Sunday, January 31, 2016

Trip to Belarus: Cookies and cakes

The Belarusians love their teatime. It's basically whenever possible. There's gotta be tea!

(This is a crucial bit of information that I didn't have when I got to know my boyfriend. The poor guy was appalled by my lack of hospitality, because I didn't offer tea whenever he came over. It just never crossed my mind. Silly me thought drinks are made for extinguishing thirst, but his culture says tea is much more important.)

Tea time is a culture thing. They drink tea together, chat and eat cookies. It all belongs together and they show hospitality by offering tea to a visitor. I don't drink much tea and can sit around and chat without it, but in Belarus tea has to be had. Just has to be there. Don't ask me. It's a culture thing and not to be argued about.
Tea can not come alone. Cookies have to be there. Of course you can offer whatever snack you have, but cookies are traditional. Cookies are the thing!

Cookies, fucking cookies, man.

I like cookies. Before getting to know the Belarusian stance on cookies I might have even said I love cookies, but I've had to revise that. Cookies were never as big for me as they are for them.

So there are tea time cookies. These are dry, sweet cookies. Very dry and very sweet and delicious. They go very well with black tea. And there are thousands of varieties of them!


This is half of the cookie aisle in a very small (!) supermarket.The basic difference is - just kidding! If there are differences they are very subtle. Like the look is slightly different or the taste differs a bit, because lemon or some other artificial flavouring was added. The real variety is found at the cookie counters. What?

There are cookie counters! Like we have meat counters, fish counters and cheese counters (which they all have too), they also have cookie counters!! There is one woman there, probably specialised on cookies, who sells them to you by gram! I was astonished!


You can not buy five cookies of these and twelve cookies of those. They are sold by gram and the cookie counter woman will not budge. I tried to buy one of each to try them all, but she explained she only sells by gram. Also she explained they all taste the same anyway and gave me a broken one to try. But there is way more variety at the counter. There's chocolate! And marmalade!


Huge baskets filled with cookies! Cookie heaven!

As you can see, they also sell cakes. I developed a love-hate-relationship with Belarusian cakes. I love them, because they are delicious (as you can plainly see), but I also hate them, because appearantly they give you a slight case of the shits. They don't seem to throw the unsold cakes out at the end of the day, instead they sell them the next day. And so on and so on. If your stomach isn't used to... ahem... aged fats and dairy products, you will feel it. After eating a few cakes, I felt it, but they still were so delicious! I had to try a lot of them (I mean, I was there to experience things, right?) and maybe my body would get used to it. No such luck. But it didn't matter.


The ones in the buttom shelf, second from left. The stuff to die for!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Trip to Belarus: The Great Patriotic War Museum

We went to the Great Patriotic War Museum!
The Great Patriotic War is otherwise known as World War II. 

It was very interesting for me as a German to see the other side of the war. How they write about it, how they try to teach their children about it. 

Most signs are also in English, that was great! Since I'm German and can read the old font, I read aloud some of the shown documents. In German. In Belarus. In the Great Patriotic War Museum! It got us quite a few stares, but nobody said anything.

I found it really interesting that this museum is structured so differently from most of our museums. Instead of having a lot of texts and movies, they had a lot more stuff. Stuff! Like tanks and planes and old documents and uniforms, but also like the pencil that a partisan used or the wristwatch of a soldier. These small things puzzle me. It this really interesting? Look, a pencil! (I'm not even exaggerating.) 

They also showed a lot of German army decorations and pictures and letters the soldiers had on them. Those made me so sad. They must have gotten these from the captured soldiers or from the dead. War is horrible and sad!

Which is why they made this museum to make us all remember! They did a good job, so here come some pictures for you.
A plane...
and a few tanks.
A field kitchen, complete with cook even!
This notice was posted in communities that got taken over by the Germans. It starts out saying "The German Wehrmacht will not fight against civilians. As long as you obey our orders, you have nothing to be afraid of." Whew, thought the civilian, this starts out well. 
It goes on "All weapons have to be surrendered to us. This includes all guns, all cutting and stabbing weapons, munition and explosives. This also includes hunting guns and hunting knifes, grenades and stationary knifes. You have to do this within three days. Who doesn't do this will be shot on the spot." WHAT! thinks the civilian, what do they even mean?! So basically all knifes I have? But I'm a farmer, I slaughter my own pigs... with a knife... I can't give that up, I need it for my work... but if I don't I will be shot on the spot. No questions asked. What to do, what to do...
It goes on stating "If somebody exhibits hostile behaviour against the German Wehrmacht, he will be shot on the spot. But if the guilty person can not be found, we will shoot innocent hostages, burn down houses and punish you severely." WHAT! I mean, WHAT! Does throwing stones at tanks count as this? Even if little boys do it? And if the little boys run away their village will be burned down?! WHAT!
It goes on "Russian soldiers have to surrender within 24 hours or will be shot." Being captured by the Germans was no joke. Starving to death was quite normal.
The notice started out so well. But what followed was the reality. Horrible times!
Some weapons.
The building itself has a confusing layout and we got lost. Twice. Like, have we seen this room before? Yeah. But not that one!
On the top floor is a victory hall. Whatever a victory hall is used for... dunno. Anyways, it's there and it's grand.
Victory hall
Victory hall ceiling. It was a bright day.
Cutesy detail.
When you leave, you can enjoy the architecture from the outside, it's stunning and really nice.
View to the left...
view to the right.
From there you have a wonderful view of... just kidding, there's nothing there really. Just a big ass street and big blocks of houses standing a bit too far from each other to look natural. The houses kinda look like they want nothing to do with each other and the streets look empty (but that could have been the time we were there).

I enjoyed the museum, it was an experience to see it all from another perspective. Because there were less texts in it than I was used to, I didn't get bored at all. Too much to look at, even though some things seemed a bit trivial. Look, a pencil!



Sorry for the long delay! I had to figure out where to store all those images first and there was Christmas and New Year's and all. Sorry!