Living It Up In The So-Called Last Dictatorship Of Europe

If you go to Belarus looking for a glimpse of life inside a dictatorship and police state, you might just find a bunch of people having a great time while being left alone by the authorities.

I’m not saying this to endorse the Belarusian government or its president for life, but the reality is, for visitors, both Belarus and its capital Minsk are a lot of fun… and contain a lot of beautiful women.

Many people know of Belarus as “Europe’s last dictatorship.” Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been in power continuously since 1994, and at times, there have been violent crackdowns on dissent in the country.

But as a tourist, or better yet perpetual traveler, these are not issues you have to deal with. And you will see the streets are sparking clean, the infrastructure is modern, the restaurants are enjoyable and the nightlife is fantastic.

Belarusian serenity

Heuereka on the move

As alluded to in the recap of Heuereka II, my second annual birthday conference didn’t actually end after the four days of speaking, networking, presenting, dining, boating, drinking and stress-busting in Vienna. Rather, it continued on for a couple weeks. The first stop on the post-Heuereka II tour was Minsk — a great place for a group of stateless men to visit.

We were a group of eight. We arrived in Minsk after a very fulfilling, but exhausting week in Vienna, ready to see what this mysterious post-Soviet European country of Belarus had to offer.

Upon arrival, I settled into the Renaissance Hotel, a selection I made because of my platinum status (not white privilege) there. After sleeping a bit and getting a massage, I was refreshed and ready to gather in the city with my fellow stateless travelers.

Executive loung privileges at the Renaissance Minsk Hotel

On the first evening we had a nice dinner in a café. Three courses and two or three alcoholic drinks rang me about 30 euros. Here’s the upshot: Belarus is not as cheap as Ukraine — at least Minsk is not as cheap as Ukrainian cities. The prices are definitely cheaper than in Germany and about what you would find in Poland. So, considering the exciting times that are upcoming on this trip, Belarus provides great bang for the buck.

First Heuereka Tour gathering

After filling our stomachs, we hit the streets… to meet some local women. Even though Belarusian girls don’t speak very good English, it’s still possible to talk to them and strike up a conversation.

My fellow travelers were amazed not just by the beauty of Belarusian women, but by their mannerisms. I, too, was impressed. As much as I used to be a fan of Ukraine, and specifically Odessa, I am now more of a fan of Minsk. 😉

We also used Tinder to land some dates and get a group of girls to meet us at a bar. There we tried some local Belarusian shots, which were green and tasted surprisingly good. This was a joyous occasion, as it was the birthday of one member of the group. We drank and sang and had a nice but not-too-late night out, as we had important business in the morning.

The Stalin Line

As you already saw in the Heuereka recap, we rode a tank in Belarus. This came at the end of our exciting daytrip to the Stalin Line. In early Soviet times, the Stalin Line was the fortification along the Soviet Union’s western border. It was overrun by the Germans in World War II.

Nowadays the Stalin Line in Belarus is basically a military theme park. Some nice Belarusian women dressed in uniform gave us a tour of the place, showing us bunkers, guns, flags etc. We went into one of the several original bunkers remaining. Most of the original Stalin Line bunkers are long gone since the Germans destroyed them.

The Stalin line

At a shooting range, we got to fire huge rifles — practically the size of cannons. At first we were frightened — not of the guns, but of the setting. There was a pathway about 200 meters behind the range in the direction we were shooting. But we were using air burst munitions. We would fire the guns, and the ammo would explode in the air, rather than hitting the target of our shots. It took a little getting used to. But it wasn’t very dangerous after all.

Target practice

The highlight of the Stalin Line tour was, of course, the tank riding. We rode a replica Panzerkampfwagen III. Commonly known as the Panzer III, it was a tank frequently used by the Germans in World War II. The Germans mainly rode into the Soviet Union on Panzers.

During our Panzer ride, most of us were sitting on top of the tank while two members of our group were sitting inside it. The guys inside the tank couldn’t see much of anything.

At one point our tank driver hit high speeds, and one guy in the group almost fell off the vehicle. From the top of the tank, it felt like we were experiencing the real thing. It was as if I was in my grandfather’s shoes, on the Eastern Front, powering deeper into the Soviet Union. Does this make me a Nazi??

The tank squad

The tank ride lasted about 15 minutes. We took lots of selfies and video:

Mingling in Minsk

After the five-hour adrenaline rush that was our tour of the Salin Line, we returned to Minsk ready to meet some more locals.

The rest of my stay in Belarus was not as action-packed. Having been tied down by the Heuereka conference, I had a lot of work to catch up on. But I still managed to do some socializing.

Over at the Marriott Hotel, I met up with a friend who is married to a Belarusian woman. We had some drinks and enjoyed the setting.

Minsk Marriott Hotel

On the final night, I joined another group of guys I’m friends with who also happened to be in Minsk. They are still living the employee lifestyle in Germany and had lots of questions for me about how I manage life as a perpetual traveler. I answered their questions and showed them my mini-documentary, as well as this blog.

Actually, the last two nights in Minsk happened to be Friday and Saturday. This worked out very well.

 

A police state without police

Minsk has a party street where a couple thousand people were gathered on both nights. Situated by the river, Zybitskaya Street is packed with bars and clubs. The street was crowded with people until 4, 5, even 6 in the morning. Everyone was out drinking and having fun, yet I did not see any police at all.

For that matter, I pretty much didn’t see any police over the course of my entire stay in Belarus. This was the thing that stood out most about the trip — in this supposed police state, there were no police.

 

Better than European democracy

Compared to EU democracy, Belarusian dictatorship is a blast. Nowhere in Germany or Western Europe could you find hundreds or thousands of people drinking and gathering in the streets with there being no police in sight. But that’s the case in Minsk. And likewise, everything stays civilized and very clean.

With Belarus relaxing its visa policies, it’s now easy for westerners to visit the country. Fly into Minsk National Airport and you can enter visa free for up to 30 days.

Minsk National Airport

I am sure I will be returning to Minsk. Possibly I’ll come back next summer for Independence Day in Belarus. In the meantime, I have motivation to practice my Russian — and it’s not because I am trying to date in Svalbard.

More fun and free than the EU and a better vibe than Ukraine, Belarus is the place to go for a stateless man in search of a good time in Europe. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to join me next summer for a night out on Zybitskaya Street.

Goodbye for now, Minsk

 

Stay: I was happy with my choice, the Marriott Renaissance hotel in Minsk for around 80$ (early booking). Great rooms, an executive lounge and a spa area with good massages. They also have a casino in the hotel. Having been in the real Marriott, this looks even nicer and is the high-end option in Minsk. Both hotels are rather far from the city center, but there are plenty of hotels and apartments right at the action.

 

Eat: The local fare is heavy on meat and vegetables, much like in Ukraine. We had a great dinner in Grand Cafe in the city center.

Drink: Dozens of options along Zybitskaya Street and the city center. I liked Pushka, a latino bar and dance club, small and intimate with great cocktails.

 

Connect: No censorship of the internet in this so called police state. Google Fi worked pretty well all around the city and I even had signal in the countryside on way to Stalin Lines.

 

See: Not many sights, but fans of grand Soviet architecture will love Minsk. Head out to the forests, lakes, rivers and old towns in the countryside.

 

Do: Ride a German tank over Sowiet lawns…and try to communicate with the locals. Learn Russian while you visit!

 

Go there: Most Europeans can visit now visa-free up to 30 days when entering via Minsk National Airport. Flights are better and cheaper via Lithuania, which is just 2h by bus. However, you need a visa to enter the country over land.

 

Go next: Lithuanias capital Vilnius just sits 2h by car to the northwest. Going into Russia, Poland or Ukraine is also an option. Bigger towns in Belarus to see include Gomel and Brest,