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August 31, 2002

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Ready to start the next phase - touring the Confederation of Independent States (CIS - the new badge of the old USSR). A train takes us from Budapest, through Slovakia, Czech, Poland, and after 18 hours, the doorstep of Belarus at Brest. We almost miss our connection to Belarus because drunken conductors won't let us on the train (even though we have a ticket). We go to the first class train car, where the conductor is civilized, sober, (and speaks English), and he let's us on for an upgrade of 22 Euro. We accept. Nine hours later we reach the border. Belarus has the most formal border we've seen in awhile. They hand us a declaration form written in Russian. They only speak Russian. With the train conductor's help, we muddle through, declaring all of our currency and electronic goods, and receive a stamped declaration form that's added to our passport (we'll need this paper to leave without a fine).
Two connections and five countries (Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Belarus) and we make it to Belarus. Not surprising, Belarus had the most formal border crossing.