Early start again, taking the train to Terespol at the Polish-Belarusian border. The plan was to cross the border on bike, which I wasn’t sure would work. I had previously read that crossing the border to Belarus on bike or foot is only possible at one specific crossing further north.
Well, the passport checks upon leaving Poland/the EU took more time than those when entering Belarus. Plus, the Belarusian border guard switched to English when my rusty Russian didn’t suffice.
So, Brest (the one in Belarus) – two hours ahead of Central European Time. It isn’t the ramshackle place one would expect when reading about other traveler’s experiences in Belarus. In fact, it looks and feels quite nice. People are friendly and helpful, and I even survived my first encounter with the police.
I spent most of the afternoon cycling around Brest Fortress, a 19th-century fortification. I had found references to it on a web page that answers the question Где лазить? – Where to climb (boulder)? in Brest, where someone posted pictures of people bouldering the ruins. But I guess I looked in the wrong place. Anyway, the fortress is impressive and it is now also home to one of the biggest war (WWII) memorials built by the Soviet Union.
At the end of the day I was pulled over by a traffic cop right in front of my hotel. At first I thought it was for cycling on the sidewalk for a few meters and expected a fine or bribe. But after lengthy passport and visa checks I was told … wait for it … that he pulled me over for cycling on the road, and I am supposed to cycle on the sidewalk if there is one. Now, this is weird enough, and it is also inconvenient. Most curb edges in most(?) ex Soviet countries are impossibly high even for walking, not to mention cycling.
Belarus is cheap. Inflation has strained the country for a while already, and I can now have dinner in a posh place with no other guests for 3 Euros. Weird and sad.
It is cold, puddles are frozen, but there is no snow.
A Lenin bust is greeting everyone in the hotel’s foyer. I wonder whether I’ll find Stalin somewhere…