Minsk Belarus – Back to the USSR


Minsk is the cosmopolitan capital of Belarus. It was the most beautiful town of the former East Block. Belarus have been independent from Russia since 1991 but the naval cord with mother Russia is still not completely cut. It is a love/hate relationship. There have been some disharmony with trade sanction on energy and milk. 2 million people live in Minsk.

It is all in the eye of the beholder. I wanted to go to Belarus for ages, and now it is so easy with the new Visa regime that gives most travelers 5 days at arrival in Minsk International. You have to buy health insurance too, but it is very inexpensive. Check it out.


Minsk is a dream city for me. It still looks and feels like it is a  part of the former Soviet union.

Big part of the reason is that Minsk was one of the most bombed cities during WWII and an estimate says that more than 80-90% of the city where  transformed into rubble. Painful rebuilding of this completely destroyed city gave room for the most beautiful Stalinist architecture anywhere. It’s been engineered and carefully planned to impress with grand avenues and big squares and really imposing buildings. Very little of pre WWII buildings exist giving Soviet planner free hands to build this communist utopia. It is demonstration of real power.  No stone is unturned.

A wonderful thing for me as a Soviet nostalgic is the lack of willingness to hide the past. In Ukraine they now have legislation to declutter all the former symbols of power to do with USSR, and all over the former East block these are disappearing fast.  In Belarus Lenin’s and Soviet symbols are still very relevant and show the good relationship with the Putin, even though invasion of Crimea must have put a scare into the heart of Belarusians


Minsk is a street sweepers dream come trough. They roam the streets in packs looking for garbage they can remove. There are so many. And Minsk is the cleanest town I ever been in. You have to look long and hard to find something that in some way is not picture postcard perfect, like these boys outside a metro. Did not see any graffiti anywhere. Everything is clean, neat and tidy.

Felix Dzerzhinsky – IRON FELIX


Iron Felix was the inventor of the KGB. I am sure he is not around many places in the former USSR. In Minsk he is still placed in a nice park.

Minsk Tractor Works


This is a very interesting factory. More than 20000 worked there in the heydays. There is both a tractor stadium and a swimming stadion. Remember Soviet used to be  mostly agricultural.  And tractor where the symbol på the modern society.

Uncle P called this woman worker Tractorina. And that fit perfectly. In Soviet people called their baby girls for Tractorina to commemorate the big rural revolution.

And the tractor are not bad looking. This with track-laying.

It looks a little like a tank. I want to share this wonderful poster reprinted in 1976. This is a mean tractor not to missed with. And shows how important Tractors are (even in war) and commemorates  the historic developement from horse to machine.


In the former USSR there where following Metro System available.


As seen Minsk Metro transport 290 mio people making the 4th most important in that respect. and there is a lot of hidden gems to explore.

This is a picture af a proletarian from the proletarian metro Station.


The unemployment rate in Minsk is below 0,3 % official.  The government discourages official unemployment registration with tiny unemployment benefits ($7 per month) and obligatory public works.

For the outsider it looks like people are quite satisfied, but as this is a dictatorship the dissatisfaction of the people run deep. There is absolutely no Freedom of speech.

The freedom to practice religion make people queue in line for service in front of churches. This newborn christianity revived after being suppressed during the soviet years.

As usual the old people are the ones who have the most difficulty in making ends meet. This old babushka is sitting under a bridge trying to make a few cents.

Minsk was a pleasant surprise for me. My expectations where high, but this place is in many ways like visiting a living museum for time past. Reforms are disparately needed. It seems to me that people are doing fine in general. It seems like the state provides, not in abundance but just enough. Only speaking for myself as a tourist, I love the place. There are little signs that things are changing, but maybe this soviet utopia could disappear. I can only recommend to go there soon.

The Rock-Hewn Churches Of Tigray – Ethiopia


The Rock-Hewn Churches Of Tigray are less known than the ones in Lalibella. But for me much more interesting. Most of the 120 churches in the area is on road less travelled. You need a guide and a 4 wheel drive to see some of them. And please have decent hiking boots and not sandals like I did…Most of these Churches are hidden  away on mountaintops or difficult to get places, to be safe from robbers and invaders. Most of them are Semi-Monolithic (only partly separated from the host rock) or even built into pre-existing caves, and hence at first sight less “impressive” Please be patient. It can take a while before somebody finds the priest with the key.  And be ready to do some legwork. It will be rewarding…

On route there was a procession. I think maybe someone from the nearest village died.

One other positive thing is that going to the churches, you will pass trough some amazing countryside where life is going on like forever.

GONDAR – Castles and Dance – Amhara Region/North Ethiopia


Gondar is an old lively city in the Amhara region. Elevation 2200 meters, more than 200 000 inhabitants. Gondar used to be called “The Camelot of Africa”. But this place is very real and not fiction like Camelot. This was the last stronghold af the invading Italian army before they where kicked out.


Fasilides Castle was built by Emperor Fasilides (Raign1632-67). And since then has been a home for seceding Ethiopian emperors. Before then the emperors of Ethiopia didn’t have a fixed base but was wandering. It is the remains of the fortress city within Gondar called Fasil Ghebbi (Royal Enclosure). Its been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1979 and probably one of the two reasons to go to Gondar. Second reason is to book a tour to go to Semian Mountains.

Ethiopia Dance and music

Traditionally the music is played on a kind of little guitar with only one string called the masenqo.  Every dancer have their own way of moving to the music. I read that there where more than 80 different ethnic group with their own Traditional dance and moves. Uploaded 2 videos to show traditional Ethiopia dance. I would like to merge these video, but the YouTube merging bottom  is not to be found. It is kind of a wild dance. I was told that after the dance, you are supposed to stick notes on the sweaty forehead of the masenqo player.

As always I am sorry for the quality and not understanding basic IPhone. I need to turn the thingy 45 degrees. Anyways I think you can get a basic idea about Ethiopian Dance. And maybe you can steal  a move or two.

Debre Berhan Selassie Church is worth seeing.  There’s space for 135 cherubs, though 13 have been erased by water damage.

There is a lovely story about  marauding Sudanese dervishes showed up outside the church gates in the 1880s, when a giant swarm of bees surged out of the compound, chasing the invaders away. (Lonely Planet)