[b]Natural and historical treasures await their admirers[/b]The tourist season has finished but that doesn’t mean that there’s nowhere to travel. It’s pleasant to relax on the banks of a lake even when you can’t swim. Fishing and hunting are still possible of course. Meanwhile, restoration works on historical and cultural monuments continue whatever the weather, with many of European importance, presenting a true attraction to nationalities.
The tourist season has finished but that doesn’t mean that there’s nowhere to travel. It’s pleasant to relax on the banks of a lake even when you can’t swim. Fishing and hunting are still possible of course. Meanwhile, restoration works on historical and cultural monuments continue whatever the weather, with many of European importance, presenting a true attraction to nationalities.
Braslav: wild hunting
Four tourist resorts, accommodating 180 people, continue to serve the Braslav Lakes National Park; they’re so popular that booking in advance is a necessity. In fact, weekends are usually booked up by visiting hunters several weeks ahead.
In October, the hunting season for wild animals began, lasting until January 31st. Hunters from throughout Belarus and abroad arrive at Braslav in search trophies: the tusks of wild boar, and horns of elk and roe are the most sought after. Guides are at hand to help with meat cutting, and game can later be made into sausages.
It costs around $50 in equivalent for a license to hunt young wild boar (up to two years old) while a license for adult elk (non-trophy) costs around $500. Hunters arriving from abroad need additional documents to import their guns and require a veterinary certificate for trophy export.
The BrasLove Tour aims to attract the most sophisticated clients, offering deluxe and semi-luxe rooms at Drivyaty lodge. Guests visit Braslav, Mayak Mountain and the picturesque village of Slobodka, with its Roman Catholic church in neo-Romantic style.
Until the end of November, a steam boat cruises along Lake Drivyaty. Bicycles and boats are offered for hire in summer while skis and skates are available in winter. Several skating rinks appear in Braslav in winter and the natural rinks of ice-bound lakes certainly prove attractive. In winter, those staying at Drivyaty can even take a snowy forest trip by sleigh.
Preparations for the New Year holidays have already begun at the Braslav Lakes, to be celebrated in Belarusian style from December 30th to January 6th.
Luninets: supper prepared on an open fire
Part of the Srednyaya Pripyat Reserve (nor far from Luninets) is likely to become a hunting-free zone, with safari tours planned instead. The Director of the Republican Srednyaya Pripyat Landscape Reserve, Vasily Mordukhai, tells us that tourists enjoy the authenticity of rural customs, as they offer a real break from urban living. You can prepare dinner in a traditional oven or cook over a fire-pit, camp in a tent, stay in a rustic wooden lodge, hunt or cruise on the River Pripyat. Plenty of equipment is available for hire — from 4-seater boats with oars to bicycles, tents and sleeping bags. The ‘Along the Willow Valley’ route is particularly beautiful, covering a 2km circular loop. You can see low lying oaks and willow brush woods, while admiring the saucer lakes of the River Pripyat. There’s even an observation tower, from which wild animals can be admired.
Polotsk: 1,150 years of history
Polotsk is called the ‘father’ of Belarusian cities, being older than Minsk, Vilnius, Riga, Moscow and Warsaw. Moreover, it’s located at Europe’s geographical centre. Next year, the city will be celebrating its 1,150th anniversary, with celebrations scheduled for late May and early June.
Polotsk boasts a rich history, with Frantsisk Skorina (the first publisher of the Bible in Belarusian) born there. The first Belarusian saint — Yevfrosiniya Polotskaya — also came from Polotsk. Sites connected with her name remain, tourists from all over the globe arriving to visit the 11th-18th century St. Sophia Cathedral and the 12th century Holy Transfiguration Church, painted with the most beautiful frescoes, by local and Byzantine masters.
Polotsk District is rich in historical monuments and forests, as well as berry and mushroom championships. ‘Lyasun’ — a character from Belarusian mythology said to protect the woods — was recently selected as a ‘talisman’ for the district. Lyasun tourist centre has opened near the village of Yakovtsy, with a phito-bar and ecological school. It also boasts craftsmen, who work there and teach guests basic craft skills.
Minsk: travelling to Ice Age
The Stone Museum, located in the suburbs of Uruchie, is to be included on the Minsk tour route. It opened in the late 1990s, dedicated to unusual stones left by a glacier many thousands of years ago. Monuments of pagan culture are also on display: monolithic stones which our Belarusian ancestors once worshipped.
The Chairman of the Belarusian Association of Excursion Guides and Escort Interpreters, Nikolay Chirsky, is confident that the Geology Museum will become popular with foreign tourists.
Many excursion routes are currently dedicated to Minsk, including ‘Minsk — the Capital of the Republic of Belarus’, ‘Theatrical Minsk’ and ‘Sporting Minsk’. Moreover, we have our ‘Paths to the Church’ route, which tours the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches of the Belarusian capital.
Lida: Khrushchev’s thaw
Lida’s Historical and Art Museum has launched a unique exhibition: 1960s Khrushchovka. A room has been styled with 1960s dйcor and furniture, as was typical for Khrushchovka flats. The three- to five-storey buildings were cement-panelled or made from brick, developed in the USSR in the early 1960s. They took their name from Nikita Khrushchev, who directed the Soviet government at the time. They were known for being narrow, with low ceilings, and lacked sound insulation, having partition walls.
The museum has brought together unusual artefacts and household items from that time, with the room’s interior being planned carefully to appear exactly as it would have done half a century ago.
Recreating the interiors of past ages is a fashionable trend for museums these days, drawing the attention of tourists. At Minsk’s First RSDRP Congress House-Museum, you can see how Minskers lived in the early 19th century. Meanwhile, the reconstructed rooms of a Belarusian nobleman are available at Minsk’s Regional Local History Museum, situated in Molodechno.
Volchin: royal restoration
Holy Trinity Catholic Church in the village of Volchin, not far from Brest (where the last Polish King, Stanisław August Poniatowski, was buried) is being gradually returned to its former glory. Polish restorers are working on the unique historical building, which lay ruined for many years.
Built in 1733, at the front gate to the palace and park estate of Duke Czartoryski, the Roman Catholic church was greatly damaged during WWII, and was then used to store fertilisers and toxic chemicals. It is now registered on the State List of Historical and Cultural Treasures. In September 2007, Holy Trinity Catholic Church was moved to Pinsk’s Roman-Catholic Eparchy, which ordered restoration.
A wonderful view of Volchin’s suburbs opens up from the clock tower, which crowns the church’s roof. The tower was recreated late summer. Unfortunately, it lacks a clock with four faces, one for each direction; however, restorers promise that they’ll eventually be installed. Among the ruins of the Catholic church, they discovered one clock face, with an hour hand. The new ones will recreate the appearance of the original, while boasting contemporary mechanisms.
Volchin’s church is being restored by the same team of specialists who worked on Minsk’s Cathedral of St. Mary and Pinsk’s Church of the Assumption of St. Mary. Restored sculptures of four apostles are soon to grace the church; only one of the original figures remains — that of St. John the Evangelist. The sculpture was going to fall, with the figure being removed at the last moment.
Shchuchin: palace’s second life
The 19th century palace has been restored and is now newly opened in the Kirov District’s Zhilichi. The Druckie-Lubeckie Palace is Shchuchin’s landmark, being built by Franciszek Ksawery Drucki-Lubecki — once an ambassador of the Russian Empire to France. According to legend, his Shchichin residence imitates one of his Parisian palaces, being baroque-classic. Vilnya architect Tadeusz Rostworowski designed the beautiful building, which was owned by the Druckie-Lubeckie dukes until 1939 and became the local House of Officers in Soviet times.
Restorers are now working on the faзade, restoring and renewing its decorative elements. The inner decoration will be the final touch, with all works scheduled to be completed by 2013. Schoolchildren are to be involved, giving tours to visiting tourists.
By Viktar Korbut