Sunday, November 08, 2015

Trip to Belarus

I went to Belarus!

What? Belarus? What is that?
It's that country wedged between Russia and Poland. There! Look! You had no idea it existed? Off to Wikipedia with you! I also read up about Belarus, when my boyfriend (otherwise know on here as the Auction Winner) told me he comes from there. I knew of its existence and where it is, but that was about it. So I read the Wikipedia article about it and considered myself educated after this. As you do.
We went to visit my boyfriend's mother and to do some sightseeing, because it's my first visit. Belarus isn't really known as a destination for your next vacation, but I had the best of times! And I want all of you to know how wonderful and strange it is there. Off we go!
Pilfered picture from the nation wide campaign. Posters are found everywhere with very nice motives of the Belarusian countryside. The message reads: I love Belarus!
I visited Minsk, Vitebsk, Polotsk and Novopolotsk and will try to show you what I liked most. To avoid overladen posts I will make this a series. Heh.

In general I can say (and this is not a political analysis, just my feelings) that Belarus felt like the GDR. It feels and looks just like the GDR would probably feel and look if it still existed today and the German reunification had never happened. For example most streets were in a bad state and full of holes, just like I remember them from my childhood in the GDR. Also most houses were grey and needed some serious work done. Shop assistants ranged from unfriendly to nasty, just like back then. People don't smile the polite smile that is so important in the West, just like back then. (My family refers to those friendly smiles as fake and ass kissing.)

It might sound all negative, but you can be quite happy in a more simple lifestyle without glamour and smiling shop assistants. I was prepared for a vacation without glamour and luxury, so I wasn't horrified or anything. You can't go to a foreign country and expect everything to be like home, that's rubbish. I looked at it all with the interested eyes of a tourists who is heavily reminded of her childhood in the GDR. I had a lot of fun!
When people realised we were tourists from Germany, we always got special treatment. They thought it great to have visitors from other countries and wanted to be extra nice to make a good impression. What can I tell you? It totally worked.
The only time I got weird looks for speaking German was in the big museum about the Great Patriotic War while reading out German texts. Understandable, I think.

I enjoyed my time there and will show you around. Stay tuned!
Absolutely cute juice boxes


  1. I have to pat myself on the back because I know where Belarus is AND I even knew of Minsk. It's all WW2 related reading that I have done. So I only know about Belarus back then and not now. So I am prepared to learn about it as it stands. Looking forward to your coming posts. I should start posting again soon.

    1. Congrats! :-D
      I am working on those posts, I really am!
      Thank you for the post cards. Did you get my letter?

  2. I am from Russia and it is probably very similar. The life (in the countryside) is modest (bescheiden) and weary (beschwerlich), but often happy and warmly (herzlich). The mentality is different and like you said: „You can't go to a foreign country and expect everything to be like home.“ -> It is important not to forget this, never.

    The text on the juice boxes says: „My family“

    1. Sadly I wasn't in the countryside at all. The next trip will definitely include the countryside!

      Juice box fruit family! Yeah!

  3. Hi Michelle,
    I really don't feel that the life in Belarus is like in the GDR, when it still existed today, however, this view is an interesting aspect.
    The main differences of contemporary Belarus to a "modern" GDR:
    1. Belarus is by far not as much penetrated by snitches / police spies as it was in the GDR.
    2. The secret service is focusing on state enemies, but not entirely controlling the whole population.
    3. Foreigners can move around freely in the country, which was not the case in GDR.
    4. As a foreigner you need to register only, if your stay exceeds 3 working days.
    5. Traveling abroad is difficult, but possible (which was not the case in GDR).
    And for sure more...

    1. Hi Uli,
      Thank you for commenting. :-)
      Yep, life in Belarus isn't what it would be in a "modern" GDR, for sure. I was just describing that it gave me a certain feeling. The houses, the streets, and somehow the atmosphere... it all kinda felt like I knew it... weird and nice at the same time. So all those facts that you named are true and a lot more differences can be named.
      Still, I felt like I had traveled back and forward in time all in one go. ^^
      Have you been in Belarus?

      As for traveling... the Belarusian people may leave, but the exchange rate will make travel very expensive. In our case, it made everything very cheap. We bought shoes for example, which were cheap to us, but weren't cheap for Belarusians. So how would they afford a vacation in France or somewhere more expensive? Exchange rates can make travel very difficult. :-/