Day 117: Kettles Of Fish

27.04.09:

I emerged from the coach in the wee small hours to find myself in the rather attractive town of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. I was busy trying to suss out how I was going to get into Belarus (avoiding all the tomfoolery of yesterday) when I ran into none other than Lynn Robinson, my ex-girlfriend Michelle’s mum! She was in the coach station getting a bus to the airport. What are the chances of that?

Well, statistically speaking, pretty damn high. In fact, considering the number of people I know, times the fact I am travelling for a full year, I think the chances of me running into somebody I know are probably one in one. But that doesn’t stop it being really cool!

Anyways, we unfortunately didn’t have time for coffee as her bus was due, so I headed off to the Belarusian embassy to try and blag myself a transit visa. Only, the embassy was closed. And it would be closed until Wednesday.

Problem.

What do I do? Sit on my hands in Vilnius for two days and then have to wait another 24 hours for the visa to come through?

Nah, not my style. So I booked myself on the next coach to the border and helped myself to a quick tour of the town, meeting a couple of lovely Lithuanian girls along the way. They took me to see the Gates of Dawn and the old city walls. Vilnius is BEAUTIFUL. And awesomely cheap! Why are you still reading this? Get onto Ryanair or Easyjet and book yourself a £20 flight over there NOW!

Go on.

Right, if you live in Europe, I’ll assume you’ve done that. Good. But (unlike you in two month’s time) I wasn’t here to sightsee, I was here to get movin’ baby yeah! So before too long I was on a local bus heading for the border with Belarus. Well, as it turned out, three kilometres from the border – I had to walk the last bit WITH MY LEGS!

Not wanting what happened yesterday to happen again, this time I took the official route in. The Lithuanian’s didn’t even check my passport. The Belarusians, well, they’re a different kettle of fish. In fact, they probably actually put fish in their kettles – they’re that mad. The last outpost of full-on fascist communism in Europe, the KGB is still alive and well and living in Belarus. They want to be Russian even more than Russia does. With a potty-mad dictator in charge since 1992 and political dissidents locked away without trial, the Belarusians like to party like 1989 never happened – and they don’t take kindly to amateur adventurer-types thinking it’s a lark to waddle about into their territory.

But that’s pretty much what I did.

I thought I could see how far I could push it, but I should have turned back on the border line. They looked at my passport and rather than just saying no, go away you don’t have a visa (or certificate of medical insurance) they took me into a small room and began scanning my passport over and over again, making numerous phone calls and asking me a lot of questions.

Oh dear.

At one point I swear the KGB/border guard guy wrote ‘Narva’ on a piece of paper whilst having an animated discussion on the phone. Had they heard about yesterday’s shenanigans? Was I to be locked away as a habitual border pest? My toes curled. No – it doesn’t say Narva – it’s not even English, it’s weird Russian letters, plus you’re reading it upside down you moron.

I just want to leave now, thanks. I’ve stepped foot in your crazy country and if it’s all the same to you, I’d like to hotfoot it back to the good ol’ EU where I know they can’t give me the old electric shock shower fandango. They kept me for half an hour. Then, without any kind of ceremony, they let me go.

Phew.

I trotted back over to Lithuania and slogged the three kilometres back to the bus stop. Arriving back in Vilnius in good time, I went for some good old-fashioned Eastern European nosh in the old town before jumping on the old overnighter to Warsaw.

It was a long day.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Alan

    Read to all!

    Dear Graham, tell me please – what will happen with Belorussian or Russian citizens if they will try to cross the border of UK? Belarus prefers to act on the principle of reciprocity in the visa issue. If you want to arrive in Belarus you should find out information about visa requirements for UK citizens, then make this visa and then you could be in Belarus without any problems on a border. Your case on a border of Belarus is just your mistake and indiscretion. Belorussian order guards do their job correctly according Belorussian legislation and visa requirements. Your strange words about “old electric shock shower fandango” is lie and disinformation for other people.
    By the way, specially for your information and education – so called “dictatorship” (I mean when Alexander Lukashenko became a President of Belarus) began in June 1994, but not in 1992. Learn the history and geography before to say something wrong.

  2. Anastasiya

    Dear Graham!

    I’m from Belarus) And I want to tell something. You should not publish your judgments about the country and about the people who live over there if you have not ever been to that country. You have not been to the country because you did not cross the border, see the nature and talk to people. I look you so everything perfectly know about our country from newspapers and mass media. If you can judge that way about all countries where you have been so far, what is the reason to travel? Because of crossing the borders and making a world record??
    If you wanted to visit our country you should have care about a visa beforehand. If you are an experienced adventurer you should have been aware of that. Or probably you think if you are British citizen they must allow you to visit any country without any permit or visa ?
    Let’s imagine if someone would like to get to your lovely and peaceful EU or UK without having a visa, what kind of troubles that person might have, more likely they would put him to jail.
    You said that people were not free in Belarus, but I remember the case when in 2005 in London the police shot the guy from Brazil in subway just because they suspected him to be a terrorist. And you try to opine of the good ol’ EU where everyone can feel in calm and security?
    I have never been to England and I could also make an article with an opinion that in England it always rains cats and dogs and people always eat only porridge for breakfast and drink tea 5 hours a day and everybody cannot stop talking about the royal family
    Belarus is a very beautiful country with peace-loving, easy going and well educated people who speak at least one foreign language. I don’t know how many languages you speak, but I rarely met British people who spoke any other language except English. You guys, think the whole world should speak and understand whatever you say.
    Please remove your opinion about Belarus as it is absolutely false. I understand your site is popular and in fact many people could found their attitude to Belarus based on your opinion. So, please leave your opinion with you as your personal thought but do not distribute misleading and inaccurate information. If you do not so, I will make my best endeavors to use any possible legal remedies.

  3. Pavel

    As a Belarusian, I fully subscribe to your acute observations. The only thing you got wrong is that the dictator has been ruling Belarus since 1992 – in actual fact, he has been in power since 1996, but I guess it doesn’t make any difference. Thank you for sensitizing the international community to what’s happening in my country.

    Best of luck to you in your pursuits.

  4. Pavel

    Hello! Are not you ashamed? You were not in the country, and write such idiocy? Apply for a visa and arrival in our country. Your description of the country is laughable. And I’m very sorry!!!

  5. joseph hjarta

    It seems you have skipped Day 116! I can’t find it!

  6. Vitorio

    My dear friend! It is a shame what you have written about Belarus. You have insulted profoundly all Belarisians. Have you really been to this country? No!!! Have you got known our people, our nature, our culture? No!!! You have no idea how this country works and how the people there are? Who has given you the right to demonize and to pull in the dirt 9,4 Mio people in the middle of the Europa without having spent even a single day in Belarus? All you have written is what everyone can read in European newspapers, most of them (first of all the political side) is true but…You have no own experience. We are not Russians and have never wanted to be them. We are not all the KGB-members. We are a polite and hospitable folk, open minded but unfortunately not really free. But that doesn’t mean that we have deserved it to be treated by you such a way. Get a visa for Belarus, come as a normal tourist without violating the visa requirements by train or car to visit us and you will surely change your mind. Till that the Belarusians dont’t accept your record. Sorry…

    1. marinayazenok

      Agree with every word!

      Was so proud of Graham, and so delighted by the project, but…
      Was the idea REALLY just to step on the countries land?

      Sorry to say, but shame on you for cheating and not making an effort.

      Do apply for the visa, it’s not that hard to get one, come and discover a beautiful and distinct country.

      Best,
      M.

  7. farside

    intersting voyage

  8. Ben Barry

    GO Gray!!!

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