Here at last!

Well, I’m here. Finally arrived in Minsk, Belarus. A place I have never been before. My flight from Vienna to Minsk was the final leg of my journey, which took about twenty hours in total. I don’t remember much of the flight though, as it was the first bit of sleep I have had in the past twenty-four hours and I didn’t last much past the taxi down the runway before I was out, cold.

When we landed in Minsk and I finally came around, the scenery out the window looked similar to that of northern Alberta, or Ontario for that matter. I could have been landing in Fort McMurry all over again from what I could tell.

The sky was a light slate gray color with a few patches of sun streaming through. Our plane parked out on the tarmac, away from the actual airport, which look like a cross between a soviet military relic and some retro space station from an old science fiction movie. There were Antonov cargo planes all over the place and old, military green trucks buzzing about all around them. There were very few other passenger planes anywhere to be seen.

Our plane was greeted by a number of different people, some Austrian Airlines staff, a few airport officials and of course, a couple of stern looking gentlemen in military officers uniforms. Typically, an airport wouldn’t pose the best opportunity for any sort of humorous activities or comments at the best of times, but I very quickly had the impression that in this place, in the presence of these people, there was absolutely no margin for error. Not even a grin.

I boarded a small bus along with the other passengers from the flight and we drove towards the fairly desolate looking building. Once we arrived I made my way inside and right away noticed someone holding a sign. To my surprise, it actually had my name on it. It read “Matt Manor” in big black letters. A comforting feeling of relief washed over me, as I knew I must be close to the end of a trip that seemed like it never would. I wasn’t sure if it had to do with the fact that there, in front of me was a sign with English letters on it, or if it was because there was actually someone there to meet me. Never the less, I was glad to be greeted.

After meeting the smiling face, which was waiting for me, I was even more relieved when I found that Sergij was able to speak with me in perfect English. (Happened to be linguistics major at the university) Unfortunately, my Belarusian isn’t very extensive, yet, but what better place to start working on it? We made our way to the visa office and picked up my papers without out issue, passed through passport control, picked up my bags and made our way right outside to our waiting car. I was beginning to catch my second wind, or third, or fourth at this point, and I was excited again at the prospect of what lay ahead.

We made our way from the airport, along a highway which could have been the anywhere along the 401, lined with evergreen trees and over-passes, which gave me a weird sense of comfort. After what seemed like a short ride, eventually we ended up heading down the main street in Minsk, which runs about 14 kilometers through the entire city. As we drove through the city, I found many of the old buildings to be quite beautiful and majestic looking with stone and brick facades. They also had many distinct soviet features to them as well, which made them all the more interesting. There were lots of people out enjoying the warm, late afternoon, spring weather and walking the wide, expansive sidewalks. Finally, we arrived at the hotel Yubileiny, which is to be my home for the next 11 days and is conveniently located directly across the street from the rink.

I checked in, dropped off my bags and made my the short walk over to the rink.

From here, it all begins, on with the games!


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