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The capital of Belarus, situated 340 km (213 miles) northeast of Warsaw and 120 km (75 miles) southeast of Vilnius, was first mentioned in 1067, but little of the old city now survives except a few 17th-century buildings. The city grew to be an important axis of communication and suffered badly during World War II. Modern Minsk is symmetrically designed with wide embankments flanking the Svisloch River. The cultural scene is very diverse with the Belarusian Ballet and good museums such as the National Museum of Belarusian History and Culture, the National Arts Museum, the Museum of History of the Great Patriotic War and the Museum of Old Belarusian Culture. Other interesting museums deal with the major Belarusian writers, Kolas, Kupala, Bogdanovich and Brovka. Icons form a large part of the National Gallery. The suburb of Troitskoye Predmestye should not be missed; it gives an insight into the way Minsk once looked – 19th-century houses with colourful facades line the streets. There are also excellent examples of Baroque architecture, such as the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit (1642), the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul (1613) and the Maryinsky Cathedral, which has been rebuilt to its original shape.

Belarus in the 13th century was the nucleus of the great principality of Lithuania and its capital was Novogrudok, featuring a 14th-century castle, Lida, where Adam Mitskevich, the great Belarusian poet, was born. About 22 km (14 miles) from the capital is the picturesque village of Raubichi, with an interesting ethnographic museum housed in a disused church. Not far from Raubichi, is the idyllic Minsk Lake, dotted with numerous islets and surrounded by dense pines. The Museum of Folk Architecture is situated in Ozerto (15 km/ 10 miles southwest of Minsk), and features original pieces of century-old buildings from different regions in Belarus. The Dudutki Museum of Material Culture is to be found 40 km (25 miles) from the capital city and is the only private museum in Belarus showing traditional crafts and ways of life. The onion-shaped domes of Russian Orthodox churches dominate the landscape throughout the country, but especially around Logoysk (40 km/ 25 miles from Minsk), Krasnoe (60 km/ 38 miles from Minsk) and Molodechno (80 km/ 50 miles from Minsk). The memorial at Khatyn commemorates its destruction by the German army during World War II.


Brest is a popular place to visit. One of the highlights is a tour of the Brest Fortress, which was used to repel the German forces during World War II. Inside the Fortress is a museum which chronicles its history back to the 13th century. This history is further illustrated by a fascinating selection of exhibits in the Museum of History and Archaeology. In the surrounding countryside, time appears to have stood still for centuries; 500-year-old trees can be found in the state national park, Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Wild European (Belovezhskaya) bison roam the area - the symbol of Belarus. Here, there are 87.6 hectares of total area to explore and discover the 60 types of animal and 900 types of plants that it contains. For tourists seeking political history, it is here, in the village of Viskouli, that leaders of Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine signed the famous agreement stipulating the final disintegration of the USSR. Brest has a famous puppet theatre that is worth seeing and visitors should not miss out on the elegant design of the Belaya Vezha (White Tower), also known as the famous Kamenets Tower, that was built in the 13th century.

Other Places

Wide plains, picturesque villages, ancient castles and monasteries, deep forests, scenic landscapes, and thousands of lakes await visitors. Belintourist offers several one- and two-week itineraries with different themes catering for nature-lovers, culture fans and sport enthusiasts. The village of Zhirovitsa, 190 km (119 miles) from Minsk, is renowned for the beautiful 15th-century Monastery of the Assumption. Part of the monastery complex is a convent and a theological seminary (17th-18th century).

120 km (75 miles) from Minsk is the small town of Mir where one can see the Jewish Cemetery and the 15th-century Mir Castle (a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site). Nearby, historic Nesvizh still retains its old buildings. The former residence of the Radzivill family is one of the most attractive palaces in the country. It is surrounded by a large park with numerous lakes and elaborate gardens. Only a short walk away is the imposing Catholic Church designed by the 16th-century Italian architect Bernardoni. Vitebsk, situated 270 km (169 miles) from Minsk is the birthplace of the painter Marc Chagall. There is a cultural centre named after him, and his family house has been turned into a museum.

The centre of Christianity during the time of Rus (the first Russian state) lay in the Slavic town of Polotsk. Polotsk is the oldest of the Belarusian cities, founded in 862. An excellent example of architecture of the period is the 11th-century Church of St Sophia. Worth a visit are the two castles nearby. There is also a 12th-century convent, St Ephrosinia of Polotsk, and a 16th- to 17th-century Epiphany Monastery.

Pinsk is 300km south of Minsk and is the second-largest city in the Brest region. It has an abundance of historical, architectural and cultural monuments. The city and its environs are also renowned for both their natural beauty and as the centre of the Belarusian Polesye, a low-lying land of waters and mists.

In Grodno, the fifth-largest city of Belarus, major sites are the Old Town centre, the Kalozh-Church and the Old Castle (both from the 11th century). The north and northwest, near the borders of Lithuania and Latvia, are dominated by the Braslav Lake District. It is a good area for watersports, with a total of 30 lakes situated in an atmospheric forest. Accommodation in the area is usually in small dachas along the lakeshore. Belavezha Wood is one of the last sites where rare animals such as bisons, bears and wolves can still be seen living in their natural habitat. Long scenic hiking trails are scattered throughout the Nature Reserve of Berezinsky, stretching from the source of the Berezina to Palik Lake. Primeval forests, marshland, deep rivers and a rich fauna and flora dominate this unique region, hence its UNESCO listing as a protected biosphere. This reserve historically provided a great trade route known as the way 'from the Varangians to the Greeks', connecting the Baltic and the Black Sea countries.





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