Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Big Relaxing Sigh

Eric’s Dad’s Apartment Zurich, Switzerland, 8:57 am

Back in the Western world. As nice as Belarus was, it still feels a bit nice to not see socialist buildings everywhere. The city is clean, efficient, and pretty. It’s been raining since I got here last night, so I guess it will be really pretty when it actually dries off. We’re headed down to a village closer to the Alps today and exploring the city tomorrow.

Monday was quite the busy day in Belarus even though I had to fly out. We had the car until 10 am, so we go up at 7, got our breakfast and headed out to the village of Khatyn. I’m a bit confused because I’ve read about a village called Katyn where the Soviets massacred a bunch of Polish soldiers. Our book made no reference to that but instead said this memorial commemorated all the villages in Belarus that were burned down by the Nazis.

Still it might be the village I had heard of and simply the stories have changed because of the communists in power. Still the memorial was huge and kind of chilling. It had a little square for every village that was burned – what was stunning was how many villages were destroyed.

Got the car back by 11 am, but they didn’t seem to care about it being late. Seeing as we hadn’t discovered much of Minsk yet, we took a walk around the city. We covered the two main streets rather quickly before I had to head out. We also saw the president’s motorcade drive by which was far and away more intimidating than the US president’s. Just the size of it was intimidating.

Highlights of Minsk include a little area that’s been rebuilt to look like a 19th century town. Also Lee Harvey Oswald’s apartment after he defected to the Soviet Union. Minsk also has a number of beautiful parks that spring up all over the place. The river winds its way through town and parks and paths kind of straddle it.

The people here don’t act like they are living under a dictatorship. Everyone is incredibly nice and generally amiable. I guess the president just let’s them do what ever they want as long as they don’t mess with him. Wonder if they will ever come around to the western world. I mean the villages are definitely poorer than in Hungary but I would said the cities are prettier and more modern.

We headed to the bus station to find a bus to the airport. Found out one wouldn't leave on time and had to get a taxi. The taxi we settled on was really terrible. I was worried it wouldn't make it to the airport, but we made it alright. He did take me down some tiny roads - reminiscent of Montegro so i quick took out my cell phone just to make sure he knew i wasn't going anywhere without a fight. Made it on the flights fine and caught up with the news thanks to Austrian Airways policy of giving away English newspapers. Also there was a flight leaving Minsk for Istanbul. I want to know who flies from Belarus to Turkey.

Got into Vienna and immediately felt like Western Europe. Then i got to Zurich and the feeling was even better. Not that i don't love travelling in all those countries east of the iron curtain, but there is something settling about the way of life over here. I got to sleep in the best bed I've felt all year. Now we're going to try and catch a train which you know will leave exactly on time because its Switzerland.

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