Nauru Travel Diary

From Houston to Sydney 2013

From Houston

to Sydney



As you can see from the photos in today’s travel diary, this was not a day of sightseeing that meshed very well with Di’s tastes.  We had a morning in Minsk before going to the airport to catch our flight to Moscow, and with grey clouds and periodic showers, the prospects for sightseeing were bleak.  Added to that was Di’s feeling that we had seen everything she had wanted to see in Minsk, but after a late start to the day, we did manage a short walk around central Minsk, focussing on the interior of the Catholic Cathedral (known as the “Red Church”) and the underground shopping centre which is located below Independence Square.

I had discovered that there was an aviation museum at Borovaya Airport, a small airstrip in Minsk that is used for light training aircraft and parachute jumping.  Given that Di had no other suggestions for sightseeing in Minsk, and that we had missed opportunities to see aviation museums in Gothenburg and Linkoping, she agreed that we could include the museum as a visit on our way to the airport.

And what a wonderful (if small) aviation museum it was.  I won’t bore you with all the exciting, exhilarating, fascinating details of the exhibits, but suffice to say that there were about 30 aircraft, all Soviet in origin, and mainly military in nature.  As a “cold war kid”, I grew up in awe of the reputation of MiGs, Yaks and Sukhois, and to have the chance to see them today was something very special.  At Di’s suggestion, I have (severely) limited the number of images of the museum in today’s diary, but I would be delighted to share many more with those who are interested.

Towards the end of our visit, the Director of the Museum came and introduced himself to us.  Unfortunately for us, he spoke only Russian and German in addition to his Belarusian, and he welcomed us warmly, gave us a brochure and a plastic bag, and then to my delight, took out his keys and led us to the side of an Antonov An-26 cargo transport aircraft.

He unlocked the door and invited us to enter, and then led us to the cockpit where he allowed me to sit in the pilot’s seat.  Believe it or not, that was the first opportunity I have ever had to sit in the pilot’s seat of a Soviet-era military aircraft.  He indicated that we could do the same in a few more planes, but unfortunately the need to catch a flight to Moscow meant that we had to decline his gracious and hospitable offer.

Nonetheless, the vintage plane spotting for the day was not over.  When we arrived in Minsk a few days ago, we (or, at least, I) had noticed a line of beautifully preserved aircraft lined up beside the road leading away from the airport.  Our driver kindly agreed to stop beside the planes to allow me to get some photos of the vintage Soviet airliners and cargo planes.  I am sure you can imagine the adrenaline rush that Di and I were having at seeing these wonderful aircraft – well, that statement is half true anyway.

Our flight to Moscow was with Belavia, the national airline of Belarus, in an old Boeing 737.  The flight was full and the cabin was hot, but I did appreciate the welcome message, which said in part “Welcome to Belavia Belarusian Airlines.  We will do our best to perform a safe flight today”.

There was a one hour time change between Belarus and Russia, so our flight arrived at 6:50 pm.  Because of an immigration agreement between Belarus and Russia, the flight was regarded as a domestic one and thus no immigration clearance was needed after arriving in Moscow; we were driven in the airport bus to the domestic arrivals terminal.

We found a taxi driver who described himself to us, using his very limited English, as “quite a good driver”.  I thought he did a fine job of limiting himself to 140 kilometres per hour, while I did a fine job of maintaining my Buddha-like composure as I sat in the front seat with my hands neatly folded in my lap while he weaved and swerved from lane to lane, periodically testing the performance of the brakes on his little Ford Focus sedan.

We arrived at our hotel at a little before 9 pm, and after checking in, went to a nearby café for a light meal.  As we were finishing, we noticed that many of the buildings in the main road outside were turning on floodlights, and that prompted us to decide to go for a walk to Red Square (a couple of kilometres away) to admire the spectacular floodlights there.

We set off on our walk at about 10 pm, and we enjoyed the summer’s evening walk so much that we didn’t return to our hotel until half past midnight.  When we reached Red Square, we were surprised to find that most of the area was fenced off as scaffolding and seating were being erected for a forthcoming international military tattoo.  This made photography a challenge, but the evening was so pleasant for walking, that part of our solution was to walk well beyond Red Square, past St Basil’s Cathedral and on to the bridge over the Moskva River.

Thus, what began as a day of limited sightseeing, but which later became a day of sightseeing focusing on Soviet aircraft, finished spectacularly with a long, lingering night time walk along some of Moscow’s main avenues, through Red Square, along two sides of the Kremlin and through several public squares.

And perhaps the most surprising thing was that we were far from alone.  Even after midnight, Moscow’s streets and squares were still crowded with people who, like us, were enjoying the sights, the lights and the summer evening.

Day 39 - Minsk to Moscow


13 August 2013