01.07.2007 19 °C
I'm back in the capital city, Minsk. Since I arrived, I saw the opera, AIDA in the Minsk Concert Hall, and also attended a spectacular ballet performance (Bolero) in the Palats Republici. The ballet was a stunning performance with an excellent troupe, orchestra, choir, and sopranos. I had the best seats in the house and paid a mere US$7. And.....I saw the resident Circus - in their permanent venue next to the river. A lovely old domed building in truly old circus style. And the performance - just like you remember it from your Grade 1 story books! Complete with clowns, acrobats, the ladies walking with pythons, the dancing girls, the band, the jugglers, and ending off with the lions show - such a cliche - but I wanted to go back in time to the old time circus. No better place than Russia or Belarus to still get that old time circus experience.
Ah Minsk...I have so much to write about this city. While this is a true dictatorship State, a communist regime lead by the idiot Lukaschenko, on the surface at least, it doesn't look or feel that different from Russia or any other Eastern European country. There is no visible police force staring at you. Their are no tanks on the streets. There is the KGB...and they do track your moves - I am told. And, its a very clean city. Streets are wide, buildings are grandeur, and - its sterile. Its like the role model for Singapore and over to....Bangladesh, please send your Minister of City Hygiene for a crash course in how to create a clean city.
Citizens can't freely move to another area i.e. rural to city. They need to get registered in the new area which is difficult. The result is that many people live "illegally" in their own country. Want to travel abroad - you need your exit permit. Want a friend from oversees to visit - he/she needs a visa, mandatory local Belorussian insurance, and register with the local police. If Lukaschenko decides to build a new library, he takes 5000 Roubles from every citizen - whether you like the new plans or not. All land is state owned and farmers live and work in communes run by the State. Only State sponsored religion is allowed - anything else is banned. Want to openly criticize Lukaschenko tonight - you'll be in jail before breakfast. This is a one-man show who is protecting his interests to the expense of all citizens.
I can see only Caucasians on the streets - no Blacks, no Asians, no Indians....no people other than Caucasians.
Every night I take a 45 minute minibus ride to the apartment where I am staying. I first go to the local supermarket and then come home to prepare dinner for my friend/host who normally works till late at night. It feels like I am living here.
I am really impressed with the Belorussian people. They are hands down the most friendly people in all of Eastern Europe - not that the competition is tough! If only they could speak at least some basic English - but that is as scarce as chicken teeth.
The beer bottle in the hand is the national emblem of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. As the sun heads for the horizon, the young heads for the parks, the town squares, oh anywhere will do, with the beer bottle in the hand.
I got registered with the local police today - thanks to Natasha who was so kind to spend half her day to take me through this stupidy of registering foreign visitors. So now I can hopefully leave Belarus without any problems. Next, I'll spend time in northern Belarus and then - Riga, Latvia, which will complete my visits to the Baltic States: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia.
After Riga...I'm heading south into Central Asia. Life is.......goooooood.