Minsk was a place I had heard of only when one of Phoebe’s boyfriends got back from there because he failed in some research. Not sure if you remember, but according to David (FRIENDS), Minsk was lovely in the spring. Now, I can say, David was right, it was indeed a beautiful city. After the Russians (Moscow) forbade us to do many things and made us feel like we were back in school, Minsk, the Capital of Belarus, was a good change. It was a small city probably filled with those who did not want to follow strict rules like the Russians. People were courteous and polite. They made an effort to speak English so it was easy to communicate with many of them. The weather was pleasant. I feasted on berries and the food was delicious!
By the way, the tour guide told us that Belarus is called The White Russia because it grows trees with white trunks. I have to come back here to have the drink made from it, which I missed this time.
Belarussians seemed to keep themselves occupied with some sport or the other. There were people walking around, skating or cycling. In many places I noticed that there were two separate lanes, on walkways, for cyclists. It was wonderful to see how the city cared for their ‘fitness freak’ citizens. Unlike in India, it was possible to cycle, skate or walk without having the fear of stepping into a gutter or putting your foot through a ‘upturned’ tile because unless it was a construction site, there wasn’t one tile out of place anywhere.
When I entered the hotel room in Minsk (Double Tree by Hilton), I was thirsty. I opened the first bottle to drink water and make the infant formula (remember the two kids we are loafing with), only to find that it was sparkling water and I wondered why there wasn’t normal water in the room. The hotel was located inside a mall so I could just go down and get some water but I did not because the baby was yelling and my daughter was asleep. Finally, when I bought water, I learned that when you ask for water here in Minsk, you need to specify that you want water with NO GAS. That is the water that we drink normally, to quench our thirst.
The Independence Square, formally known as Lenin Square, was lovely, well maintained and clean. Lavishly decorated with flowers, it is one of the biggest squares in Europe. The Roman Catholic Church of St. Simon and Helen enhanced the beauty of the square. We did not enter the church but I walked around the place with my little one and took amazing pictures of her. Minsk did not have a lot of architectural monuments but the squares were good enough to spend half a day in each of them.
Back in the hotel, our air conditioner did not work well and we found ourselves waking up in slight perspiration so we called the maintenance team and they sent a good looking guy to fix the system. Well, it was a good thirty minutes of ‘bird watching’ while devouring some chicken and bacon salad. It got even exciting when I went to check the place he was working and saw that he left no mess. What more could be more exciting than finding a clean floor after a good looking worker has left? But yes, I was in a hotel room.
In the evening, we went for a casual walk. I wore a short denim skirt and a fleece jacket. After walking a distance, we passed a young boy who gave on rent two-wheeled self-balancing power-driven electric vehicles to ride. Impulsive in our decision making and not being appropriately dressed for any sport, we tried a couple of them. I was afraid of falling and hurting my knee so, I, slowly, stepped on it and practiced for a few minutes before we went for a ride. Despite the cold wind slapping my bare legs, I enjoyed the thrill of riding an electric scooter for the first time.
We went to the zoo, in Minsk, to check it out. We wondered if it was better than the Mysore Zoo or Bannerghatta Zoo in Bangalore. Well, it was a clean zoo but, personally, I preferred the Mysore Zoo, because there, the giraffes were the attraction but here, I was not sure what the attraction was. Yes, the Dolphin Show was a cherry on the not-so-interesting cake. It was an amazing show! They also had otters and seals doing tricks and performances. Mind-blowing is the right way to express the emotion that most of us felt there. If you take your swim wear along, you could get a chance to swim with the dolphins too.
On the last night, another couple sat with us, at the restaurant we went for dinner, till after midnight. We laughed, cracked jokes and pulled each other’s’ legs until we decided we needed to sleep before leaving for the long drive the next day. Our hotel was attached to the mall so the security guard told us that the back gates and café door were closed so we could not enter from the back gate and reach the hotel. Let’s just say that we finally reached the hotel lobby after an hour. An unexpected adventure, in the abnormal hours of the morning, with two kids was quite an experience and we learnt that we should never take the Belarussians for granted. Just kidding!
It was a good relaxing three days in Minsk. What I loved the most was that we had these USB sockets on the walls, in the hotel rooms, to charge our mobile phones and we did not need to beg the reception for an adapter. How our priorities change with the advancing technology!