Having been in the country for nearly three weeks I've learnt a lot and done some research. From what I found I think I may have been terrified to go there. The last Dictatorship in europe, a closed country with closed currency. The border crossing was slow and laborious when we arrived and it was clearly a beaurocratic country. After crossing the border we travelled freely and were not stopped or questioned once. The people were kind, helpful and friendly. The english speakers we met were curious about us and we pumped them for as much information as we could. It looked like a harsh existence out in the villages which appeared poor. There is a lot of work being undertaken on infrastructure with towns and monuments being smartened up and the roads were of a high quality.
Just before the Russian border we stopped to purchase vehicle insurance. Would there be huge queues? What could we expect? Nothing, not one official. It was an open road straight through. The border has been opened up between Russia and Belarus.
There was a lot more traffic on the road, and the driving is crazier. Approaching suicidal, like the Greeks. At about 5pm we saw a TIR park and a new motel at the side of the road. We parked and went in for a drink. A lovely new bar and restaurant. The lady behind the bar was also the waitress and she kindly let us behind the bar to choose what we wanted to drink as communication was proving a bit awkward. There was a very distracting Russian pop concert on TV with Western Acts such as the remnants of Boney M. I was desperate to see if they played Rasputin' ("Oh, those Russians") but sadly the channel was switched, which was more sociable for our little group. We were unsure if the clocks had gone forward so I went over and asked our lady for the time by gesticulating at my wrist. She took me into the spotless, stainless steel kitchen and pointed to the clock, which had indeed advanced by an hour. There was a menu in English and some of the snacks translated well. Having seen the kitchen and found out it was suppertime as well we decided a full range of snacks was in order. Not very healthy, but delicious. My first Borscht soup and Mike had a lovely salad with very tasty, tender lumps of pork. Entitled snow drop salad it could have been anything.
Although close to the road we slept well and the following morning hit the road north.