Could a foreigner and a Belarusian hop from Minsk to Moscow to celebrate New Year 2019? A travel (fairy) tale.
It’s December 29th, mid-afternoon. Alina, Belarusian, and Carlos, Portuguese, are in Minsk discussing whether they should go to Moscow for New Year’s on a blitz trip.
Carlos has Freudian issues with airplanes and only travels by train, which, by the way, he loves. Carlos has visas for Belarus and Russia.
Despite that, Carlos cannot just take the train from the Belarusian capital and sleep it through to Belorusskaya train station at the Russian capital. Things are never that simple in the East.
As it stands now, foreigners (non-Belarusian and non-Russian) are not allowed to cross the ground border between Belarus and Russia. Even when fulfilling the basic requirement of having a valid visa for both countries.
Minsk-Moscow train? Not so fast!
Alina has settled for the train departing Minsk Pasažyrski at 22:08 and reaching Moscow at 08:07 – one minute short for a 10-hour ride. In the luxury class will be easy.
For Carlos, there’s no alternative but to transit via Kyiv.
The train departing Minsk at 22:40 and arriving in Kyiv at 07:52 – little over a 10-hour ride. By this time, Alina will be walking down Arbat street, using all their champagne money to buy shoes and handbags.
Read also: Shopping in Belarus and how to do it right
Now… The first train available from the Ukrainian capital for Moscow is at 19:36 with the arrival at 10:09 after more than half-a-day ride. Assuming there will be no delays – you never know with the holiday season – Carlos will arrive full steam into the last day of 2018.
This seems like a bad dream as the trip that should take a night sleep is turning into a day-and-half journey and will land Carlos in Moscow too tired to enjoy the celebrations properly.
The Baltic route maybe?
The other option will be to take the Baltic Route – via Vilnius and Riga. For sure those advanced “European” countries have wonderful train connections all over, Carlos and Alina assume. So they start digging, and this is what they come up with.
Departure from Minsk needs to be done TODAY, the latest, with the 19:30 train. This will get Carlos to Vilnius at 21:03.
There should be some connection to Riga tomorrow morning, right? Wrong.
The next step of Carlos’s journey is to Daugavpils (Latvia). The train leaves at 05:42 and arrives at 08:28 – wonderful… getting up earlier than the chickens.
Next step is getting to Riga. The first train available is at 13:10, arriving at 16:35 – which actually does not give much time to get the 16:50 to Moscow.
Carlos decides to take the 13:10 alright but jumps off in Krustpils at 14:32.
Finally, the train to Moscow enters the train station at 18:35. It will be nearly 15 hours of the train until finally, Carlos reaches Moskva Rizhskaya.
So where will Alina and Carlos celebrate 2019?
Both alternatives suck. There seems to be just no way for a train loving foreigner to travel between Minsk and Moscow.
Then it strikes Carlos that Xmas in Belarus is only on January 7th and there’s also the Old New Year a week later.
That settles the dilemma. Closing his eyes strong, Carlos wishes for Ded Moroz to bring him mutual visa recognition between Belarus and Russia. How simple would that be!
Tourists have been waiting for that visa agreement between Belarus and Russia to happen in December but no luck so far.
Still, with the Presidents of Belarus and Russia meeting in Moscow on December 29th to discuss some stumbling topics of the bilateral relationship, could they hope for some progress in that issue, too?
On the positive side, Alina refrained from even going close to Arbat (or any other shopping street in Moscow for that matter) and was waiting for Carlos with champagne and tangerines. Let the festivities begin!
Text by John Volk. This piece is a work of fiction; any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editors of BelarusFeed.
Featured image: Nicola Dove/TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORP