It’s very difficult to find such an expert in Borisov sites as Olga Kalacheva. In 2012, she was recognised as the best excursion guide of the country at the Learn Belarus contest. Olga’s excursion, entitled "Unknown Known Borisov" is a range of discoveries and sensations.
“Let’s start with fortifications from the period of 1812 and then proceed to the remains of an ancient castle. From here we’ll go to the square where the beautiful Holy Resurrection Cathedral is situated and nearby — a district of wealthy citizens from the mid-19th century, alongside a treasurer’s office, a synagogue, and a monument to the founder of Borisov — Polotsk Duke Boris.
We’ll also listen to a chamber music concert at the Catholic Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, constructed in 1806, which preserved an ancient organ. Then, we’ll head to the place of appearance of the ‘first’ Borisov in 1102 and also drop into the former palace and park estate of the Radziwills from the mid-16th century and a residence of the royal family from the mid-19th century. I’ll also show you the place where Napoleon stopped in October 1812 and we’ll visit the places of battles from that time, thus closing the wheel of epochs on the landmark (for these places),” she tells us.
Brest: What will the fresco tell us?
The Hero Fortress is the major sight of Brest. But is it the only one that is worth attention? Olga Malafeecheva was born in this city and is ready to change your ideas about Brest as merely a bastion of the first days of the Great Patriotic War.
“While studying historical literature and meeting native residents, I’ve discovered that I live in a unique place, at the crossroads of various cultures and the crossroads of streets where people used to speak different languages and practised all the religions that were spread across Europe. Now, I’d like to bring this to tourists,” she tells us.
Olga especially enjoys walking with tourists on the eve of the evening ritual of the lightning of street lamps in Sovetskaya Street. Her excursion, entitled "Brest — An Old and Modern City", starts from an archaeological museum on the site of the dig of ancient Berestie from the 11th-13th centuries — a forefather of the current regional centre. In the Hero Fortress, the guide pays attention to forts, bastions, surviving gates, barracks and ruins of the White Palace and St. Nicholas Garrison Church. “The traces of bullets are even in the church interior; piercing frescoes. They remind us of the war.”
The excursion guide advises her guests to visit the Museum of Saved Art Treasures, in order to see artworks by Aivazovsky and Vrubel, as well as decorations from precious metals and ancient coins.
Nesvizh: We start our walking as soon as the sun rises
The most promoted legend about Nesvizh is that of the ghost of the Black Lady — Barbara Radziwill who, as it’s known, hasn’t ever been to this city. Are there any legends which are connected with local realities? Vitaly Byl definitely has some.
“I love my city and organise my excursions so that they are also interesting to me. Tourists also shouldn’t be bored. I’ll show the places where villains were tortured and sentenced to death in medieval times. You’ll also learn how honorary Nesvizh nobility passed away. If you’re interested, I’ll tell you about Jewish magic and whether it protected people from demons. The excursion is based on memories of the past centuries and recollections of long-livers. We’ll go from the town hall to the place where the teacher’s seminary was located, and we’ll also drop into the Benedictine Monastery, while examining the places where the Uniate church was standing with graves, alongside a synagogue in the market. Obligatory points of the programme are the Slutsk Gates and the Corpus Christi Catholic Church. We’ll be able to visit all these within slightly more than one and a half hour, and we start our walking as soon as the sun rises...” Vitaly tells us.
Minsk: History frozen in Krasnoarmeiskaya Street
In the shadow of the fame of the current building of the National Library in Nezavisimosti Avenue, we’ve somehow forgotten previous buildings from the early 20th century which are all situated in Krasnoarmeiskaya Street. One of them — a yellow building with a tower and decorated with an ‘onion’ — stands closer to the avenue, while the other one is now occupied by the Council of the Republic. Moreover, the whole street is a collection of architectural masterpieces of pre-war Minsk. The House of Officers is the creation of the great architect, Iosif Langbard, while the Presidential Residence (the former building of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Belarus) and school #4 were built to the project of the last pre-war architect of the city, Gerasim Yakushko.
If we walk along the tram lines, we’ll find ourselves in a beautiful Stalin’s Empire style district, alongside a hippodrome where, on June 16, 1944, a partisan unit marched to mark the liberation of Minsk… Close to the hippodrome, the barracks of the Red Army were once situated, and even earlier — the barracks of the Russian Emperor Army which were called ‘koshary’ (in the Polish manner). From this comes the ancient name of the street: Kosharskaya. You should ask for Alexandra Volodina, who will happily guide you and tell you about many more interesting things.
Grodno: Entrance to New World
Tatiana Kazak suggests going on her excursion — Jewish Grodno. The Big Choral Synagogue, the Museum in Troitskaya Street, the Tobacco Factory (named after Shereshevsky), houses which still remember painter Lev Bakst, Esperanto founder Ludwig Zamenhof and one of the founders of the gambling business in the USA Meyer Lansky (Suchowljansky) — all these will certainly become a discovery for you.
You’ll feel the atmosphere of Grodno at the time when it joined Poland, if you wander along cosy streets of the Novy Svet (New World) district, which, unfortunately, is being gradually demolished nowadays. Who knows, maybe, they will reconstruct the initial appearance of this location based on tourists’ recollections.
Pinsk and surroundings: Blok’s notebook instead of fellow traveller
A hundred years ago, the First World War broke out, which left ruins and numerous victims in Polesie, but brought here many prominent people as well. During the opposition between the Russian and German armies on this land, the poet, Alexander Blok, served in the Tsar’s army. He also left his traces in Parokhonsk, Luninets and Kolby.
He arrived in Pinsk’s surroundings in the summer of 1916 as part of the engineering-construction squad in order to reinforce the front lines. The poet spent almost 200 days here. Meanwhile, alongside severe living conditions, the poet also remarked in his notebook about the local sights, which are now part of the tourist routes: ‘Pinsk, seen from the field, is similar to the town of Kitezh, elevated above the fog: a white church, a black church…’
Blok’s literary museum has been operating in the village of Lopatin since 1980 — the first in the former USSR republic.
Loev: Along the bank of heroes
In autumn 1943, the Red Army liberated the first districts and cities of Belarus from Hitler’s occupants — Komarin, Vetka, Dobrush, Loev and Gomel. Even now, we cannot but imagine how it was. Excursions guides will show the place of the famous Loev crossing. Moreover, the Battle for the Dnieper Museum displays materials from that time. Nearby, a military technique from the period of the Great Patriotic War is exhibited under open sky.
By Viktar Korbut