Belarus - Minsk
From Sofia via Berlin and Vilnius to the Belarus capital.
After the conviviality of a restaurant in Sofia to an Irish bar near the Berlin Zoo for some (middle-of-the-road) music and a couple of cocktails.
Up early for a flight to Vilnius - 'Double Coffee' lunch and some Internet browsing.
Then a four/five train uneventful ride to Minsk amongst some compatriots.
Where it seemed kind of communist-lite.
Though the government does control the heating - the availability of gas etc is restricted until a specified date which means if it suddenly gets cold, unless you have independent control of your energy, many do suffer.
The weather is cool , some rain but eventually mainly dry .
Wide streets , friendly people and without the feeling of a security culture as in Russia.
There are some good museums, parks, decent architecture and characteristically attractive 'scenery'.
But its a struggle , without local knowledge, to identify good restaurants and bars as their presence is not identified the same way as in the West.Though McDonald's does not have that problem.
Belarus 1 England 3
Some difficulty for our guys in the first half as the locals opened some spaces in the England defence for a period but in the 2nd we had it well under control , helped by an early Rooney goal.
It was another strong away result against a team who could pass it around.
Heskey enjoying a renaissance, was spirited , Walcott pacy as expected and Gerrard got a Liverpool -like cracker.
Rooney , spikey and back to his best.
The uncovered, centrally located stadium was nearly full except for the upper tier above the main stand - restricted because of safety concerns.
The atmosphere was not as intimidating as Croatia (for instance) - the Belarussians generally not having too high expectations for their team.
It looked like there was no spectator problems.
more pics at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/75227628