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September 4, 2002

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You could grow old on Belarus' public transport. The buses and electric trains which serve the country move at grandma speed. By looking up words in an English-Russian dictionary, we write rudimentary requests on scraps of paper to communicate with most people who don't speak English. We buy bus tickets with these little notes. Our goal is a small village called Mir, 100 km southwest of the capital. The bus sputters down the road, we're flagged down on a highway by an inspector who comes aboard to check our tickets (must be a corruption control), and the journey to Mir takes 2 1/2 hours even though the road is smooth, straight, and flat like a dusty bowling alley. Along the way we pass, without stopping, many small hamlets of low, run-down houses. Years ago, huge forests covered the area but now only tree patches stand like lonely islands in the midst of farmland.
The 16th century Mir castle (namesake of the Mir space station?) is a good example of a Belarusian tourist attraction, empty and under restoration.
Tourism is down but the fishing is good.
Mir's bus station, a hub of activity. When the bus dropped us off in this one-cart town, we knew it would be trouble finding a ride back. All bus routes radiate from Minsk like rays of light from a star. If you want to go to the next town by bus and it's not on the route to/from Minsk, then you probably need to go back to Minsk first.