Thursday 4 May
A night in Belarus (part 2)
After and hour of sitting in the school hall, we were told we were being sent back to Terrespol in Poland. The guard then escorted us back on to a train. I think one of Rob's lasting memories of this trip will be sharing a fag with the official whilst he was officially ejecting us back to Poland.
Terrespol was a one horse border town and we didn't really want to stay there longer than necessary, so we hopped in to a taxis. The cab driver spoke no English but asked, 'Need Visa?' This obviously happened all the time. He drove us to the embassy which was 40k away, but it was closed! Poland has official holidays on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of May. We were dumb struck, what now? At this rate we were going to miss our Moscow train to Beijing. But our cabby persisted and eventually the closed Belarussian Embassy agreed to process our visas for a fee. $110 visa charge and $50 cab ride later we were back at the station. Our ticket from Brest to Moscow was still valid but we had a 3 hour wait for the next train from Terrespol to Brest. We passed the time in a sports bar next door which was showing weight lifting rather than football. This was Eastern Europe!
Officially stamped in a few hours later, we found out the train to Moscow wasn't until 4am. We had six hours to kill. We tried to look for a cafe or restaurant but there weren't any. The only place that was open within walking distance was a nightclub, so there we were at midnight sat with our rucksacks at our feet in a Belarussian nightclub playing awful Eastern European techno music. It was surreal all our planning had gone out of the window. This was the last place on earth we ever expected to be, and all because of our geographical ignorance of Eastern Europe. I'm still not sure I could tell you where Belarus is even now. The evening passed without incident, occasionally the police arrived and made a check of the club to make sure everything was in order but that was all. We boarded the train to Moscow knackered, slightly tipsy and collapsed on to our beds.
The train from Belarus was fabulous. It was a real antique with leather beds, big open windows and a silver samovar with boiling water at the end of the carriage. We woke to rousing Russian military music played though the radio in the compartment, and spent the afternoon making tea and staring out the window at the forests of Silver Birch trees. The stations we stopped at were traditionally Russian. One station called Slevensky, 2 hours from Moscow, was olive green with red flags tied to every post on the platform, and we passed Russian orthodox churches with there distinctive golden egg like domes. It was dusk when we approached Moscow station accompanied by accordion waltz music on the radio. We were 12 hours late but at least we'd arrived!