Day 13 : Monday 12 May 2014

Technically, today is the first day of my holiday. That is to say, today is the first day of my designated ‘Career Break’ from work – the days up to this point were me using my holiday entitlement up. It’s only a small point, but it does mean that from this day on, I’m not getting paid etc, and it’s kind of feeling like this is where the adventure really begins.

Not related to the above, I felt quite ‘low’ this morning; having difficulty working out things to do with friendships back in the Uk, having difficulty figuring out what they want/need from me, given that I’m travelling so far for so long. This trip will have an end and there will be normality at the end of it, but a year is a long time, Is it too long? Am I aiming to do too much? Am I right to do this much? Am I being selfish? Should I have stayed at home another year first to make sure my future’s what it wants to be?

I am very insecure sometimes.

Today was more of the same as yesterday: walking around Minsk with the occasional trip into cafes, except that today it was raining quite a bit – I don’t seem to be able to avoid the stuff. As states previously, some cities look nice in the rain, others don’t. Surprisingly, Minsk falls into the former category. Standing underneath the tarp in tne entranceway to the Hotel Europe, and looking out at the buildings around, they seemed almost to ‘glisten’ with the moisture on the walls. It also enhanced the colours, bringing out the yellows, the creams, the greens, the blues. It definitely didn’t feel like a Communist’s playground.

We popped into a museum (entrance fee only £2, but we decided against doing the hologram exhibition add-on) of Belarusian history and culture. Exhibits included the usual stone-age finds and Roman coins (I didn’t think the Romans came out this far, but there seemed to be an awful lot of them for it to have been just evidence of trade. I wonder what they would have made of the Winter snows here), but also a selection of guns and swords, and some Japanese prints (by a Belarusian who made it out that far), and a series of old photos of Belarus towns. Quite an odd and mixed museum really, small but with a little bit of everything.

We may have found the most expensive beer in Minsk, by the way. We succumbed to the temptations of an ‘Irish bar’ as we passed it in the rain. The place looked quite ornate from the inside (but definitely not Irish-themed), half the beers weren’t on tap, the service was horrendously slow, and the beers cost around £3 each. The whole ‘bar’ seemed much more geared up for food than drink, and they were surprised we only wanted a beer anyway.
This all makes it sound like a bad experience. On the up-side, when it came, the beer was probably worth the wait and the price; a dark beer from Belarus that tasted very smooth with faint hints of liquorice; quite easy-drinking for a dark beer and not at all malty really. I didn’t get the alcohol %, unfortunately, but at those prices we weren’t going to have more than one anyway.

Tonight’s game was again at the Chizhovka Arena, and again involved the Czech Republic, this time against Canada. When I was booking the tickets, I tried to buy for matches between top nations, although at the time of purchasing, some of the matches had already sold out (or at least all the tickets in that wave had been sold) – this is why both games were at the smaller arena.
Canada being even further from Belarus than Sweden meant that again the crowd was incredibly partisan towards the Czechs. Our seats this time were in the corner of the arena, but still front row, and we were in a small gaggle of Canada-flag-waving supporters (although most of them were Belarusian), Genuine Canadians were few and far between, but relatively easy to spot in their NHL jerseys.
There’s a cliché in football – ‘it’s a game of two halves’, Ice Hockey has three periods but the same principle applied to tonight’s game; the Czechs dominated the first period but couldn’t kill the game off; Canada completely walked the second period to lead 4-1, and then a very tense and dramatic last period saw the Czechs pepper the Canada goal but could only score twice more. Throughout, and even in losing, the Czech crowd were in very loud voice, although two losses in two days in games they could (and probably should) have won means they’re not in a great position in the tournament.

So, a good couple of days in Minsk in general, and definitely a city worth visiting if you get the chance.

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