Part of the appeal of Minsk is that although it may be intended to impress, it’s not intended to impress mere tourists. Unless you’re Russian (or perhaps from one of a small number of other nations), Belarus does not at first appear particularly welcoming: you need a visa, for which you must not only answer a lot of questions but also provide either an invitation from some institution or a set of hotel reservations. This was fine with me: I guessed that all this would deter the casual visitor, and nothing later contradicted this. Anyway, officialdom was polite and even helpful to me.
Once you’re at Minsk, things warm up. Belintourist is just behind Hotel Yubileiny (where I stayed) and very close to the Minsk Hero City monument. I didn’t go to Belintourist till late, when I bought my train ticket (to Vilnius) there. Very helpful ladies in Belintourist, and the background frieze in their office, representing every city (or oblast?) in the old BSSR, is stunning. I’m kicking myself for not having photographed that.
Hotel Yubileiny was fine, and I’d happily stay there again. It didn’t have a computer I could rent by the minute, but that was no problem because Hotel Planeta did, and this is just a short walk away . . . and handsome.
That was Hotel Yubileiny. Now for Planeta:
Hotel Planeta’s business centre was a pleasure to use. But let’s leave hotels and look around.
Minsk was a Hero City of the Soviet Union and here is the monument to this.
This wasn’t the first grand monument I saw; the first was the Mount of Glory, seen from the window of the taxi from the airport.
Here we start to see what we very rarely see in, say, what was previously the LitSSR: hammers and sickles. First a building (very close to Belintourist), and then a detail of it:
But capitalism does encroach: