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Day 13 - Minsk, Belaris

We caught the bus just outside of Warsaw. Ziggy and I sat down in the back and just as we settled in for the long ride to Minsk, Belaris, a lady, whom we nicknamed Big Bertha later on and found out that was actually her real name pushed and shoved her way down the isle. She was extremely unlady like in her mannerisms. Not only the way she made her way to the back of the bus, but her shouting back at people who were in her way. They were all screaming at her but it didn't phase her in the least. She just scoffed at the folks back like they were a nuisance. She was, to put it more descriptively, like a steam roller rolling over marshmellows.

I warned Ziggy, "She's coming our way Ziggy! Look out!!" But Ziggy had fallen asleep.

Before I could say or do anything, she shoved me aside and went to sit right on Ziggy. She was so big, I didn't think Ziggy would ever had a chance. But down she went. Down she went with such a flop, the whole bus rocked as though it just hit a bump in the road.

But up she went up like a rocket screeching a scream that probably could be heard for miles in any direction. When she went to sit down on Ziggy, she sat on her birthday hat and it poked her in the you know what. She jumped up, turned around and saw Ziggy with her pointy birthday hat. Rubbing her rear, she said something in German we couldn't understand. Ziggy sat up and said in cat talk, "This seat is taken. Now, go find someone else to sit on or I'll poke ya all the way to Minsk!"

She smiled and said no one ever spoke to her like that before and apologized to Ziggy and everyone else on the bus. Everyone applauded Ziggy. The ride to Minsk was fun and all the people on the bus made Ziggy Honorary Mayor of the bus.

Ziggy and Bertha became fast friends. They played cards, sang songs and Ziggy even slept part of the way on her lap. When we got off the bus, Ziggy had me take a picture with her. It was truly an experience we won't forget anytime soon. She made Ziggy promise to write her when we got back.

Our Hotel accomodations were nothing to sneeze at where ever we went. We were used to some pretty nice hotels. But according to our itinerary, I think somebody made a mistake in our accomodations. While Ziggy took a bath, I read up on Minsk, Belarus.

First mentioned in the Medieval Chronicles under the year of 1067, Minsk, the capital of Belarus, has a population of 1.7 million. The city is situated in a picturesque place on the banks of the river Svisloch which in old days used to be one of the busiest trade routes connecting the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. Minsk of today is the city of wide streets, modern and old architectural ensembles, fountains, shady parks and green boulevards well deserving the opinion of being one of the best cities of the former Soviet Union.

Minsk is the city where one can find the best of the Belarusian cultural heritage – museums, exhibitions, theaters, world famous Belarusian ballet, folk dance and choir performances, etc.

We were more interested in getting something to eat so we headed out the door to The Rakovsky Brovar Restaurant.

The Rakovsky Brovar restaurant was opened in 1997 in the historical part of the city - Rakovsky suburb. The restaurant is located in the building known as The House of Celebrations. The restaurant consist of two levels. The first level has three rooms that have their own names - Beer Room, Hunter's Room, and Sports Room.

The second level consist of two other rooms - Viennese and Belarusian, and a small bar where you can try three sorts of beer. Thats where we went. We ate Machanka and drank beer. Machanka is a very traditional Belarusian dish of meat stewed in broth. It's traditionally eaten with pancakes. I found several versions of the dish, but decided on this one (Machanka in the Minsk's style) because I liked that it incorporated sour cream to the stew. The picture may not do it justice, but it's very good. Here's the recipe.


1 lb stewing pork
2 tbsp. butter
1 cup + 2 tbsp. beef or pork stock
1 onion
1 tbsp. flour
1 cup sour cream
2 bay leaves
salt to taste

Cut pork into bite-size pieces. Melt butter in a saucepan and fry the pork until dark. Add 1 cup of stock, bay leaves and salt, cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until the pork is half done.

Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, saute the flour for a couple of minutes. Add 2 tbsp. of stock and mix well. Strain and return to saucepan. Add sourcream and salt to taste. Mix well and cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes.

Heat oven to 350F.

Put pork in baking dish, cover with sour cream sauce and bake in oven for about 20 minutes or until done. Serve with pancakes.

Buon appetito!

It was cold so we pumped it up a notch. We didn't feel like staying in the hotel where we were booked at, so we decided to get to Moscow. All we could think about was warm weather. It wasn't here and it certainly isn't in Moscow. But, after Moscow, we're headed south where its warm for sure.

It's cold in Moscow. How cold is it? I'll tell you tomorrow. I had to carry Ziggy around in my backpack! Mama mia!

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