Saturday, 27 June 2009

Minsk - strange and beautiful, not twinned with Milton Keynes

Minsk - the centre is clean and very, very patriotic. Big squares and wide streets with lots of decoration and green and red flags everywhere. It's nice to walk around, so that's what everyone does.....
This is October square - everything named after a significant revolutionary or war-time event.

One of many orthodox churches.

The very flashy National Library. We are members here and have an ID card and anything.

And then there's our flat....... up on the 5th floor. Very nice on the inside I'll have you know. The lift has been broken for a month so you feel sorry for the old folk on the top floor....especially because you have to hold your breath going up the stairs because of the fumes (from the lift repairs I suspect..).

Not a ballroom but a metro station. Everywhere emblazoned with hammers and sickles and communist emblems.

Not water but the vodka shelf in the moderately sized local supermarket. There is an equally large sour cream selection.

Window on the main shopping street to celebrate 65 years since they won the Patriotic War (WWII) and it seems military wear should be all the rage again.

A night at the ballet with our friend Olga!

Neil now has dreams about wearing tights and shirts with floaty arms.

Followed by a night celebrating the Queen's Birthday (when is it again????) with the Ambassador! Thankfully there's a 2nd hand shop round the corner from our flat for a revamp of our wardrobes for one night of glitz and glam: the queen would not have approved of flip-flops and worn out jeans.

Thanks Tim the vice Consul ( see fig 1a - couple of stylish scallies) for inviting us.

This big bison marks the southern border of Minsk region - their version of the Angel of the North.

Minsk Castle is a little odd and doesn't actually look very old, but worth a stop to stretch your legs if you've been in minibuses for too long. Pack-a-macs not included.

On the subject of pac-a-macs, the weather here changes rapidly and if you've had a day of sun then a thunder storm seems inevitable. June is definitely a wet month in Belarus and the umbrella is taken very seriously here.

Ominous skies seem an appropriate backdrop for Minsk.

Here's Olga at work in the APB office. Everyone's in the field at the minute but this room does usually have 5 people in it. BirdLife Belarus (APB) is growing, now with 14 staff. However, Belarussian bureaucracy means that admin and bookkeeping staff account for a chunk of this. To put it in context, Belarus has about 50 birdwatchers and APB has a pretty small membership. The RSPB has 1.1 million.

Europe's largest market is located just across the street from our flat. You can get some fine, fine food for not very much here. And there's some great people watching to be done.

The berry season has begun - the forests are now full of people.

Spuds or 'boolba' of all sorts.

Bee-keeping is very popular and for the benefits to the countryside it's all tax-free. Unfortunately it seems everyone can get their own from friends. If you walk by these bored honey-sellers you get the hard-sell.

Every kind of chop you want: Rabbit and goose here. The way animals are kept in Belarus means the meat is very good quality and even the milk tastes better because the cows are grazing in wildflower meadows.

Biscuits are the other big seller. Despite the fine qulaity of ingredients, the healthiness of the diet here is probably about on a par with Scotland......

The market is very popular and much more fun that your average bland samey supermarket experience. The first big supermarket has cropped up outside Minsk (Hippo) and Maccy D's now has 4 outlets which are full of youngsters. I love looking at the menu in cyrillic - биг тейсты is the new 'big tasty' burger.


  1. Hi Neil 'n Ellie,

    thanks for letting me know about your blog - fascinating to find out about your adventures, and interesting to hear more about Belarus wetlands (I didn't know much at all really) and the pressures the sites face.

    If you're in Lithuania, I recommend the Kuronian spit or the town/village of Juodkrante (nr Klaipeda) and go to the bird observatory at Vente, also nr Klaipeda.

    Things are quiet here - most of us doing sea work around tern colonies.

    Keep well

    Best wishes


  2. Eventually I here :) it's very fanny to read your comment about Belarus::) I am going to write a contrcomments :)

    we received your post card:)