hidden europe 45

Through the back of the wardrobe

by Nigel Roberts

Picture above: Victory Square in Minsk, capital of Belarus (photo © Astra490 / dreamstime.com).


Nigel Roberts, author of the Bradt Guide to Belarus, gives us a preview of the upcoming new edition of his guidebook with his account of crossing into Belarus on foot.

Artur confirmed that all the arrangements had been fixed. “When you land at Vilnius, walk out of the terminal and look for a Mercedes Vito. The driver will take you to the border for six euros.” But when I walked into the car park, there was no Vito to be seen.

“Relax, he’ll be there in 10 minutes,” advised Artur on the phone. The Vito actually arrived in seven, its driver cruising slowly up and down before finding a space to park. It was dusk. I wandered over and asked if he was going to the border. A nod and a gesture towards the passenger door — so I jumped in.

It’s no more than 20 minutes from Vilnius Airport to the border crossing at Medininkai but you know you’re getting close about two kilometres away, when you reach the end of the line of parked-up wagons by the side of the road. I counted well over a hundred trucks. The driver dropped me off at a petrol station about a couple of hundred metres from a cluster of low buildings. I walked towards them, past a line of private cars, and up to the mirrored window of Lithuanian emigration control. A small section at the bottom opened for me to hand over my passport. It was returned after a rustle of paper and the tapping of a few computer keys.