Sun, Jun 6 (Day 13): From Moscow to Minsk

Today we follow in the steps of Napoleon’s retreating army in 1812, passing near Borodino and making a stop in the Smolensk region for an included lunch. Then we’re off to the border between Russia and the independent state of Belarus en route to Minsk. Here an orientation shows us the Hero’s Hill Memorial as well as other highlights of this city. Tonight, we enjoy a dinner of traditional cuisine at our hotel. (Buffet breakfast / Lunch / Dinner)
Hotel: Hotel Europe

Today is a long, long bus ride from Moscow, Russia, into Minsk, Belarus. The countryside is remarkable for the beauty of the land and the thickness of the forests. It is hard to imagine that a modern army (Germany) could make it through this area quickly during WWII. During that war, 1/3 of the Belarus population (about 2.5 million) perished, 2/3 of the cities and 85% of its industries were destroyed.
Linda likes taking pictures of the plants and flowers.
Here is a Colorado Blue Spruce, poking up from the brush, but I assume it is called something else here.
We have arrived at our hotel in Minsk, and this is definately the best hotel we've stayed in the entire trip. Very plush, full of amenities and SPACE (which is rare in european hotels).
Our hotel has a display case of fine clothing. Here is a pair of blue suede shoes that Linda insisted would be a glorious addition to my wardrobe (Well, it's a one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, ...). There was no price tag, so, sorry to say, we had to pass on the deal.
They served us a very nice dinner. It seems there is a dedicated waiter for every table, opening our bottled water and pouring out glasses. A little too fancy for me. After dinner, we returned to the bus for a tour of the city.
This is a WWII war memorial, commemorating the Belarus human losses. The local people brought stones and dirt to create this mound.
Our local guide pointed out the different colors used on these homes. She said this was required because they didn't use numbers years ago, and the only way the post office could deliver mail was to have it addressed as, "the third green house on the left, after the yellow one."
This is the building for the state circus, which is currently being remodeled.
This is the building where state politicians meet to discuss laws, etc, similar to our capital building in Washinton, D.C.
This is the National Library of Belarus, obviously in a very modern bulding. There aren't many old buildings in this city, because most of them were leveled during WWII.
This is a quick snapshot of an advertisement for a Hewlett-Packard laptop computer (what I am using to type these words).
This large body of water is at the center of Minsk, and is a gathering place for people in the afternoon and evening.
Here are some locals on a boat. Both row and paddle boats are availble for rent in this area.
These advertisers are giving away small bottles of free Coca Cola.
This is one of several McDonald's in Minsk. It is funny how the travel guides are sure to point this out everywhere we go, as a sign that western captialism is alive and well here.
This monument is positioned in a very prominent place, built to remember the many losses this country experienced in the Afghanistan war with Russia. Belarus troops were sent in support of Russia, which finally withdrew after many years of heavy losses.
This is a closeup of the monument, showing the mothers waiting for their husbands and sons that will never return.
Inside the monument are four chapels. This is one, with flowers below and an engraved scene, pleading that the country no longer experience the losses of war.
This little statue is positioned where couples gather for an afternoon picnic. It is considered good luck, bestowing fertility upon the future mother who rubs what has become a well-worn anatomic appendage.