Sunday, May 4, 2008

Outside the city

We're enjoying our first taste of Belarusian "Eco Tourism," staying at a B&B called Priluchki.

We weren't sure what to think when we first arrived yesterday and found things a little different from what their web site led us to expect. Our concern was compounded by the fact that they hosted a wedding reception in the hall below our room although they promised to forgo other events during our stay. (This was their explanation for charging us a rate higher than posted on their web site.)

Our frustration softened when they invited us down for the entertainment they'd arranged. We enjoyed a first-rate quartet singing Belarusian songs while looking very stunning in what I might describe as updated traditional garb.

Today we met Sergey the innkeeper at 7 a.m. to go for a ride on his mountain bikes. He has a garage full of bikes in different sizes, including one big enough for me. The three of us set out together, but realized soon enough that Alla needed a smaller bike. Ideally my bike should have had significant mechanical attention, but I kept it because it fit.

Alla tried her smaller bike and decided she still didn't feel comfortable so Sergey and I headed out alone for a speedy one-hour ride.

After breakfast, Sergey dropped us off at the Belarusian State Open Air Museum. We had intended to go to a place called "Dudutki," which is a re-creation of a medieval town. This, on the other hand, is a museum. They've taken antique buildings and furniture from around the country and moved them to a single estate.

The ticket vendor told us not to bother with a tour because the English-speaking guide was sick and the Russian tour was supposedly rather limited. In fact, however, we stumbled into a Russian tour group and found the guide quite informative. She only showed us the central set of buildings, but we found all the other docents eager to show us as much as we wanted to see and tell us volumes about the structures and implements under their care.

Tonight at dinner Sergey brought out a huge old-fashioned bottle of home-made vodka with a red pepper and some ginseng drifting inside. First he poured some onto my hands so I could sterilize myself before eating. It smelled like bread. Then he poured a little onto a plate and lit it so we could get an idea of the alcohol content. There wasn't much water left when it burned out! Sergey encouraged me to take a little drink but I knew my limits so I left Alla and Sergey's wife Irena to do the drinking. It turns out that Sergey doesn't drink either.

My hands still smell a little like bread, and I am now filled with a fantastic assortment of Belarusian foods. Perhaps even a bit overloaded!

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