Minsky Vernisazh: expencive souveniers
I visit Minsk in summer 2011 before my VT journey and knowledge about it. Interesting is that the minute a saw this outdoor fest I think "This is a tourist trap". Why? Because of prices of art peaces that was selling here. It was a cheaper then in most European cities, of course. Still, it is a very touristic friendly and that sentence always come to my mind.
But, this is not a classical tourist trap, because you can find here a very nice handcrafts.
Unique Suggestions: Look around and choose wisely. Maybe try to haggle.
Fun Alternatives: You can buy cheaper souvenirs in big shops like I do in GUM on main street.
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Attitude to Minsk and Belarus
Could be that for some people Belarus are still exotic country - 20 years back to past, very soviet and autocratic in very high level. Some people afraid of visiting it, because it could be dangerous, some because of getting visa problems, price of it.
That I have seen Soviet stylish in Belarus and Minsk - is political, social advertising, Lenin statue and soviet style buildings. If we talk about only Minsk, the stereotype about people, standing in rows and trying to get better quality sausages or who wear only "negative mood" dark clothes could be broken.
It is always better to visit yourself and see how it looks in real.
Center town restaurants
Almost all the more fancy downtown restaurants with English-speaking staff charge incredible prices, compared to the Belarussian standards. But the food is usually excellent, I need to admit!
Unique Suggestions: The places are okay, the food is usually great, and so on. It's not that the places suck - it's simply that there are more interesting ones, which better reflect everyday life and give you a better impression on what Minsk is all about.
Fun Alternatives: Walk into little bars and cafes and restaurants wherever you find them - they're everywhere. Prices are low, menus in English are usually not available, but you can be quite sure you're welcome. If you don't speak or can't read any (Bela-)Russian, though - it's easier to choose the fancy restaurants.
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