The very word Belarus should inspire visions of beauty and kindness, if it does not, then most likely you have not been there. Belarus has retained its mystery, it has remained virtually closed and unexplored since the fall of Communism. Belarus is little known, little understood, and even less traveled. It is one of the few countries in the former Soviet Union where Lenin still stands and the Soviet symbol, the sickle and hammer, can be found in abundance. It is the only country that still uses the KGB. Powerful forces in Belarus are guiding it forward and forcing it backward at the same time.
Despite, or perhaps because of, this, Belarus has become an intriguing place to travel. Belarus is filled with beautiful forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife. In many places the history seems alive, and can almost be felt. Reminders of war, suffering, oppression and survival can be seen throughout the country. Churches, fortresses, and many other aspects of Belarusian culture have kept their traditional feel. Traditional crafts, dances, and opera have survived Soviet Imperialism and give travelers a sense of the inspiring culture that is native to Belarus. Its capital Minsk is worth a visit and has quite a lot to offer compared to cities such as Gomel.
Traveling to Belarus is not easy, in fact if you lack determination, go somewhere else, but if you are looking for an adventure that you will never forget, then Belarus is the place for you.
Minsk, the capital of Belarus, has a rich history. It has stood for over 900 years, however most of Minsk has been built since World War II. The center of the city is where most of the action and attraction is. The main roads, Skoriny and Masherova are the cleanest and busiest in Minsk. The city is also much safer than one would imagine. Many people hear bad things about Minsk, and Belarus in general, but the streets are quite safe. This is probably due to the huge amount of police and soldiers that can be found throughout the city. Don’t be afraid to get out and meet the friendly people of Belarus.
Brest is located in the South Western Corner of Belarus. It is on the border of Poland, and is the place where Hitler began his invasion of the Soviet Union. It is 200km from Warsaw and 330km from Minsk. 1999 was the 980th aniversary of the city.
Vitebsk, like most other large cities in Belarus, was ravaged by World War II. Before the war Vitebsk was predominatly Jewish and there were over twenty synagogues. Today there are almost no jews left in Vitebsk. The city still has a few buildings that have not been fixed or demolished since World War II. Vitebsk has kept its small town feel, and can be a nice place to relax.
Gomel, the second largest city after Minsk, is located in the south eastern part of Belarus, in the same area that was once the centre of the atomic energy disaster at Chernobyl. It is one of the oldest towns in the country and although it served as a fortified military stronghold in the 15th and 16th century, it is not of great historical importance. At the beginning of the 19th century many of its original wooden houses where replaced by brick ones, leaving only a few remnants of the classicist architectural influence, such as the the Rumyantsev-Paskevich Palace.
At present, the economy is slowly recovering again, not in the least because of the impact of the Chernobyl disaster and the fall of the former Soviet Union.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons.