” with booths ready for 10 more. And clearly my Officer had been practicing her friendly and welcoming tone!

PCO., after examining my passport with a magnifying glass, “Why do you come to Belarus?”
Me. “To visit Minsk.”
PCO. “Are you going to Russia?” (No.)
PCO. “Do you have Medical Insurance?”
Me, handing the PCO. our insurance card with DH’s name on it (sometimes the lack of identity as a Trialing Spouse has its down sides.) DH, meanwhile, had thrown me under the bus by going through another Immigration line with a less inquisitive officer and was safely on The Other Side, smirking.

PCO., studying, and studying, and studying, and studying…then returning the card and saying, “You have no insurance.” while pointing to the booth where I ponied up the €4 (€1 per day) for a pretty folder of paper that I would never use in the event I had an emergency medical need while in Minsk. But when in Rome…

Though I had requested an airport transfer through the Hotel Minsk, where we would be staying, I never received confirmation (more on that to follow), and instead reserved a transfer online through the airport’s official drivers. The transfer was confirmed, as per the email I received.

The baggage arrived in good order; the brand new Bankomat spit out several hundred Rubles for us; and we followed signs to “Sektor 3-4” to find “The Taxi Dispatcher,” as per the email I received.

Curbside at Sektor 3-4 was a man in jeans and a leather jacket, sporting a gold necklace and shades. And wearing a made-from-a-craft-store “Taxi Dispatcher” lanyard. But it was laminated, so that made him official. We approached and I handed him the paper. Despite there being a line of “Airport Taxi” vehicles in front of him, he said, “I call taxi. You wait.” DH and I gave one another the, “We’re about to be scammed” look. Just as I motioned that we would take one of the official-looking Airport Taxis, a car pulls up with a made-from-a-craft-store sign that read, “Taxi” affixed to the side. But the driver’s lanyard was laminated, so that made him official.

As we were driving off DH whispered to me, “I don’t see a meter,” and began to casually peer into the front of the vehicle when he spied a black box with a rapidly moving counter—the meter, we presumed, except that we had only exited the airport and it read something like 674. The airport sits about 35 km outside of Minsk, so past forested areas and landscape that resembled the Microsoft Windows background we motored, the little counter doing its thing.

Thirty minutes later we crossed the “MIHCK” city limit sign in all of its Socialist glory, the 9 May celebration banner still fluttering across. Crossing the ring road into the heart of the city grand buildings appeared before us, one after another after another; similarly the mysterious counter continued rolling, number after number. Minsk’s post-war construction was not, “Go Big or Go Home.” It was all, “Go Big or Go Bigger.” A Socialist-Realist architecture fan’s dream.

Moments later we arrived at what could have been The Grand Budapest Hotel, Minsk and the counter stopped: 8419. Our driver pushed a button on the mysterious black box and a receipt was printed: 84 BYN (€35), an amount not out of line with what I had read. Travel advice: Trust the Laminated Lanyard.

Mssr. Gustav opened the hotel door and welcomed us. The building was constructed in the “Stalin Classicism” style in 1959, reflecting “a visiting card not only of the capital of Belarus, but of the whole republic.” Luxe chandeliers and warm wood; creamy marble floors and comfortable leather furniture inside…along with a Harley Davidson biker group from Slovakia and an odd couple from Orlando queueing to check in. While waiting we searched the lobby for Wes Anderson.

Soon it was our turn to check in; or rather, DH’s. In spite of assurances from the Belarus team that I had been added to the reservation, the hotel staff was politely expressing concern that because my last name is different (and Eastern European), and that I was not on the reservation for the same number of nights (DH remained two extra days) that I was, perhaps, not DH’s “wife” (wink, wink). After the matter was resolved it took every restraint not to burst out in laughter over the hotel mistaking me for a different kind of guest. This may also explain why they did not respond to my airport transfer request.

Our room design did not look a day over, say, 1989, though everything appeared new; but the bathroom had entered the 21st century in the big and marbled way, with a luscious large and well-lit vanity and a huge corner soaking tub. Bonus points for the view from our living room being the Minsk Central Post, with Corinthian columns, the hammer and sickle, and the stars. It took a lot of people to read everyone’s mail back in the day, I guess.

Guide books for this memorial to Soviet Communism are out there, but owing to obligations at home I had not the time to venture beyond Minsk and really didn’t want another book gathering dust on the shelf for just one city, so it was Dr. Google I consulted when planning this itinerary. In Your Pocket offered its usual wit and wisdom (online, but not on their App); a rather thoughtful blogging-couple had constructed a self-guided walking tour of Minsk’s highlights that would more than fill the remaining 4 hours of our afternoon; and together with other bits and bobs I constructed an itinerary. We freshened up and prepared to head out, stopping at the front desk to request a city map. Though entirely in Cyrillic, there were at least pictures to help us.

Belarus is outside of the EU, so our iPhones were limited unless we wanted to purchase a SIM card. That was not practical for DH, as he would be in meetings for the remainder of his stay. On the Asia trip I dropped my iPhone and cracked its face; and since we are a couple of months away from the upgrade window, it didn’t make sense to pay to have my phone unlocked. So, we went old-school with paper maps and printed notes.

Mssr. Gustav opened the door as we set forth to explore Minsk…
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Old May 24th, 2018, 05:01 AM
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Fascinating. You are an entertaining writer, too.
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Old May 24th, 2018, 07:24 AM
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Loving this! (BTW, was trialing wife Freudian or intentional?)

I twice passed on Belarus because of the cost of the letter of invitation and visa, am waiting to find out how much of a mistake that was. (Did make it to Chisinau, though - terrible roads.)
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Old May 24th, 2018, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Adelaidean View Post
Fascinating. You are an entertaining writer, too.
Yes, indeed. More please?
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Old May 24th, 2018, 09:26 AM
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What a treat - another of your trip reports!
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Old May 24th, 2018, 09:53 AM
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Enjoying this, thanks for writing!
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Old May 24th, 2018, 10:06 AM
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65,080 steps around a masterpiece of socialist-realist urban planning

Rather than bore anyone with a step-by-approximately-47 km-worth-of-steps commentary that DH and I (mostly I) wandered around Minsk, I will just share impressions. But first I want to throw some shade at BBC, whose meteorologists can not forecast weather for Minsk any better than they can for Vienna. They forecast 16° days that began at 8° but turned into 23° days, so I had to tromp about with a sweater tied around my waist, ugh.

It will help your imagination, too, to picture Minsk as one giant memorial, from the Great Patriotic War Memorial to the National Poet Adam Mickiewicz Memorial, with so, so much marble (and friendly people, but that is the next installment) in between. (Mickiewicz is actually Polish, but is beloved by the Belorussians and Lithuanians nonetheless. Small matter.) In fact, go one step further and imagine a time warp where Communism fuses with Capitalism, but where there are no Starbucks.

Now let us explore the extremely clean—nay, cleaner than Vienna! city of Minsk. Near our hotel, the red brick Catholic Church of Saints Simon and Elena, so named for the deceased children of the Polish architect who designed it in 1910. Pope John Paul II visited in the 1980’s; and this was our first stop on this sunny Sunday, the church decorated elaborately to celebrate the couple of dozen young people having received their First Holy Communion. Families were enjoying ice cream in the adjacent Independence Square, the children running about perhaps not so piously. We* approached the ice cream vendor for a couple of cones; pistachio for me and chocolate for DH. The total cost was 3BYN (€1,25).

*DH leaves me to manage any interactions that involve a language other than English when we travel. His rationale? “I flubbed our wedding vows. In English. You’re Polish and speak German and know some Russian.” But the laugh was on him, for the 60-something ice cream vendor was thrilled to practice her English with me.

Lenin (still) watches over Independence Square, though I feel certain his smile turns upside down at the three-level underground mall just across the street when no one is looking. Which was open on Sunday. (Vienna rolls its shopping sidewalks up on Saturday at 1800, not to unroll them until Monday at 0900, so even though I am not a shopper I squee when I can pop into a shop on a Sunday.) While Minsk is far from a shopper’s paradise, the mall offered several brands that we have here in Vienna, as well as a MilaVitsa, the Soviet-era lingerie shop (which had much more on offer than granny panties in white and beige.)

Continuing, we walked, and walked, and walked past the former (?) KGB temple that holds court, and an entire block, just up the street from Lenin. Passing by, how is it not possible to feel uneasy, wondering who is watching from the windows of this enormous Baroque-yellow Neoclassical structure? Or perhaps those on the inside are just gazing at the park across the street and its bust of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the man who founded the KGB’s predecessor, in admiration?

A bookstore just across the block was a step back in time: creaking floors and old book aroma. I spent almost an hour admiring beautifully crafted Belarusian wooden products, handmade Matroyshka dolls, leather journals and other un-Tchotchke-esque souvenirs, eventually settling on a few choice pieces to bring home. The books, not so much, as they were all in Russian.

GUM was next, the state department store, and first of its kind to offer self-service as early as 1969. Who knew? Socialist Realist architecture at its finest with a beautiful entrance foyer; and although In Your Pocket described it as “fairly dreary shopping,” I was giddy with the quality kitchen and table linens at non-Viennese prices. Now our dining table will look just like my grandmother’s once did! On the lower level, lotions, potions, and notions from a favorite French label that I can not find in Vienna; plus, a few new products from a Russian label that I researched on GUM’s free WiFi: Natura Siberica Daily Detox Crème, made from Siberian wild herbs, just sounded like something my bathroom cabinet was missing.

Continuing along Independence Avenue we were dwarfed in October Square, its concrete plaza going on for what seemed like forever and ever until it reached the pillared Palace of the Republic. The October Square subway entrance, an unabashed Communist propaganda mosaic. And just across from the square, a McDonald’s—I mean, Макдоналдс, its outside tables filled with young Minskers lovin’ it.

A tank memorial to the soldiers who defeated the Nazis and liberated Minsk. The big Bolshoi, with a small orchestra on the front performing Nutcracker music to the delight of those gathered. Gorky Park filled with families; the Ferris wheel design eerily similar to the one I saw in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone at Pripyat; and the apartment building where Lee Harvey Oswald lived after he denounced his U.S. citizenship, before begging to return to the U.S. Nearby, the First Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers Party Museum. So important was (is still?) the building that it was rebuilt after The Great Patriotic War; the fence posts around it all featuring the hammer and sickle, too.

From Gorky Park to Victory Square, its greyish obelisk seriously commanding attention in the roundabout. Towards the edge of Minsk, The Great Patriotic War Memorial rises like something from a sci-fi movie. Even if WWII isn’t your thing, to not be impressed by this dramatic structure might call into question why you were in Minsk in the first place. Within the city, a more poignant reminder of Minsk's dark days, the Holocaust Memorial sits in a quiet park that marks the location of where more than 5.000 of Minsk’s executed Jewish persons were unceremoniously collected. This is also the USSR’s first Holocaust Memorial, and the first to include Yiddish inscriptions. As I approached the site I thought to myself that the grounds were in need of some care; as I was departing, a group of city gardeners were walking toward the memorial. Divine intervention?

Closer in to the center, the pretty Mary Magdalena Church and its gold domes sparkled on our visit. The church was used as a film archive during the Soviet period, and was the first religious building in the city to be given back to the religious community after the Cold War ended. On the Isle of Tears in the Svislach River, the somber memorial to the thousands of Belarusians who died in the Afghanistan War. On one side of the river, a riverfront of shimmering skyscrapers that could be anywhere; and on the other, a portion of the Old City, recreated after demolition during and after the war, is now a hot spot (relatively speaking) with little shops and restaurants.

The city truly is a masterpiece of socialist-realist urban planning, one of the most ironic examples being a massive concrete mosaic extolling socialist virtues, perched atop the capitalist virtues of a KFC. While you can view all of this on the Internet, it is not until you are there in person that you begin to realize how mysterious Belarus is. By the end of our first day I was wishing that I had had the time to travel outside of Minsk...

To follow, East of the Parsley Line: Dining in Minsk
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Old May 24th, 2018, 10:12 AM
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Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments!

"(BTW, was trialing wife Freudian or intentional?)" thursdaysd, that depends on the day.
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Old May 25th, 2018, 03:27 AM
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Ha, you made me look up online photos of Minsk, then found this blog Midwinter Minsk: Socialist Modernism in the ?Soviet Florida? - The Bohemian Blog
you probably already read it, but others might be interested.
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Old May 25th, 2018, 03:37 AM
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Parsley is to Austria like... maybe the bagel is to New York City? In the two train station groceries that are open on a Sunday in Vienna, one can not purchase toothpaste (the aisles are cordoned off, for real), but parsley can be found even at the local petrol station market. In Minsk, however, the national herb could be dill, but that’s fine by me because I like dill in the same way that I do not much care for parsley.

After walking nearly 12km on our arrival afternoon, dinner was understandably the next order of business. Food research usually consumes the lion’s share of my travel planning; for this holiday, not so much, principally because I knew I would like all but one dish, Kishka. For those not in the know, this is a “sausage” comprised of pig’s blood and grain, typically buckwheat, at least at my grandparent’s house. And it is entirely an acquired taste gross. I wrote the term in Russian on DH’s iPhone Notes so that he could avoid it while dining with his colleagues, that is how thoughtful I am. That, and I knew he would be suffering through meals with mushrooms (which he hates), the other “parsley” of Eastern European cuisine. No reason he should endure Kishka, too.

But I digress. The cuisine options in Minsk were about what we expected: 95% Belarussian, a culinary mashup of Slavic and Ruthenian, with some flavors borrowed from Italy, Germany and French. Dishes of the “Gentry” (Belarus was once part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) are also featured (think Pork Cutlets with Sauce). The hotel restaurant menu offered a little bit of all of it, so that is where we, and only we, dined on our first night. Yep, just the two of us in the classically elegant restaurant that seats 120. Not awkward at all. We wondered to where the biker gang had gone for dinner as we looked around again for Wes Anderson.

At home in Vienna, any table we sit down at is ours for as long as we desire, be it Plachutta or a Hütte. On the other side of the Parsley Parallel, generally you eat and then you leave. But first we had to decode the menu. This may be a Belarusian quirk, or just something we’ve not seen before, but every dish listed was followed by a set of numbers, like 50/25/20/10/15 and so forth. The numbers, we learned, refer to the weight of each ingredient in the dish, sort of.

Once the wine question was figured out (Belarus semi-dry white), we began with a cheese plate. Three varietals of cheeses (Russian, Blue, Brynza), yet the dish was numbered 50/50/50/10/75/5. Our artfully arranged plate arrived with three cheese varietals; a decorative pat of butter (likely the 10); a cluster of dark red table grapes (probably the 75); and several little party picks. But no dill.

Back to the wine. We are fans of Georgian (the country) wines, having serendipitously grabbed a couple of bottles once at a grocery store in suburban Warsaw a couple of years ago and after quaffing the first bottle, regretted not having grabbed more. Though excited to see it on the menu, when in Rome…we ordered the Belarussian. And…meh. For a semi-dry it was a little flat, but more interesting was that the label read, “Made with grapes from Spain.” Who really knows what we drank with dinner on this evening.

Speaking of dinner. DH can not resist the meltingly tender pork-anything in this part of the world, and his “Gentry Cutlet” lived up to expectations, served with seasoned potatoes and a healthy bouquet of dill. For me, old-school potato pancakes with caviar and crème. And dill. Like the Belarussian cuisine itself, our meal was a mélange of American expediency (without learning the life story of our wait staff); Western European portions; and French presentations.

The sun sets late in Minsk and the skies don’t darken until around 2200, so why not room service-up the Georgian white we first considered and a second cheese plate (plus olives) while watching a Belorussian hunting and fishing show on cable. As for the cheese plate numbers, whether the party picks were the “5” shall forever remain a mystery.

Just as Minsk gets dark around 2200, the first light of day sparkles before 0400. As I rose to pull the drapery closed I spied four street cleaning trucks in tandem moving along Independence Avenue. I like to joke about the cleanliness of Vienna and how a 3-person crew will descend upon a dropped tissue as if by magic, but four street cleaning trucks in tandem hands down beats the Imperial city.

Breakfast was served from the civil hour of 0700 (we are morning people, so this was most welcome) and on the cold board… Herring Under Fur Coat! Well, the Belarussian version of this pickled herring salad anyway, but that was enough to start what would become my 18km day off right. DH looked at me, rolled his eyes, and took his plate of potatoes and pork cutlets (my turn to roll my eyes) to our table. The breakfast room (the restaurant) was filled with people! We figured the Harley guys had ordered room service to watch the Hunting Channel with dinner, but to where had all of the other guests gone to dine?

After breakfast I sent DH off with a smooch and went on my way. Now, I camp (I was a Girl Scout Troop Leader for 7 years); and I will, if need be, make use of portable facilities, but my Achilles toilet is the squatter, and I know they are still the rage in this part of the world. As the lunch hour approached I began investigating eateries for their possible modern facilities, and bet it all on a small and folksy place I spotted that had an English-translated menu. Instinct over Internet. (It had to be, because I had no Internet.) Tourism really hasn't caught on here, but when it was discovered I was indeed a visitor...the youthful wait staff wasted no time practicing their English. "So what do you think about our salad?" and "Do you like our lemons in your water?" Charming. Lunch was a simple salad (with dill) and ten pillowy and somehow light, meat-filled Pelmini, all of which was too delicious to have only incurred a €4 tab. (And my gamble had paid off.)

Across the street from the KGB is Vasiliki, an extremely popular restaurant it would seem, because DH and I scored the last unreserved table at 1815, on a Monday evening. Here in this chapter I must digress again, to recall scenes not from a Vienna restaurant, but from the Vienna airport prior to departure. As we were queuing to drop off our baggage a loud woman in bright clothing was shouting in German at the small group of people with her; she drew our attention, and that of others around her, as she was so out of Viennese character. The scene repeated itself in our boarding area; as we were boarding; and then again at the baggage claim in Minsk. We surmised she was the leader of this band of Austrian travelers.

Fast forward to dinner on Monday evening. Once again, a Georgian white on the wine menu! DH ordered baked Pelmini, which looked and tasted lighter than it sounded, despite the mention of the cheese topping. On this night it was my turn to request the Gentry Pork, another spectacular preparation with grainy mustard sauce, a thick potato and greens coulis, and a small salad. With dill, but you knew that. As we were tasting and talking, a loud voice punctuated our conversation. The Loud Leader and her Merry Travelers had arrived for their dinner reservation! Thank goodness theirs was for an inside table, and that was the last we heard from them, literally.

Dinner Tuesday evening. While walking back to the hotel after museum-going in the afternoon (The National Art Museum was every bit worth my time. Though one as art naïve as I won’t recognize many (any?) of the artists, there is much to be said for a country so proud of its heritage and culture that they rebuilt entirely from scratch, a collection that had been looted and lost by Nazis. The careful curating meant that each piece had meaning and was worth appreciating. In one gallery the docent practically pushed me onto one of the cushions to admire what is obviously a highlight piece in their collection, while she shooed away a couple of school children and closed the gallery door for me. You won’t get that personal consideration at the Louvre. Also worth appreciating were the school groups in attendance; well-mannered elementary students in their Sunday best, dutifully following their programs. PSA: even if you purchase a photo pass, the former Stasi-guard-turned-docent will yell at you when you snap.)

Back to Tuesday’s dinner. Over the short two days in Minsk I had watched what appeared the soon-to-be grand opening of a restaurant near our hotel. On this afternoon the balloons and menu board were out, and I recognized it to be an outpost of a highly rated restaurant I had read about, Pan Khmelyu, offering traditional Belarussian dishes in a traditional setting. The staff were putting the finishing touches on the outdoor seating, so I approached and asked if there was an English menu (Da!) and then asked to make a reservation for 1800, recalling the previous night’s scene.

DH and I were seated in the cellar and felt like we had been transported to a Babushka’s cottage in the Belarus countryside, the décor and design were so inviting. (Making reservations was a brilliant move, as the small space was filled.) Though another Georgian white was on the menu, it was sadly not available so we began with a Chilean white. Quite good, but you know how we are about our Georgian wines.

Noting the “300” next to most of the traditional dishes (finally, the Eastern Europe portion sizes we were expecting!) we opted against a starter and just ordered from the specialties. DH ordered Pechisto, the Belarussian term for, “Big plate of meat and potatoes, topped with bacon croutons and gravy.” I went lighter (it’s all relative) with Radzivilovsky Goulash, which was goulash atop potato pancakes, and first eaten by the Great Lithuanian Duke Jogaila. Except it was not the goulash of Central Europe; it was more like a flavorful Pot au Feu cozied up with crispy potato cakes, and was entirely worth skipping another cheese plate for.

Adjacent to us was seated a couple and their "Meter of Vodka Shots" charcuterie plate, a large wooden board piled with meats and cheeses and ringed with vodka shots (!); and by all accounts they were having fun. Partway through our incredible dinner a woman joined them; and at some point thereafter the male in the party noted that we were speaking English and began to engage with us in his version of English. When it was further learned that our “home” is D.C. the common language of "Washington" and "Ovechkin" brought two Americans, a Russian Navy sailor and his Polish girlfriend (and her chaperone) together for a little vodka diplomacy, a lot of laughter, and a memorable evening.

Later I sent a group snap that the wait staff had kindly taken to DD, who had remained at home (school and all...) to show her that her parents were having fun. Her reply? "What happens in Minsk...stays in Minsk."

Coming up…To Market, To Market; and Final Notes.
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Old May 25th, 2018, 04:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Adelaidean View Post
Ha, you made me look up online photos of Minsk, then found this blog Midwinter Minsk: Socialist Modernism in the ?Soviet Florida? - The Bohemian Blog
you probably already read it, but others might be interested.
Adelaidean, that is a great blog! In the year since that post I "think" Minskers might be warming up to the idea of tourists (or at least our Euros and Dollars) infiltrating their snowglobe-like life is a good thing. There were several of us snapping away at the government buildings and in the subways without reprimand, too; and even GUM played an announcement in English about the history of the building.
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Old May 25th, 2018, 04:43 AM
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What a fascinating report! I've started looking at pictures of Minsk today via google and then photos of the city during WWII...then reading about the hell it endured during the war. Hard to believe that these photos all represent the same city. I'm wondering what was the source of the wealth which produced this Oz-like city which we see today? Do you have any sense that the hinterlands were drained dry to pour resources into the capital, Romania-style? Give us more, more!
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Old May 25th, 2018, 12:45 PM
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Fourfor, I feel I'm with you every inch of the way but even your limpid prose is not exactly selling the idea of making Minsk my next short break destination.

At least I'll know what to eat and drink if I ever get there - loving it!
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Old May 25th, 2018, 04:50 PM
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Enjoying your report! You are an entertaining writer!
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Old May 25th, 2018, 06:12 PM
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I was going to add that the photos of socialist era architecture were enough to ensure that Minsk never got on my bucket list, but I'm heading to Andamooka and Coober Pedy soon, so....
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Old May 25th, 2018, 10:43 PM
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Originally Posted by EYWandBTV View Post
What a fascinating report! I've started looking at pictures of Minsk today via google and then photos of the city during WWII...then reading about the hell it endured during the war. Hard to believe that these photos all represent the same city. I'm wondering what was the source of the wealth which produced this Oz-like city which we see today? Do you have any sense that the hinterlands were drained dry to pour resources into the capital, Romania-style? Give us more, more!
To be honest, I am not sure. From my historical research before the trip I learned that in the post-war years Minsk was a massive center of industrialization that attracted workers from around the country; from the translator at DH's meetings I learned that German prisoners were used to reconstruct Minsk a la Stalin Style. The capital is also home to several universities, as well, so perhaps this combination helps to explain why Minsk has developed the way it has? I would have loved to venture further into the country to see more for myself, but my time was limited.
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Old May 25th, 2018, 10:57 PM
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Again, I thank everyone for their kind words.

annhig, haha. Minsk as a city break is most certainly an acquired taste.

Adelaidean, I await the tales of your outback adventure, and especially of the food and drink!
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Old May 26th, 2018, 08:45 AM
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Adelaidean - that does sound like quite a trip - I don't even know where those places are!

Fourfor - in the unlikely event a trip to Minsk or Belarus becomes a reality for me, I'll be sure to consult you.
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Old May 26th, 2018, 09:59 PM
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fourfortravel, I loved your report of your trip to Minsk. My nephew's wife is from Minsk and she is very eager for all of us to go to Minsk and visit with her family as well as see where she grew up. We are anxious to do so and even more excited about going on the trip after reading your report. Thank you.
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Old May 27th, 2018, 01:24 AM
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Late to the party but joining nonetheless. Minsk sounds interesting in an odd way.
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