Places Not To Visit… Take One
Perhaps it was the grey, depressing weather. Perhaps it was the joyless Stalinist architecture. Whatever the reason, I did not have a good time in Minsk, Belarus. I’m sure it’s partially my fault. Winter probably isn’t the best time to visit. My hotel was supposed to be one of the nicer ones in the city, but in reality it was a number of smaller buildings slapped together. As I took an elevator to get to another elevator that finally delivered me to my room, I thought I might need a sherpa to find my way back to the front desk in the morning. The hotel was also attached to a seedy little casino filled with seedy looking guys with closely shaven heads. They all looked like they’ve just been in a fight, or were looking to start one soon. For a few minutes I thought I was over-reacting, and I was just off my game from jet-lag and cultural differences. But then I found the set of two condoms still in their wrapper, sitting on top of my towels in the bathroom. Yes, that’s two unused condoms… from a pack of three. I felt like I needed a shower after my shower. I could go on and on (the artwork on the hotel walls could be a whole separate blog.) But the other memorable thing that happened to me in Minsk is that I ate the worst meal I’ve had on all my travels… and that includes some things I that I’m still not sure what they were. At a little restaurant that we were told had “the best borscht in Minsk”, I ordered a nice piece of fried fish. The waitress left, came back, and told me that they were out of the fried fish, but that she’d bring some some other fish that I would really like.
What later arrived at the table was a strange gelatinous tube of what looked to be finely chopped fish bits and other colorful flecks. I had to grab the menu to see what the hell had just been dropped in front of me. Right there on the menu (in English, for the occasional borscht-loving foreign businessperson) it said “Cold Carp Loaf”. Yes, someone had dropped a carp in a blender, jellified it, and then smooshed it into a delightfully unappetizing sliceable brick of wiggling goo. And don’t forget- served cold… just because.
With our Belarusian guide and host watching, I was hoping that my later description was going to be “flavorless!” Alas, it had a flavor… and it was not a good one. It tasted like it looked. And no, I didn’t take a picture of it. It will just have to live on in my thoughts of “places I never need to visit again.”