Attractions in Belarus
Whether it is WWI or WWII, Napoleon war or Northern wars - they happened here in Belarus. There is plenty of history of Russian Socialist revolution here too. Belarus has the richest Jewish history. Whether it is David Mayer-Lanski or David Sarnoff, Isaac Asimov or Menachem Begin, Irving Berlin or Eliayahu Golomb, Kirk Douglas or Gwyneth Paltrow, Haim Weizmann, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Shimon Peres, Marc Chagall, Micgel Kikoine, the Chofetz Chaim, Bielski brothers, and the first Lubavitcher Rebbe - they were born or have roots in Belarus or within 50 miles of its current borders. The first ever Yeshiva was built in Valozhyn, Belarus.
There are plenty
of XII-XIV centuries Castles left in Belarus. Most of
them half destroyed. Some (in Mir, Nyasvizh, Zaslaue, Lida, Kamianec) are
reasonably preserved. Depicted on the left is Mir Castle - one of the
many former residencies of the famous Belarusian Radzivill family.
Today it is a residence of the college of architectural restoration
You can still find XII century orthodox churches in Hrodna, Mahilyow, Polacak (St. Sophia Cathedral of Polacak is depicted on the right), Navahradak, etc. There are beautiful and mighty catholic churches (XIV-XVI cc.) well preserved in Hrodna, Vitebsk, Vidzy(!), etc.
Depicted on the left is the "Farny" Jesuit Cathedral in Hrodna, built in XVII-XVIIIcc by the King of Rzhech Pospolita Polsko-Litewska - Stefan Batory. See many more of the belarusian cathedrals and other historical buildings in our Belarusian Architecture page. Also visit our City Guides with photos and short historical information about many belarusian towns and cities.
If you are flying it is most likely that you will come to our capital Minsk Although completely destroyed during the WWII it was rebuilt in a beautiful city. As for me I like its botanical garden. But visit the linked above page of Dzmitry Zelenko and see for yourself :)
Some Belarusian tour agencies are listed here:
World War II
During WWII every fourth (by some accounts 1/3) citizen of Byelorussian SSR perished. Thus we do have a lot of memorials for the victims of WWII. The most known are Khatyn', close to Minsk, and Brest Fortress. Khatyn is a memorial to a village burned during WWII with it's inhabitants alive by Nazi. It has a Graveyard of Villages - each grave symbolizes one of those many Belarusian villages that have shared their terrible fate with Khatyn.
Brestskaya Krepasc'(Brest Fortress) is famous by the deed of its heroic garrison. It was defending their post for more than month completely cut off, surrounded by Germans, far from the front that was moving fast to Moscow. They all perished but did not surrender. In commemoration of this deed a tremendous memorial was arisen in Brest. Belarusians had an unprecedented guerilla resistance scale - hundreds of thousands of partisan fighters stayed in Belarusian woods fighting Germans. Bielski brothers saved more than 1,200 of their fellow Jews from perishing in the Holocaust - as many as Oscar Schindler, - the largest rescue of Jews by Jews in all of World War II
See our special page about The Nature of Belarus
Close to Brest is a national park "Belavezha" where the relict European relative of buffalo - Zoobr- has survived. This park is shared between Belarus and Poland (see this polish site) and is probably the last piece of primeval European forest. Typical landscapes include pine and mixed woods (1/3 of territory is covered by forest), small hills (the highest point of Belarus - Navahrudak - is 300m above the sea). Belarus is a country of thousands of lakes. You could also do some bird watching in the vast fields, forests and marshlands of Belarus. Of the other natural attractions I can mention a resort on lake Svisloch' with an extremely clean water. Overall Belarus has a lot of small quiet resorts on lakes and rivers in beautiful pine forests. But do not expect a five star service anywhere. It is reasonably clean and safe, but primitive by western standards. The great part about Belarus is that there is no private land. So you can camp pretty much wherever you like to. You can fish, gather berries, mushrooms and flowers, you can daydream on the sunny edge of the forest, you can swim in any lake or river without lifeguard whistling at you and so on and so on. For an overcrowded Europe or Japan this might be a perfect way to get lost in nature. The time scale in such places is unbelievably slow and relaxing.
Agro and Eco Tourism
Because hotel industry in Belarus is pretty poorly developed - I'm not sure if there are any hotels rated above three stars - lately a so called agro-tourism is becoming popular. Agro Tourism is when a native person or local of the area offers tours to their Agriculture project to allow a person to view them growing, harvesting, and processing locally grown foods, such as coconuts, pineapple, sugar cane, corn, or any produce the person would not encounter in their home country. Often the farmers would provide a home-stay opportunity and education.
Mushroom hunting, gathering wild berries and medicinal plants with experts are some ways to spend time on such tours.
The thing is that there is pretty much no private land in Belarus. You can camp in any forest, lie down and dream in every meadow, swim in every lake. Some general common sense fire hazard and nature conservation rules apply and that's it. Agro tourism allows you to live in Belarusian village - out there in nature. You get to eat simple Belarusian peasant food, perhaps even help in the fields or with cattle. This takes you from 21st century into 18th within a day. Forget SMS :) Here are few places that provide such services:
There are some unique places in Belarus that provide health benefits. One such famous place is for people with respiratory diseases - asthma etc. - in Salihorsk. They have man-made caverns - former salt excavation places - where a specific inhalation techniques are used to treat respiratory diseases, so called speleotherapy. Dentistry is lately on the rise in Belarus. One can do the same procedure as in US some 10 times cheaper using modern materials and techniques. And just general health spas with hydro-massage, sauna, different medical prophylactic procedures, like oxygen cocktails, inhalation, specific diets -n are widely available for pretty low fee as compared to the West.
This file is a part of the Virtual
Guide to Belarus - a collaborative project of Belarusian
scientists and professionals abroad. VG brings you the most extensive compilation
of the information about Belarus on the Web.
VG to Belarus