Country #53 - Belarus

The Airport

This morning I woke up at 6:00am, headed to the business center at Vilnius Grand Hotel to print out my upcoming plane tickets, and then took a (super expensive) taxi to the Vilnius, Lithuania airport. The Uber to the hotel was only fourteen euro but there were none available on the way back so I had to pay more than twice as much (thirty euro) for a taxi. I arrived at the airport only to stand in a five-person line for over twenty minutes. I don’t know what the deal was but the first person in line was having all sorts of trouble taking up nineteen of those minutes. After checking in I headed to my gate. Unfortunately, I had to go through passport control. This isn’t a huge deal I am just sad to leave the Schengen Zone.

The strangest thing happened on the plane. I had a business class seat? I still have no idea how. I checked-in online ahead of time and picked my seat on the third row, nothing special. When I got on the plane, though, it was in business. My guess is that since it is only a thirty-minute flight that they treat every seat on the plane all as all the same. Good incentive to always remember to check-in online when it’s an option!

After the incredibly short flight, I landed in Minsk, Belarus. If you’re wondering why I flew instead of, say, taking a train or bus, it’s because U.S. citizens (and many others) can only enter Minsk visa-free if flying to and from Minsk Airport. The immigration lady did not speak English so she had to use the floating translator (lady walking around helping English speakers) to clarify that I wasn’t just transiting because I had to check my bag through (I don’t normally check my bag but I had to when flying Belavia but it was free so I had no problems with it). I also wanted my passport stamp but I was going to stick with the legitimate reason.

After getting my bag I walked around the airport for a short bit, took a few pictures, found witnesses to sign (this was a little difficult but I found two English speakers from Vilnius on my flight), and made a new friend. Olga was a very kind woman who asked if I needed help when I was walking around aimlessly looking for my check-in counter. The departures sign was very confusing, but she had figured it out and helped me as well. Olga was born in Russia but has lived in the UK for the last over twenty years. So her accent was super interesting but you could definitely hear both! We realized that, contrary to what the departures sign led you to believe, check-in gates would only open two hours in advance. This left us with over thirty minutes of waiting. I was flying to Kiev, Ukraine, and she was flying to Moscow, but our flights left within ten minutes of each other. We spent that thirty minutes talking and I really enjoyed getting to know her!

After saying goodbye and checking in I went through security where I then had Burger King for lunch. Lame, I know, but it was legitimately the only restaurant in my terminal. The exciting part was being able to try the unique foods that ours at home don’t serve. In particular, I had the cheese medallions that were basically fried cheese and I also tried the cheese sauce and the garlic sauce for my boring fries and chicken fingers.

I then headed to my boarding gate to sit for an hour before heading to Kiev, Ukraine. It was a very short visit to Minsk, Belarus. I definitely thought of the Friends reference while I was here if you were curious on why you might have heard of Minsk on a tv show (when Phoebe’s scientist boyfriend David moves to Minsk FYI). I wish that I would have had more time to spend in Minsk, but it was so incredibly cold that right now that it would have been too freezing to see anything anyways. I was treated kindly by everyone I met, though, and definitely had a good few hours in Minsk!

53 countries down, 143 to go.