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Sunday, 19 July 2009

Book Review: A Week in Minsk

My good friend Martin took a trip to Minsk last year, and wrote a book about it! In his own inimitable style, Martin chronicles the trials, tribulations and triumphs of being an Englishman-abroad in the capital city of the Republic of Belarus.

This is not your usual travelogue though, oh no! Armed with little more than than his wits and a smattering of Russian, Martin set off from the UK on a trip, via Lithuania, to meet his Russian penfriend in Minsk.

Getting there was half the fun as, after flying from London to Kaunas in Lithuania, it was onwards by train to Minsk where Martin discovered just how confusing it can be looking for your appartment contact in a railway station with so many exits. A couple of nights in one of Minsk's hotels gave the author a chance to sample Belarussian hospitality before he finally made contact with the appartment people, transferred his base of operations for the week and began exploring Minsk properly.

Changing currency was a bit of an experience as was trying to send postcards home but he persevered and, with the help of his penfriend, Martin had some great experiences to write about during his week in Minsk.

Martin's observational humour and acerbic wit make this a very unusual and enjoyable read compared to other travel stories I've read in the past. Written as a dairy, Martin chronicles the daily experiences of his trip, the places he visited, the people he met, and contrasts life in Minsk with life in his home town in the UK in his own, unique style. Martin's return journey to the UK was equally eventful, culminating in his having lunch in Vilnius with a Ukrainian psychiatrist he'd met on the train before heading off to the airport for his flight home; you couldn't make it up!

This is a large format paperback, printed on glossy paper, and I particularly enjoyed that it is shot through with plenty of excellent, full-colour photgraphs (taken by the author) which really help to illustrate the narrative. In summing up 'A Week in Minsk' I can't really improve on the author's own statement from the back cover:

Where else can you get lost in the main railway station; go shopping underground; buy condoms but not sugar in the supermarket; dine in a restaurant guarded by the Tin Man or find the Starship Enterprise parked in amongst a block of flats?

'A Week in Minsk' is now available from Amazon.

As Martin says himself, "If you are considering visiting Belarus then here are the answers to questions you haven't even thought about asking!" He's right!

Author Bio: In his time Martin Vos has been a waiter, fast food restaurant manager, milkman (yes, we still have those!), has worked in a chip factory (he was wasted packing chips!), run a model railroading scenic supply business and now drives a truck for a living. He spends his days driving a car transporter, which he blogs about here. He is also a rather good photographer, has a wonderfully irreverent sense of humour and is an accomplished model railroad and UK modern truck scene model-maker. You can read about his model-making here.

At a Glance:

Title: A Week in Minsk
Author: Martin Vos
Price: Amazon $12.63; Lulu £8.99; Lulu eBook £2.99
Available from:; Lulu
Overall: 5 out of 5


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