Minsk – May 14 – May 19
I just have too many impressions about Minks and Belarus. I’ve been breaking my head for a while on how to write a blog post about it that would catch the essence without becoming too lengthy. As you can see I didn’t break my head over it very long, because this entire paragraph isn’t contributing anything to the story and the article turned out to become the longest one in my entire blogging career. As you might remember from my first post or have figured out yourself by reading this crap, I’m not that good of a writer, so I understand completely if you just want to look at some pictures.
After thinking about it for a while I realized that the reason this post’s potential to become a novel (in length), is that I am fascinated by the Belarusian regime, and even though we talked with a lot of young open minded Belarusians about it, a big part of it still remains a hard to grasp mystery. So, I figured that if I don’t include any of my political thoughts, who most likely would be way off anyway, and stick only to the facts of the days, this should become a quick read. After going trough these facts, you are free to create your own objective view about the corrupt totalitarian regime of this schizophrenic country. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Wednesday, May 14th
After arriving at hostel Revolucion we took a shower, slept, chilled, watched the hostel pet do nothing, worked (just me), played some xbox, and when we finally got hungry we went out to eat. After lunch we had some beers and on the way back we stumbled on a huge open air party that was surrounded by police and military forces.
The Belarusians treated us as if we were two panda bears, just arriving at the zoo. They all wanted to know what we thought about their country. I answered that I didn’t know anything about the country. When I asked them if it was a dictatorship, most of them started laughing, but nobody denied it. After a while we got drunk. Brecht changed his sweater for a Belarusian sports jacket with a bum. We got invited to drink some beer and vodka with some local drunks. I participated in a small arm wrestle championship. After I won the match against a Belarusian gangster rapper, he started crying. Later I beat a Russian former knife fighting world champion, who in response put his knife to our throats. It was a lot of fun.
Thursday, May 15th
We had a major hangover. There would be no room for us anymore in the hostel the next day, so I placed a couch request. A guy named Mike wanted to host us. We met him that night in the city. He seemed okay. We went for some beers. Brecht got bored because we were talking about programming and politics all the time, so he went back to the open air party (which seemed to be every night.) Apparently I didn’t take any pictures today..
Friday, May 16th
After we overslept, we did the laundry. Our clothes came out even smellier then they entered, and despite the drying function on the machine, they were still completely wet. It was drizzling outside so after a couple of hours and some messages from our new couchsurfing host wondering why we weren’t at his place yet, we decided to just take the wet clothes with us and headed to Mike’s place at the edge of town.
Mike (Micha) had been waiting a couple of hours for us with some food but he and his girlfriend Yelena had gotten so impatient and hungry that they ate their own delicious pancakes already by the time we arrived. After listening to some weird music in Micha’s squat-like appartment we headed to the forest to drink some beers. Drinking in public is forbidden in Belarus so most people go hide in the woods to get drunk.
Micha and Yelena had been preparing us for some spectacle. They said the forest would be filled with drunk Gopniks fighting each other. Although we saw some drunk people wearing fake Adidas clothes on the way, the forest was pretty empty because it had been raining before. Because of my urge to understand Belarusian politics I probed some more into our friends way of life. They explained that a lot of Belarusians are depressed and commit suicide because they don’t have any prospect at a better future. It seems like no matter how hard you work in Belarus, the pay is extremely low compared to the prices of goods. The reason that Belrus has a low crime rate is because everybody is equally poor, so nobody cares about robbing someone else, and off course because the militia is present on every street corner and the punishments are way out of proportion. If you get caught smoking weed, for example, you get 8 to 10 years of prison.
By the time it got dark we headed back, and watched some south park episodes at Micha’s place.
Saturday, May 17th
It was a beautiful morning, so me and Brecht decided to have a walk to the city center. Misha declared us crazy because it would take us over 2 hours, but we wanted to wander a bit trough the suburbs to experience the life beyond the tourist traps. Apart from one or two drunks and some street animals the town was very quit. The soviet style buildings were all in pretty good condition. If one thing, the government does a good job on maintaining infrastructure and keeping the streets clean.
We concluded our excursion with a walk trough Gorky park. By this time we were both starving so we picked out the first eating establishment we could lay eyes upon. After ordering our first dish it started raining. Our table wasn’t covered with an umbrella so we joined two girls who’s names I forgot, so let’s call them One and Two. They were kind of opposite characters. While Two wanted to be on the picture with everyone in the bar, One hated being photographed. They proposed us to go for shisha after the ice hockey match tonight.
When we arrived at the stadium Svetlana (Sveta) was already waiting for us. Switserland won. After the match Brecht decided to go for a shisha with One and Two. I decided to join Svetlana with her friends to the Museum night. My cell phone battery went dead so I lost communication with Brecht. By the time we left the museum there were no more metro’s going, and Misha would probably be asleep by now. Even though Sveta didn’t have a couch available she proposed to take me home and make me a bed by stacking up some blankets on the floor. So that’s what happened.
Sunday, May 18th
After charging my battery all night, Brecht called. He had been stood up by One and Two, went for some beers instead, and slept at Micha’s place. We decided to go the open air folk museum and we arranged a meeting at a metro station near Sveta’s place. After eating some of Sveta’s healty breakfast, and helping her finish her puzzle we headed to the meeting point.
We took a bus to the edge of town, meanwhile picking up Sveta’s friend, who’s name is also Svetlana. After walking a bit we split up in two groups and hitchhiked to the museum. In less than 30 seconds me and Sveta got a ride and we arrived at the museum after 10 minutes. Woot! Brecht and the other Sveta arrived about 10 minutes later.
The folk museum was pretty interesting and reminded us a lot of Vitoslavlitski (the Russian Bokrijk), but most of all it was a fun walk with two nice and happy people. I couldn’t help slipping in some questions about politics again though… So I learned that the education in Belarus is free for everyone, but that it comes with some other kind of price. Once you are graduated the government picks a job for you, that can be anywhere in the country, which you have to practice for two years, for a very low salary. This means that some people have to move to the other side of the country for two years, doing a job they hate, while making barely enough money to pay the rent and buy food. The only way to somewhat control the situation is by marrying someone before you graduate, because then at least you don’t need to move, and this is actually what a lot of people do in Belarus. We actually met a couple like this later, that only married because they didn’t want to move, and will likely divorce soon, but it seems wiser to not mention their real names here, so let’s just call them Three and Four.
After hitchhiking back we said goodbye to the two Sveta’s and we took the metro to the center where we met Micha again. He was accompanied by Lena, a girl he met during some kind of improvised couchsurfing meeting he attended. We had a couple of beers and I ate too many chips.
Monday, May 19th
I woke up in the middle of the night, bathing in my own sweat. It looked like my stomach failed to digest the chips so I went to the toilet to try to puke them out, but to no avail. I didn’t sleep all night, got diarrhea and I felt sick like a dog. Normally we would hit the road today but I was in no condition.
We promised Misha that we would leave today, so we went back to hostel Revolucion. They had a room free and I slept all day and all night, only occasionally waked by some Nigerians who smelled like gasoline and made several phone calls in the middle of the night, meanwhile ignoring Brecht’s insults and urges to be quiet.