I didn't notice anything while there, but I spent in Hrodna just a bit more than half a day, but I found on internet several websites denouncing a big danger for parts of Hrodna's heritage, due to the President's decision to build new modern complexes over old houses. I don't know how much is real danger, but surely it's worth to inform about it and let's hope nothing unrecoverable is being done...
Charter97, an independent movement for freedom in Belarus wrote an article about this danger in Hrodna, you can find it HERE&L*
More information: HERE and HERE
In July you have to be aware that many of the popular restaurants and café’s are closed for wedding party’s Fridays and Saturdays. Good idea to check your favourite restaurant is open before planning a visit.
Saturday, July 7th we passed the border between Poland and Belarus by car. A true nightmare. Four and a half hour before we were free to leave this control and unlimited registration.
The passport was checked by one office. In the other end of the border place and another office, we had to buy the mandatory insurance. Back to passport office to show that you have paid.
Then you have to make registration of the car by three different offices and a lot of papers and of course you have to pay again.
One officer took a look at your baggage and asked you a lot of questions. We have bought 6 litres of wine in Denmark. You may only pass the border with two litres, and you have to pay 20 Euro per litre for the excess. Ok the officers were in good mood and we didn’t have to pay this time.
A small plant in cellophane was a gift for grandmother. But it’s illegal to transport flowers and plants to Belarus. Again this office did an exception :-)
Our small Yorkshire Terrier didn’t course any problem. He had his European Veterinary passport, and had to be registered by a veterinarian.
Now after 4,5 hours in constant rain, we were very tired and could leave the border.
When we leave the country, we thought it could not be 4,5 hours to cross the border. Right – it was only three hours :-)
Please be prepared for a very slow handling, when you pass the border.
Take good care of all your papers during your trip. Keep the personal papers and technical passport for the car inside the car when you drive. Stopped by police without papers cost 300 US $.
I tell you once again – if you not can read and speak Russian you must have help from a translator.
Personal registration within tree days is a mandatory requirement in Belarus, and you have to inform about the address where you live. In this registration office they do not speak or write any word in English. And…. if you don’t do registration of yourself within three days from arrival, you have problems when you leave the country.
First you stay in a crowd of people. Frustrating and absurd. No guide for where to go - The office open at 11 am – close at 18 pm. Monday and Sunday closed. Price for registration: 15500 rubel.
The rules seem to be excessively bureaucratic. In Belarus you meet this many times. Small people hidden behind small glass windows. We were sent from one office for blankets to another for stamps. Every time – crowds of people. Then to the bank. Back to the office for more stamps – and finally to the big boss in the top of the building. She had to confirm that the stamps, given by colleagues at the document, were ok - For us it was about 2 hours. For others it may be days.
Please be prepared – and be in good mood. And one good advise: Take good care of all papers that you receive. Many times during your trip you will have to show them.
We have two places with the same name: one in downtown and another one - on the right side of Neman embankment.
The BAD one is on the embankment. A real piece of dirt! Just as you cross the bridge to go to downtown, it`s on your left, next to the river.
When it was just opened, it was alright, but now... The service is horrible - had to wait for ages to be served, waitresses were arrogant and rude; the food sucked; the public - local bums and drunks.
I personally think it`s just a cover for something else, some shady business, that`s how neglected it is.
DO NOT GO THERE!!!
Belarus gets a bad press and not without reason. Setting aside the general political situation, transit visa issues and so on, as regards Hrodna itself there may be a more relaxed atmosphere than you would expect. There are quite a few police about but they don't seem bothered about obvious foreigners. (They don't even seem to care if you photograph their nice Art Nouveau police station but I'm sure they'd quite understand if you decided not to bother!) People occasionally stare at you but more out of curiosity than anything else. As one of the few fluent English speakers told us when she heard we'd come from Wales: "Wow! you've come a long way! We just don't get any visitors here." Locals are generally friendly and helpful, especially if you take an interest in their city and country. However, there are presidential elections in 2006 and there have been problems with demonstrations in Hrodna already.
So, as everywhere, keep your eyes and ears open - but, most of all, keep an open mind. You don't necessarily need to be looking over your shoulder all the time. You could have a bad experience; you could be ripped off. But then again, people tend not to believe me when I tell them that we tried to hand our surplus, useless roubles to a taxi driver shortly before leaving the country and he refused to accept them.....
On many web sites I have read that the police is very corrupt, but luckily we have not been in trouble situations ourselves. I must say that there is a lot of police everywhere, one time there was even a group of more than 100 soldiers or special policemen in uniforms walking out of the station. We just knew it was wiser not to speak to loud to each other, especially because we (my girlfriend and I) speak English to each other. Sometimes people on the street looked very surprised to us hearing English, but we can imagine that police maybe would try to get money from us.