Belarus welcomed us with a big smile! 🙂
To be more specific…….the immigration officer who asked us “what is the purpose of our trip?” heard that we are going to Australia looked at us funny and carried the conversation by asking us if we have any alcohol, drugs or psychotropic medication. If I would have been in a different country I would most likely start joking and said something like “ no thank you…..but I would love a cup of coffee” but somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve heard all the advice about how strict and conservative this country is so I decided to shut my mouth.
The very first thing that we have noticed after we got to Minsk is that the Army is EVERYWHERE. Our Belarusian host told us that his country has one of the biggest ratios in the world when comes to soldiers to residents. I completely agree with this statement because I don’t recall seeing that many of them in any of the countries that I had visited. On the one hand it should make you feel safer, but on the other hand it was spine chilling to see them perfectly coordinated in one line with their Russian flag and military uniforms marching on the streets -considering everything that we see and hear in the media in the recent months.
Minsk- the capital city of Belarus has almost 2 million residents. Unfortunately I have to admit that this was one of the most unappealing cities that I have visited just like Sofia, Bulgaria and Bucharest, Romania. Of course this is my personal opinion and we barely spent 2 days here, but I have to be honest with you….if I will not have to I won’t be coming back to Minsk anytime soon.
The biggest contrasts when it comes to this city that really have nothing to offer are the people. We were hosted by a young Belarusian couple and they were very welcoming, kind and very helpful. They were there for us because as they said “Poland and Belarus is basically the same nation”
Let’s talk about the cost and standards of living. To rent an apartment in the suburbs of Minsk we are looking at around 300$ which comparing to their income– it’s a pretty big chunk of money. In general the prices are comparable to Poland but the salaries are significantly less. The main difference is the cost of cigarettes and you can buy a pack for 3-5PLN (about 1$-1.80$)
The next very visible characteristic of Minsk and most likely in whole Belarus, was the social stratification. On the streets you could see cars that you would never see again and most likely they haven’t passed emission test in the past couple of years, but at the same time you can see very luxury brands cruising on the roads.
We asked our young hosts where do they hangout? Do they go to the clubs? Do they meet at bars? They said that there are really no bars or pubs in Minsk and clubs are for those who have rich parents. We weren’t there long enough to verify that but as you can see we had a blast while using public transportation. 🙂
Just to end this chapter I would like to share with you couple of thoughts that I’ll remember for a long time.
First- if you want to take a good picture you should without any hesitations do it! Leave your good manners behind and all the reservations and take the picture! Although it is easier to say it than done, I didn’t do it without any regrets.
Second- maybe because it was a very sad and heart breaking situation- it was a cold and rainy late night (probably 11.30ish pm) and we were just leaving the restaurant located in the heart of Minsk. Right next to the restaurant you could see this perfectly shiny black Bentley Continental GT ( for those who are not into the cars- for the price of that car you could most likely buy 2-3 apartments in Krakow) parked on the street and right beside that fully loaded car an older lady was standing- I think she was around 70. It was a very dark and cold night and you could hardly see any people, and there she was standing there selling little bouquets of flowers for the price that you wouldn’t be able to buy matches at a store. As you can only guess after reading the previous paragraph I didn’t have the guts to take the picture and I would love to share that moment with you which is going to stay with me for a long time.