Welcome to The Last Dictatorship in Europe, comrade – Belarus

Posted by on 11, Aug 2012 in 2012 - The Last Dictator Tour (Belarus & Russia), Belarus

Welcome to The Last Dictatorship in Europe, comrade – Belarus

There is a little known cure for the frustration caused by BT and that is to cross the Poland Belarus border. If you’re frustrated at hanging on for 40 minutes to an Indian call centre, 9 and a half hours crossing a border and it will make it feel like an instant response!

The bureaucracy here is astounding and a real throw back to communist days. Guards let you inch from one queue to another in your vehicle and eventually you arrive at the Belarus customs. They need half a Dozen different bits of paper stamped, you need to pay for this and that and after it’s all completed they say nope, you can’t come in your van is too big! Honest! They don’t start with this 9 hours back, they wait till you’ve paid stamped and visited every window in every booth at least twice and just when you’re about to climb back into the cab they say, hang on that’s a big vehicle isn’t it! You’d have thought they may have noticed this when they had to move the barriers to let us into the bagage hall via a different route because we were too wide to fit between the checkpoints, too long to turn in the lanes and too tall to get under the roof, but hey, its an easy mistake, especially when anything heavy is classed as 5 tonnes or above…

Hah! I know the answer to this one though! When we entered Ukraine a few years back they did exactly the same thing, but after a protest, they called Kiev and we were allowed to proceed on our way. So smiling I say it’s just a campervan really and not a heavy goods vehicle and the lady (who’s English was excellent) immediately smiles back and stamps our papers as being a 5 tonne vehicle with a 3.5 tonne payload on top! We’re in!

It was by now dark, the sun having queued for 12 hours before being allowed to set, and we had to find our hotel parking booked for us by Perestroika tours in Brest. After a few mishaps, a near wrong way up a one way street and a helpful passersby we arrived at the car park to be greeted by “no you can’t park here”. It was by now midnight and the guard phoned ‘the management” who said they had no Perestroika booking but eventually let us in and offered us a hook up, water refill and a dump point! This proved to be par for the course with reception the next day saying no you can’t park here (they actually thought we were outside still) because we are too big and when we mentioned the magic word Perestroika about facing and welcoming us like long lost friends. Naturally it turned out that Perestroika had booked us in but the triplicate application for a pen to fill in the requisition form to get a another form to record the booking hadn’t been approved yet… And you think I jest!

Still, we actually really liked Brest. It’s got a nice pedestrianised street with Victorian style street lights and plenty of flowers, cafes and bars. It was, at the weekend, full of people promenading and enjoying the sunshine and you could have almost been in Germany. Brest was made a hero city in Soviet days for its resistance at the outbreak of world war 2 and its old fortress, that sprawls over a huge area, saw both Napoleon and Hitler take it and is dominated by a huge, powerful and moving memorial to the soldiers who died protecting it. It’s a true Soviet monument – determined muscular men dying in women’s arms and on the battle field and is still immaculately tended today.

Time to move on so we visited reception to pay – bearing in mind that they had spent a not inconsiderable amount of time playing the hokey cokey with regard to our being able to stay or not, the bill comes to £3 a night. Bargain.

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