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September 1, 2002

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With a name like Brest, you'd think this would be an exciting place. It's laid out like a college campus without handsome buildings: broad avenues, tree-lined streets, a park on every corner, but no cafes, shops, restaurants, or consumer businesses. Brest is a grid of low-lying apartment buildings. People walk the streets yet where they go or what they do escapes us. So far, we're interested by the fact that nothing here is interesting. The only restaurant our guide book recommends, which it claims is one of the best in Belarus, is out-of-business. We buy food at a small grocery store that sells beer, bread, and junk-food. Without money machines or open banks on a Sunday, we've exchanged a few Euros for Belarusian rubles at our hotel, a place that offers third world accommodation at first world prices. Thirty dollars lands us in a rickety room with two cots and a sink, no toilet or shower. If you must, we recommend a gas mask for the toilet - try not to touch anything. The shower lies beneath the hotel, beneath a trap door, at the bottom of cobwebbed stairs, in the cellar.
Nostalgic Brest: a line of memorial flags dedicated to Soviet heroes.
Lonely Planet says, "If you see one Soviet WWII memorial in your life, make it Brest Fortress." This is the Soviet version of the Alamo. In 1941, for a grueling month and a half, two Soviet regiments defended this fortress to the last man against overwhelming Nazi forces.
The Soviets knew how to build monuments on a massive scale; this soldier's head is called, "Valor," in dedication to the uncommon valor shown by the fort's defenders.