Wednesday, 15 October 2008

A v Belarus 15.10.2008

Words by Mark Raven
Pictures mainly by Liz O'Brien but a few by Mark Raven!

A v Belarus 15.10.2008

Now the ground in Minsk had a fair old set of floodlights - I don't think I have been to a ground like it. Anyway, lots more to report on other than just the ground and the floodlights, but the floodlights were pretty spectacular!!

So on to our trip to Minsk.

We stayed near Heathrow on the Saturday night. We had come back on the last train from Leeds after watching the England game (and Brighton losing 3-1 to Leeds before that).

Our flight was 9.30am with about an hours connection before our onward flight to Minsk. Problem number one was fog, you could hardly see a few feet so we new there would be problems. We found our check in desk and were pointed to a long queue to rebook our flights as ours was delayed by at least 2 hours so our connection would have been missed. We queued for nearly 4 hours before being put on a later BA flight before the evening Austrian airlines flight from Vienna to Minsk. We had a free breakfast due to the delay then headed over to Terminal 5 for our BA flight. It all looked OK then problem number 2, those horrible words "Delayed" came up against our BA flight, luckily just 30 mins! So we manged leg one and landed in Vienna. We got through to the gate for the flight to Minsk and problem number 3, the flight was full and we had been put on standby! That's not what they told us at Heathrow! We had to wait until all passengers had boarded and then there was 4 of us on standby, they offered a couple of Germans who lived in Minsk the seats but when they heard of our problems and the fact we had already rearranged our taxi pick up from Minsk airport, they let us go in front of them as luckily some passengers not shown up. Just before we taxied out one of them appeared as they found another seat, so just 1 person was left in Vienna, but with 200 Euros and a hotel for the night!

We landed just before midnight, cleared passport control in about 20 mins and our taxi was waiting for us. By 1am we had arrived at the hotel Yubiliyana and had checked in, so time for some sleep.

Up about 9am and time for breakfast, a help yourself buffet breakfast, pretty decent and set us up for the day. We had a guide book to Belarus but we needed a better map so headed to the Tourist Information next door to our hotel. They only had a map in Belarusian but that was better than nothing and could be matched up to the map in the book! We headed to the xxxxxxxxxx monument

The Island of tears

This is a tribute to the many thousands of Russian soldiers killed in the Afghanistan war, for years the conflict and the deaths was not allowed to be talked about by the State.

Victory Square

Coffee time - we found a small cafe on the corner of Victory square and had a couple of coffees. it was a strange place with the seats up a winding stair case and tables in almost darkness in a circular room, weird but the coffee was good.

Yanka Kapula Park (including military monument)& River Walk

Gorky Park was next. This was definitely a different place to the Gorky park we had visited in Moscow, but just to be safe Liz checks the park map!! And rechecks the map, and now we have absolutely no idea what is where, what we want to find and after several minutes even who we are. So to be safe we decided we better find an even bigger land mark so look for the ground! We find a big chap and seek directions from him but he isnt very talkative!

So we carried on walking using the map in Russian, the guide book with very little detail, but somehow Liz managed to point us in the right direction. So we soon came across the ground. I think I may have already mentioned the floodlights (checking back I have indeed) but they are rather spectacular. Anyway the ground was open so we ventured in to have a look around.

We opted for an Italian for lunch, it was pretty average so wanted to make sure we tasted some local dishes next. We headed to the Traiyetskoye suburb for evening and our first proper local meal - mmmm no definitely Yuk! It was deep fried potato pancakes and deep fried sausage meet with cabbage, the only problem was that if you pressed the food the grease oozed out, and rivers of the stuff. Luckily the dark beaver beer was excellent, and a light beaver that followed was even better. At 35p a pint it was great value! We ate what we could and then drank up and headed back to the Hotel. At 1am we were woken by the staff asking if a comatosed England fan asleep in the corridor "belonged" to us. We told them no and back to sleep we went.

Cathedral of the holy Spirit

Oktyabrskaya Square

The Belarussian State Museum of The Great Patriotic War

The museum was fantastic - sadly nothing in English but if was still a very poignant place. We moved on and headed for a Coffee (and a well deserved cake!)

Next to the museum was Central Park (incl fountain of boy and swan - oldest fountain in Minsk)

A tank outside yet another military building

Just along from our hotel was a restaurant called Traktir Na Parkovoi, so it was time for another traditional meal. This time we hit the jackpot. The beer was Baltic 7 that we had been drinking in Russia, but it was so much cheaper in Belarus. The food was excellent, the menu interesting in the translated version, I think I had GranMas meal that was cooked in an oven, anyway whatever it was, it was good!

Zaslavskaya Jewish memorial - the spot where 5,000 jews were killed in just one day

Ghetto memorial - over 100,000 people died in the Minsk Ghetto! Shocking stuff

Independence Square (lenin statue)

In Independence square (formerly known as Lenin square) we also found the Church of Saint Simon and Saint Helena - known as the red church. It was a very impressive place. Underneath the square is an underground shopping centre, totally unexpected, but it had taken 3 years to build and had just been completed. The square had been pretty much a building site for the last few months, so we were lucky to see it just back to its best!

Pictures of metro murals

We wandered back to the centre of Minsk going past the picturesque City hall. We headed back to the Traiyetskoye suburb for a few beers. As we where leaving at 3am after the game we popped back to the hotel to pack. We then headed back out and met up with our mates Ashford Steve and Dogsy in a small undeground bar. They where heading back by train to Warsaw on the Thursday! So we had a beer (or two) before decided it was time to head to the ground.

So on to the Match....a 3-1 win in a good game of football!


Another unwelcome knock on the door at 1.30am. This time it looked like Police with the credit cards and ID of the lad who had been crashed out in out corridor the night before. They asked if we knew him, we didnt and they apologised for distrubing is and left! 3.10am and the alarm goes off on my phone. We blunder about and make our way to the lobby to wait for our taxi. 3.30am and we are off to the airport. Just after 4am and we had checked in through to London. We bumped into Middlesborough Mick waiting for the same flight back. Everything ran smoothly and our 35 minute connection time in Vienna proved no problem so Austrian Airline redeemed themselved slightly by getting us to heathrow at 8.40am as scheduled!

Back into work at midday so another half days holiday saved.

Now on to booking Kazakhstan and also looking into Kiev!!

Just a few more pictures!

Walking to the Island of Tears

On our way from Island of Tears to to Victory Square

Below are some more pictures from the ground

Around our hotel and the area close by

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