Belarus #6 – Top 10 things you can only see here

  • 1 – This car

Well I guess it’s not that strange, but still a bit unexpected. I can say without being minskaten mistaken that it is for sure the most famous car of Minsk. Everybody has seen it several times, parked every now and then in different places of the city. If you get closer, you can also notice a small cardboard pending by the window, with a small box attached. Guess what? It’s a donation box, to help for reparation, because even though the car is super cool, it’s also super old. So next time you see it, feel free to support! Old stuffs are the best stuffs!

  • 2 – Squary chips

I have literally never ever seen that in my life. What a waste, 24 years on this planet without knowing about the giant squary chips. Here, they are called « Megachips »; and believe me, they deserve their name.
Also found in Ukraine

  • 3 – Pedestrian ways on the highway

It’s funny because, everywhere in the city center of Minsk, the pedestrian are kindly asked to go underground to cross most of the roads. Which can easily become a nightmare when you’re at a crossroads and have no idea which stairs you should take to go up on the right side of the street, with eight possible exits. But on the « Magistral », local highway with a badass name, there’s no underground, just normal crossing with white lines painted on the floor. Luckily, not so many people are around, but still, be careful when driving!

  • 4 – TV in the bus
You can’t see much on the photo but just try to feel the vibe

You know, when you have to take the bus for a very long time to go to work. It’s monday, it’s early, it’s cold, and you really feel depressed. Happens all the time, right? What if I told you that in almost all of Minsk buses you can find small TV, broadcasting cute cat videos, yummy cooking recipes, beautiful video of different travel destinations… It helps to cheer up. So much more entertaining than showing the actual bus line and next stops coming. Good luck if you’re reading this while on the bus and being lost.

  • 5 – Queuing without line

Genius. There are no other word. Who is the silly person who said you have to be in line to queue? In Belarus, people aren’t waiting in line (well not everywhere at least), and it works. It looks like chaos, of course, especially to a foreigner. A bit like the marchroutka experience. But it works : you just need to find the person who knows which turn it is next (there is always someone who knows). Call dip’s on your turn. And wait anywhere you want.

  • 6 – Two weeks without hot water

Every year, in Belarus, the hot water is being shut down in the summer, neighborhood per neighborhood. We knew about this situation from day one, but still, it stayed a surprise for me when I tried to take a quick hot shower on an early tuesday in may. It was not summer yet, and despite the few degrees we gain recently, it was still a little challenge to get used to this new situation – and of course, I ended up being late to my appointment. Now, everything is okay, we got the technique in our flat : the bucket, the kettle, the super-super-quick « shower » as it gets cold very quickly. And, you know, actually, a shower once every two days became alright.

  • 7 – Chocolate boxes as decoration

You know when you receive chocolate and you feel bad throwing away the boxes after eating what’s inside, because the packaging look so pretty? No, never experienced that feeling? Well I do. And, apparently, other Belarusians also do, and they found the solution : recycling chocolate boxes as decorations ! I found out about this practice while taking the stares in my building, and I thought it was so smart I would do the same in my office.

  • 8 – The concept of Academic hour

Before arriving in Belarus, I didn’t know much about the world : I thought there was only one kind of hour, the one that last for sixty minutes. Well guess what? Everything you believed in, especially the time, is actually wrong. Here, they have Academic hours, and they last 45 minutes. For example, a class at the university last one academic hour. There is also limited time for sport. In France, when you go to the swimming pool, you may pay for an entrance and stay there as long as you want. Same with ice-skating resorts. It’s really nice, but it also means it can be very crowded every now and then. In Minsk, I discovered there are different shifts for doing sport : when you buy a ticket, you may enter the pool at 2pm, and you have to be out of the water by 2:45 (another Academic hour!), which leaves you 15 minutes more or less to get changed and leave the place. If you miss the shift, well too bad, wait for the next one – an hour later.

  • 9 – Alcohol-free zone

Yes, it’s a thing.
Found in Centralny

  • 9 bis : a hot milkshake machine

Yes, it’s also a thing.
Found in the Second World War Museum

  • 10 – The European Games

If you live in Minsk, or in Belarus, it is absolutely impossible to not know about the European Games happening right now in the city. If you live abroad, well, you probably have no idea. The European Games are kind of a regional Olympic competition. Right now it’s the second edition, and it will happen every four years, with some disciplines that may qualify for the 2020’s Olympic Games. It’s a big event with delegations from 50 different countries, more than 4000 athletes and 8000 volunteers (including me). Which for Belarus is incredible. I remember with nostalgia the time when people used to stop me on the street because I would speak a foreign language. Now Minsk is « crowded » with international tourists. Ok, not really crowded but still a lot of people compared to the good old days when Belarus was still a secret treasure. Oh well, Minsk is the place to be, I told you so, and very soon everybody will know about it !

  • Bonus – Alexander Xleb

I guess you can’t meet him everywhere, but we were lucky enough to find him in Borisov, during the match Borisov against Slutske. Where our football player friend Moukam invited us. Yes, in Belarus you can be friend with professional football player. I mean pretty much everything is possible in Belarus actually. Except crossing the street when it’s a red light. That’s a no.

And you, what did you discover in Belarus ? 🙂

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  1. Recycling chocolate boxes as decorations – that’s I have never seen also! But I saw a lot of constructions of plastic bottles (mostly it’s « plastic palms ») that you can find in some yards, especially in the countryside. It could be number 11

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