Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Everything is grand (Belarus)

I returned to Belarus today, and aside from the crazy-expensive breakfast in Frankfurt it’s been great. I had an interesting companion on the plane from Boston, a doctor from Kazakhstan who’d come to the USA to study English. He’s a nice guy and I enjoyed talking to him in Russian, but I think he needs to return for more lessons before he’s ready to teach medicine in English, which he’s supposed to do in 2020. But I didn’t chat as long as I might have because I wanted to sleep. It was already 1:00 a.m. in Minsk, so I put on my eye-shades and thought ahead to my new time zone. It worked out pretty well, and I didn’t even mind missing the meals.

By the time I got to Frankfurt, however, I was hungry. By tradition, I have breakfast at the Goethe Café near the departure gate for Belarus, and I did it again without much thought. After eating quiche with salad, I decided that I still needed something, so I ordered a different breakfast at the same place. The first breakfast was OK but small. The second wasn’t even OK. Hoping to avoid a repeat, I went walking around after I finished, hoping to find another interesting restaurant in that area for next time. There it was, Deli Bros. They serve only breakfasts, for a lower price, and everything looks nice. I wish I’d found it sooner. (It’s between gates B59 and B60.)

That was all just preparation. When I got to Minsk, things really got great. I found leaves on all the trees (a contrast to Boston), warm weather and sunny skies. After unpacking, I walked over to the Hotel Beijing for a massage and dinner. Knowing that I had the massage ahead made my time on the economy-class flights much more bearable, and I had a good time catching up with my masseuse, who had a lot to tell me about.

And then dinner. Oh, dinner. I’ve only eaten at the Hotel Beijing a few times, and always liked it. Today's delightful extravaganza cost a lot less than breakfast and delivered several times the pleasure. I had a couple of extraordinary dishes, starting with a Greek Salad that looked like a new moon. The chef didn’t use typical Greek spices but presented a very creditable variation on the idea with dried powdered beets decorating the plate and perhaps flavoring the salad. I spent a lot of time sampling the powder from the edge of the plate before I figured out what it was. It’s delicious! I raved to the waitress about how much I liked it, so the chef sent me a little jar of the stuff. He'd made it himself, though I found a freeze-dried variant at Amazon. I’ll enjoy experimenting with both.

My tasty-but-tough duck main course doesn’t deserve its own paragraph. Let me close, however, by describing dessert. I ordered a berry mousse, which arrived looking as good as my salad. Unfortunately, I ate most of it before I thought to take a picture, but it started out a shiny purple dome with white chocolate shavings and dark chocolate leaves on the top. Inside, I found a white mousse and cooked berries, layer by layer. It tasted just as good as it looked.

When I walked home, it was still light out and I enjoyed my route under trees alongside the river. I stopped at the grocery store to load up on basic supplies and got a whole bag of meat, dairy, fruit and staples; about as heavy as I could comfortably carry in one hand; for a little over ten bucks. This city is great!

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