After returning from my visit to Belarus and managed to sort all impressions I realize I have just visited an amazing country. fortunately I managed to meet so many people who really wanted to show me their city, their country and in turn meet some amazing people through them.
Like the old woman, who’s brother had been shot by the Germans in the WW2 when they invaded Belarus, him not even being a soldier. The hospitality of her inviting 3 complete strangers into her home and served eggs, biscuits, tea and birch juice as much as she possibly could.
Especially me, who were on illegal territory for foreigners, the village Kalety situated in the border zone only 3km from Lithuania,
Or my host in Vitsebsk, who despite bad knowledge in English accepted me in her home and showed me the city during my brief visit. Not speaking fluent English we communicated in a mix of English/French/Czech and Russian. And when I headed of for the train she handed me a food package for the journey containing of chicken, easter cake, egg and chocolate.
Brest was a small and interesting city, dominated by the Brest Fortress and its history.
Minsk with its huge Stalinistisk architecture but also small creative sculptures here and there which made it more interesting.
Vitsebsk with its cultural heritage of beautiful churches and also Marc Chagall or Leon Kobrin
Hrodno with its intact old houses which gives the city a more “village” feeling to it.
Kalety in the countryside with their half fallen houses and great people
I also saw the other side of the coin, or rather banknote as their currency have no coins.
How the country’s economy is currently going down and created some horrific situations for its citizens.
How there is no foreign currency available to buy, everything that is possible is bought up already to try to save the value of their savings.
And I was advised not to mention that I had Euros on me, for my own safety.
How people buy cars, even if they dont have drivers license, to bind their currency into value since the import taxes will rise again.
How people were smuggling cigarettes on the border train by taping them to all possible places that was not visible to try to hide them from the Polish customs and earn a zloty or two when selling them in Poland.
How a Belarusian man pulled up a thick bankroll of zlotys at the exchange office on the Polish border and exchange them into 10300 US dollars.
Or the 2 women who were standing half-naked on the Polish train station on the border, and filling the stockings they were wearing with clothes, as much as possible could fit in the stockings so they still could walk, to try to pass the border without being catched by the Belarusian border check.
All this because of the limited amount of value allowed to bring into the country from abroad to try to get the local commerce working though its high prices because of the high import taxes.
If we remove the politics, there is a beautiful land with beautiful people and food just waiting to be discovered and excepted by the rest of Europe as an equal.