Saturday, July 09, 2011

Borscht and other Belarus delicacies

The Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita) was also a butterfly expert. I thought of him when I saw this beautiful specimen along the road between Luninets and Brest, Belarus.

Cold borscht soup is a summer favorite.  It has beets as a base with a mix of greens, a bit of cheese, a bit of pork and some spices. Another local restaurant served Fantasia, a kind of potato casserole topped with a tender slice of roast pork, tomato sauce and cheese. Great, for about $3.

You can have a nice dinner here for about $4. A pint of good local beer is about 75 cents. Ten hours of high-speed internet access costs about $1.75. A three-room hotel suite goes for $84 a night.

The Belarus ruble has been falling against the dollar and the euro, which causes problems for businesses. Newsprint and printing services, for example, are priced in dollars but paid in rubles. So although the nominal price in dollars is the same, the newspaper has to come up with more rubles to pay suppliers.

Inside the local Orthodox Church, where I was told after snapping this that pictures were not permitted.  Older women with headscarves are referred to generally as "babushkas," which means grandmothers. As a kid I remember hearing the head scarf itself referred to as a babushka. 

Houses here all have fences around them. When I showed a picture of my old street in Lakewood to a Belarusian guy, he asked, Where are the fences?

Sunflowers are a favorite for the yard. In neighboring Ukraine, they are a huge agricultural crop. 
The countryside of Belarus is as flat as the Great Plains. It reminded me of Manitoba, with its forests interspersed with fields of wheat, corn and flax. Lovely.

Never lost, never out of control

I spent a total of seven hours on the road yesterday with Feodor, a charter member of the World Association of Over-Confident Cabdrivers (rearrange the initials to spell Wacco). Like all members of this club that I have met, he tailgates at 70 mph, passes on the unpaved shoulder, demonstrates his maneuvering skill by swerving in front of gasoline trucks and passes on curves in dense fog.

The Wacco card says on the front, "The bearer is one of the best drivers in the world"; on the back it says, "No, really I am the best" in 12 languages. Feodor assured me that his 15 years’ of driving experience guaranteed my safety, and to prove it, he showed me that he never wears a seatbelt.

Feodor inspects the insects that have plastered themselves on his grille. He does not smoke in his car and would not let us bring any food inside.
Feodor´s global positioning system led us down a dirt road to this path in Luninets. It was trying to lead us to the bridge overhead.
He had to ask directions from a woman on a bicycle. Such humiliation for a Wacco member!

A stroll in Brest

Women bow before entering the church precinct. 
An orthodox church in Brest.

A woman begs outside the church.

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