- Language barrier. In my defence, I was too busy to learn some basic Russian before hand. So after many "denial and error", I only figured out at the end of Day 2 that places with big signs of "PECTOPAH" are restaurants. You see, in Russian alphabets, "P" pronounces as "R", "C" as "S", etc. Thank God for sign language.
- Minsk is also the most un-touristy city I've been to so far. There's very little information in English and I was under the impression that residents were just not used to seeing adventure-type tourists, although I understand there's plenty "other" type tourists. When they see a foreigner wandering their shops and streets, the first guess is likely that he/she is there to study.
- I managed to meet up with a Canadian guy who studied Russian there (Thank you, Jon!) and got some downloads from him that Lonely Planet would never tell. Several thing in particular are that Belarus is a relatively closed country with resticted immigration policy, service in general is horrible (that would explain why sales staff would ignore me most of the time), and apparently a lot of Belarusians are openly racists towards Asians and Africans. Hum.
- Almost all of Minks was rebuilt after destroyed badly during WWII and the USSR regime managed to put in all sorts of KGB-looking concrete buildings, so yeah, the city didn't give off a very romantic feel. Luckily my hotel room has a veiw of the riverside park.
- The national unofficial outfits for Belarussian women are skirts and boots, and the younger they get, the higher the boots go, the taller the heels go, and the shorter the skirts go. Needless to say they have wide variety of good quality (and relatively cheap) leather boots. I only got uhm pairs of shoes - hey, they all fit in my carry-on bag!
All the interesting things aside, there are two things I would definitely go back to Belarus for: leather boots and ballet/concert/opera performances:
- Watched two national ballet and one philharmonic orchestra concerts with row 3 to 5 seats, for a grand total of $18! The cheapest seat only costs $2!! WOW.
All in all, I am not sure if I quite found the pulse of Belarus, but I have a feeling that's probably because it's still sleeping. ...That's my report, from yours truly.