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TOURISM IN BELARUS






Whether it is World War I or World War II, 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, Polatsk, Navahradak, etc. There are beautiful and mighty catholic churches (XIV-XVI cc.) well preserved in Hrodna, Vitebsk, Vidzy, etc.

During World War II every fourth (by some accounts 1/3) citizen of Byelorussian SSR perished. Thus we do have a lot of memorials for the victims of World War II. The most known are Khatyn', close to Minsk, and Brest Fortress. Khatyn is a memorial to a village burned during WWII with its 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.

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.



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.

Because hotel industry in Belarus is pretty poorly developed 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.

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 etc. are widely available for pretty low fee as compared to the West.

 

 

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