Eight health resorts and 253 homesteads operate in the Brest Region

Customs for any corner

Eight health resorts and 253 homesteads operate in the Brest Region, but many possibilities for recreation exist here
By Valentina Kozlovich

Eight health resorts and 253 homesteads operate in the Brest Region, but many possibilities for recreation exist here

The area heartily welcomes all guests and the Pruzhany District was a true success in 2013. Compared to 2012, its exports of tourist services rose 170 times! Local enterprising managers generated 150 percent more on visiting tourists than the Baranovichi and Pinsk districts together, with foreigners bringing around $2m to the district. To learn where guests can spend their money and what attractions are worth visiting, our reporter travelled to the area, meeting the purposes of our present Year of Hospitality.

Ruzhany Gates Festival

Health like hot cakes

I supposed that the Pruzhany District made much of its money in hunting (aurochs, in particular). However, the Head of the Pruzhany District Executive Committee’s Department for Sport-Educational Work and Tourism, Sergey Shchipanov, disagreed, “You are not right in thinking so. Yes, the Pruzhany Forestry has equipped its Guta camp for hunters and fishermen, but almost all our revenue has come from the Ruzhansky Clinic. It neighbours, the Ruzhanskaya Pushcha and Papernya Lake where with their swamps are wonderful…”

In the past, much was invested into the clinic by the National Bank and, at present, it is subordinate to another establishment and produces great financial results.

Importantly, medical tourism promotes sports travel. Athletes from Russia train at local the Water Palace and Ice Palace. Every year, Pruzhany hosts hockey tournaments, featuring Russian teams. Since last year, these are also attended by sportsmen from Polish Hajnówka.

Air stone or vision

Ruzhany is situated 43km from Pruzhany, and Ruslan Kniga, who heads the Sapegis’ Palace Complex, firstly took us to a souvenir shop. Local black ceramics — jars, bowls and mugs — are worth buying. Potter, Sergey Khudyaev, from the village of Staraya Golynka (Grodno Region’s Zelva District), produces them, following ancient traditions and selling them at moderate prices.

Last year, the palace was visited by 18,000 guests who spent Br112m on souvenirs alone. At present, foreigners are coming to the site to see the Ruzhany meteorite: Mr. Kniga is convinced that this is the very rock which frightened local villagers 120 years ago. The meteorite is heavy, with traces of combustion, which probably appeared as a result of its passing through the atmosphere.

This June, Ruzhany hosted the Ruzhanskaya Gates Festival for the fourth time. Craftsmen surprised guests with their products, and wood-cutters donated ten figurines to the city; these embody representatives of the Sapegi family who left a bright trace in our history and culture. Last year, twelve sculptures were erected in the town park — devoted to the site’s receiving its Magdeburg Right.

Under white-tail eagle’s wing

This year, Br1.3bn is being allocated to the Ruzhany Palace as part of the Castles of Belarus programme — to strengthen its eastern blocks which would then house a theatre, a hotel and a restaurant. So far, guests can stay at a private hotel.

Meanwhile, a Ruzhany branch of the Pruzhany District Consumers’ Society has opened a Taverna in the village of Lyskovo, not far from Ruzhany. Its pine furniture was produced under individual designs while dishware was supplied by the Radoshkovichi Ceramics Plant. The walls are decorated with emblems belonging to ancient families, while a stuffed white-tail eagle perfectly fits the interior; the bird was not killed, but unfortunately died after being trapped by electrical lines.

Mr. Kniga took an active part in breathing ‘the atmosphere of the epoch’ into the café. “It was initially set up due to the Queen and Great Duchess of Lithuania, Bona Sforza (who was born in Milan). She had a castle not far from Lyskovo. Only boulders remain on the site which we show to our tourists,” he explains.

Dozens of monuments — including the majestic Trinity Roman Catholic Church — are found in Lyskovo. The grave of Polish poet and playwright, Franciszek Karpiński, is found nearby, while an old cemetery — with graves of the Bykhovets family members (who represented Bykhovets’ Chronicles to the world) is a little farther.

A road now runs to the Belovezhskaya Pushcha — bypassing Lyskovo. This gives hope that the century old village would actually revive.

Arms-length event

Legends should exist, and if not, they can be invented, with help of marketing mystification. With this in mind, Mr. Kniga deserves respect if sceptics are right in doubting the meteorite’s origin, as the artefact of the Sapegi Palace continues attracting tourists.

Really, castles are not our major treasure. Any corner of Belarus boasts its own custom which is definitely unique. It’s no need now to convince anyone that intangible cultural heritage is an important component of the Belarusian tourist product.

In May, the I Come from Stoily Festival gathered over a thousand guests in the dying village neighbouring the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. A local woodcutter — 82 year old Nikolay Tarasyuk — could hardly believe that all these people came to visit him (as he is the only villager). A week later, Pruzhany invited friends to the Echo of the Roof Festival of Experimental Art, and then the Ruzhany Gates event was organised. All these events take place on the territory of the Pruzhany District and are a worthy tourist attraction.

The Brest Region offers many more festivals and holidays: in June, the Ruzhany Gates Festival of Arts is organised, in addition to the Kamenets Vezha Festival of Medieval Culture. The Luninents Strawberry holiday is hosted by the village of Dvorets, while Troitsa is celebrated by the Stolin District, Malty Semukha — by the Zhabinka District, and the Bereza Serbiyanka Folk Festival — by the Bereza District. July is known for the Napoleon Orda’s Parlour art project (Ivanovo District) and an international open-air gathering of potters in the village of Gorodnaya (Stolin District). Meanwhile, the Motol Delicacies Festival (near Ivanovo) and the Sporovo Haying International Championship (held for the first time this year under this status) on Haymaking are held in August on a swamp near Bereza.

No doubt, the choice is rich and, at the moment, the pottery of Gorodnaya and artistry of woodcutter, Nikolay Tarasyuk are included in the Belarusian list of intangible historical-cultural treasures. This year, a documentary (directed by Viktor Aslyuk) on the unique master — Wooden People — won a top prize at the International Film Festival in Montpellier, France.

Around eight dozen elements are included on the list; most of them are emblems, customs and crafts. Among the Brest Region’s state protected intangible treasures are the rootstock weaving craft (Podbela village, Kamenets District), Namsky Easter (honouring dead relatives in the village of Obrovo of the Ivatsevichi District). In early 2014, the ‘Sporovskaya Polka’ dance (Bereza District) and the Strylka Ester custom (Dro-gichin District) joined the list.

Never leaving empty-handed

Tourists love to buy souvenirs which remind them of the places they have visited. Books, jars and magnetic signs are sold at any shop, but the real, local craftsmen continue inventing their own unique souvenirs. Moreover, each district has its own.

Pruzhany has revived an ancient custom of Belarusian villages: doll weaving. Our rolled dolls are an ancient symbol of the Slavonic culture and our grandmothers could easily make them without a needle or even scissors.

The Director of the Pruzhany Centre of Children and Youth Art, Alena Pukharevich, recollects that everything began with the establishment of a group involved in European toy making. “We then decided to return to our origins: talked to local elderly women, drew doll sketches — which were once woven in the Pruzhany District — and offered a master class, taking some knowledge from the Internet. Originally, such rolled dolls were used as talismans but, at present, souvenir-dolls are the most popular. Among them is an herbal doll, whose head and chest are filled with thyme. We also use other healing herbs, such as mint, or use grain for a grain-doll,” she explains.

While demonstrating a bird-talisman, Natalia Kovale-vich, the Director of the Bereza Crafts Centre, says, “Young master Alexander Lavrinovich, who learnt from Nikolay Galaburda (from the village of Sudilovichi), has revived a previously popular craft: the making of bird-talismans from wood chips, and  which is called ‘a bird of happiness’. The latter saved young Nikolay many times in Germany, where the fascists forcibly sent him to work. The craftsman then made these birds and exchanged them for bread…”

Vladimir Zhurko, from the village of Minki in the Bereza District, weaves baskets from woodchips. The Stolin and Gantsevichi districts are pleased to offer their ceramics to tourists, while the Ivanovo District’s coopers produce unique barrels and spoons.

Objects and events worth visiting in the Brest Region:

  • Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park (Kamenets District)
  • Brest Hero-Fortress Memorial and its historical reconstruction of June 22nd (Brest)
  • Sporovo Haying Championship on Haymaking (Bereza District)
  • Master Nikolay Tarasyuk’s workshop (Stoily, Pruzhany District)
  • Motol Delicacies Festival (Motol, Ivanovo District)
  • Sapegis’ Palace and Ruzhany Gates Festival (Ruzhany)
  • Kosciuszko’s Mansion of Merechevshchina and Puslovskis’ Palace in Kosovo (Ivatsevichi District)
  • Kamenets Tower and Medieval Culture Festival (Kamenets)
  • Nemtsevichs’ Mansion and military-historical reconstruction (Skoki, Brest District)
  • Malty Semukha on Trinity (Khmelevo, Zha-binka District)
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