Once again our perceptions of how a country would be and how its people would behave, were totally incorrect once we experienced it for ourselves.
We’re not saying that Belarus doesn’t have some issue´s (many consider their current President a dictator and his government suppressive and the police heavy handed), and whilst there maybe some truth to this, Belarus is nothing like we expected.
Those who knew the name of this little visited country, questioned why we´d even bother visiting when you can get to Russia via a more direct route from Latvia or Estonia. Many guide books and media reports mention not to photograph government sites nor government officials and be especially careful of the police and military. That accommodation would be basic, service mediocre, roads poor and border crossing corrupt.
We obviously visited another Belarus as our experience was quite the opposite. Our very first meeting with a Belarusian was a solder as we rode over the bridge from Poland. He pleasantly gestured us to move on to immigrations and customs after he took a quick glance at our passports and vehicle documents. We weren’t too worried about what we would face with immigrations as the process of having a valid passport and visa is quite straight forward but customs can be a nightmare!
Unlike people, motor vehicles are not issued a passport from the country of origin and instead rely on either a sticker, piece of paper or even the purchase invoice to identify the nationality of the vehicle and the rightful owner. The documents of course are written in the language of the issuing country (in our case Chile , hence the language is Spanish).
Upon successfully existing immigrations, we were directed into lane 4 by one of the solders to finally confront the dreaded customs official. Dressed in an immaculate blue uniform with the shiniest pair of shoes I´d ever seem, the officials hand was raised indicating me to stop. Stepping off the bike she smiled gently but sternly and asked for all our documentation. She was groomed to perfection and with her tightly bound hair and elegant hat, looked more like a Lan Chile flight attendant than a border official. After 10 minutes of paperwork and money exchange we were on our way.
Whilst the country may not have the landscape of Switzerland or Norway, it is quite picturesque.
But what impressed us most about Belarus was the people. They are extremely respectful and at the same time friendly, curious but not overwhelming, proud but not arrogant, orderly but not obsessive and humble but not timid.
Our accommodation was second to none, especially in Minsk where we stayed in a beautiful guest house (Guest House DOM 15) and taken care of by Alex and his staff, and there is more free WIFI services available than you would find in Australia.
Дзякуй Беларусь – Thank you Belarus