November 14, 2000
The last part of our DP Europe trip was so striking, that I had to add a little bit more to what I wrote last. We had a long bus trip to Belarus, with very long border stops for reasons that I can't comprehend. After all day and quite a bit of the night, we arrived in Minsk. The restaurant was closed at the hotel, but they had a place around the corner that would serve us. Of course, I ordered pizza, and of course, I was amazed that there is one more place that considers tomato sauce to not be a pizza ingredient. The interesting thing was these big guys in suits that were following us around would not accept an offer for a couple slices of my pizza. I know they must have been hungry, but they were in serious security mode. Come to think of it, there was a police escort leading us all the way in to the city from the border. And an armed guard on our bus, and stories of mysterious disappearances of vehicles and hijackings on the road we came in on. Probably nothing to worry about. Then again, one of the huge guys followed me back to the hotel and walked all the way to my room and watched me go in.
There were these two old ladies that apparently lived on the floor as monitors. They would peer out and make note of any door opening and closing. Everybody had a cold or congestion, and was interested to find that napkins, tissue, and toilet paper are non existent. There was a 1/4 roll of 400 grit sandpaper in the bathroom if you needed to rub out some scratches in your car's finish. This was the nicest hotel in town. You couldn't call out, in fact it took 8 secret numerals to dial the front desk, which you could only get from the front desk. No heat, refrigerator was in the room, but smelly and not operational. Motel 6 would have been proud to compare amenities, especially the little, saggy bed. People in Belarus have a very tough life, and I don't know how they were able to come up with the (subsidized by Western sponsors) relatively low admission price. Yet, the gig was packed and full of incredible enthusiasm.
One of the guys that waited on us in our little segregated room that we ate in, told us an interesting story. Years ago, during the full blown USSR days, he was kicked out of the Academy (college level) for listening to Deep Purple. Another had told Ian that he went to jail for having a DP album. This was way before MP3.
Latvia was a big change. Of course, after we spent 2 hours trying to cross the border out of Belarus. Seems we didn't buy the optional insurance on the way in, or something like that. Perfectly content to let us sit for no reason. Stone cold expressions of contempt for the decadent Westerners....or was it just the way they treated everyone? Everybody that wants more Government-made decisions should go to Belarus to see the aftermath. Leaving, we saw lots of horse drawn carts that the farmers were using, I also so a horse pulling a plow in a field. No fences in most of the open grazing land, but some guys were herding cattle on foot, tending them to keep them together. Cheaper to pay a guy than to build a fence.
Anyway, Latvia was very cosmopolitan in comparison. Many people speaking English, and Western style hotels. Quite an impressive place compared to our preconceived ideas. It's proximity to Scandanavia and Finland apparently kept it in regular touch with them. If you're looking for friendly exotic, try there or Czech Republic. Great last gig. I still couldn't wait to begin my 4 legged trip home, though......a pretty long tour leg for me.
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