viernes, 26 de agosto de 2016

Minsk (I): a not so pleasant bus trip

I’ve liked Eastern Europe for quite a while now and, as I’m living in Warsaw, I’m trying to explore it a bit further by going to some not so typical destinations. One of the places in my bucket list was Minsk, and that’s where I went the 19th of August.

Getting the visa done was relatively straightforward, although it’s a totally overpriced one (I’m including this information for whoever is interested). First of all, a local friend sent me an invitation to go (20 or 25 euro, depending on how fast you want it to arrive). After that, I had to go to the Belarusian embassy in Warsaw with three or four documents, all of them quite easy to get. Finally, I went to the embassy again one week later to get my visa (which is 60 more euro, so the total price is 80 or 85).

The bus even had these internet/movie/music screen thingies
I must admit that, although I had a good time in Minsk, the bus trip was definitely one of the highlights. First of all, the price: buying the ticket in Belarusian rubles was almost half price as doing it in euro or in zloty (big thanks to my Belarusian friends for pointing that out). Anyway, I took the bus at 10am in Warsaw and I was relatively surprised to see there was free Wi-Fi, a plug per seat to charge whatever devide you were carrying and a free tea and coffee machine. I was thinking wow, quite nice, is there anything this bus doesn’t have? Oh wait, no seatbelts. Yep, it makes sense, who needs a seatbelt when you have free internet. I’m going to leave it here because otherwise I’ll get so sarcastic I’ll have a sour taste in my mouth.

I was having a pleasant trip, sitting in the back of the bus, not bothered by anyone, when suddenly the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t pay too much attention at first, but after a few minutes it was obvious something was wrong. Two hours later the driver fixed whatever it was that wasn’t working and continued its way until the border, where another little surprise was waiting for us, or rather for me. Apparently the guy in my passport photo is someone else with a slightly thicker beard and slightly shorter hair, so the guy who worked there politely (fortunately no sarcasm here) asked me a few questions about my name, the duration of my stay, who I was going to stay with and so on.

Green green Belarus from the bus

Two hours or so after getting to the border, they let us go and I finally entered Belarus. We changed bus right after that, as ours was still not working that well. The new one had seatbelts, how luxurious. The rest of the trip went on placidly; two weird-looking guys with a bottle of something that didn’t look exactly like milk sat next to me but they were totally ok. I finally arrived at Minsk at 1am, more than four hours later than expected, but luckily my friend lives close enough to the station so she was there waiting for me. We fell asleep immediately after arriving at her flat: a weekend of very long walks in green Minsk was waiting.