“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Belarusian Weekend 2 – Berezinski Biosphere Reserve Posted July 31

For the second weekend, we hired a van to drive us to the nearby
Bjarezinski Biosphere Reserve to stay in a hotel there and enjoy some
civilization (mainly in the form of hot showers). A tiny little
village yielded all our entertainment – it was great to bike around
and see storks in chimneys, cats asleep on benches outside the
beautifully painted houses (which is quite a new phenomenon, but
certainly a lovely one). The small zoo had a beautiful European Bison,
a very sad looking bear, some wolves, deer and other small animals in
the expectedly small enclosures.

After an afternoon of simple "insideness" and electricity (i.e.
computer usage for me), although the hotel did offer to rent us
skipping ropes and hoola hoops, I went to explore the "magazin" shop.
Everything here is still bought across the counter (such a complicated
procedure with no knowledge of Russian!), and I was quite amused to
have my baked sweets priced by weight. I am missing the ability to buy
non coke drinks—everything, even water, is carbonated! We really are
in a relic of the past, but what is quaint is that people have not
demanded the changes you might have expected elsewhere, such as in the
Baltic. The hotels, even the new ones built in the last 15 years, all
look like the spartan boring Soviet Intourist ones, with long hallways
with artificial carpets and serviceable but certainly not fashionable

The museum across the street has to be one of the best museums I've
ever seen—for taxidermy. It was extensive, but I do find it incredibly
ironic that in a biosphere, the museum with the biological species are
all dead ones! It's certainly not politically correct to have such
places in the west, but here in Eastern Europe it is a perfectly
acceptable form of education. Personally I can't say that I have a big
problem with it because it's certainly quite handy to see examples of
all the wildlife without disturbing their habitat! The outside was
beautifully decorated with the traditional totem-pole like carvings
that are quite common in the villages around here.

I washed my socks tonight. These are two pairs I've been wearing for
most of the past two weeks. The water was black for three washes. I
turned them inside out and scrubbed my hands as if with sock gloves, I
twisted and turned and scrubbed and squeezed, and even after four
thorough washes, they're still black. This was the point where I
decided that I'd had enough washing, and despite still having a faint
whiff of sweat and dirt, they would do for another week, at which
point I will have to ask dear mum to reinstruct me on how to use
bleach. God, I miss a washing machine!

Pics: Bison, Train, Museum statues

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