Medieval style relaxation

[b]Grodno region has always been an attractive venue for tourists, who are drawn by its amazing historic monuments: palaces, castles and churches. Many Belarusians and foreigners visit throughout the year[/b]Several years ago, the region on the Nieman River was enriched by new routes passing through villages. Almost 200 homesteads – large and small – now welcome tourists. We’ll look at just two, situated in the largest rural tourist centres of Grodno region.
Grodno region has always been an attractive venue for tourists, who are drawn by its amazing historic monuments: palaces, castles and churches. Many Belarusians and foreigners visit throughout the year

Several years ago, the region on the Nieman River was enriched by new routes passing through villages. Almost 200 homesteads – large and small – now welcome tourists. We’ll look at just two, situated in the largest rural tourist centres of Grodno region.

From castle to a zoo
A wonderful and beautiful land is found just 12km from Grodno, close to the Belarusian-Polish border. Eighteen hectares are covered with amazing landscapes, large and small ponds, and forests inhabited with wild animals. This paradise-like corner is now perfectly supplemented by harmonious new buildings, including the Grodno Homestead of Korobchitsy agro-tourist complex.
This natural-architectural ensemble is no mere cultural-entertainment open-air centre but a bright example of how the traditions of Belarusian architecture, folk spirit and modern recreation technologies can co-exist. Two years ago, the complex was built by Grodno Meat Factory JSC on a former waste ground. Today, the homestead – built in the style of a 17th century noble mansion – is open to all. Every day, the number of its guests grows, with many arriving from abroad. Children and adults can spend their time in all manner of interesting ways.
On coming to Korobchitsy, you feel rather as if you’ve plunged into the Middle Ages. You can horse ride, with the help of an experienced instructor, since a stable with 40 thoroughbred horses is situated here. A luxurious coach can also be rented. You might like to relax on your own island in the middle of a pond, sit in a cosy summerhouse or listen to music in the open air. There’s so much to see: a blacksmith’s shop, a woodcutter’s workshop, a hunter’s lodge, a fisherman’s house, a Gypsy tent, a ‘Park of Smiles’ children’s playground and the house of Baba Yaga – the fairytale witch. After taking a stroll, you might like to drop in at Zevana’s Castle restaurant, with its columns made from cut oak, walls of stone, pine beams and forged iron lamps; it’s wonderfully atmospheric.
Everything has been made by Grodno masters, with most jobs done by the local meat factory’s repair-and-construction department, headed by Valery Burduk. The design is the result of joint artistic work.
Of course, the farmstead’s true heart is its kingdom of animals and birds. The local zoo is home to ponies, elk, deer, wild boar, goats, roe and rabbits, while special cages house pheasants, peacocks, hens, geese, swans, turkey-cocks and ducks. Further development plans for the site include the construction of an indoor horse riding ring and accommodation for guests. To attract visitors in winter, an unusual ski track is being laid – following archive documents.

Everything begins with the Book on Horses
It’s hardly possible to tear your eyes away from a passing wedding. The bride and the groom ride in a luxurious coach harnessed to three graceful horses while a dozen of elegant animals and riders follow behind. Later, the couple enter the old restaurant with its massive wooden tables crammed with exotic dishes such as ‘Sophia’s Surprise’, ‘Wild Hunt’ and ‘Venice Present from Krzysztof’. It’s not a film set; such ceremonies are common in the village of Grintsy, in Oshmyany district. The latter hosts the Gippika Equestrian Centre. At just four years old, it’s already enjoying huge popularity among tourists, while offering unusual wedding ceremonies.
It’s no problem to reach Gippika; you just take Minsk-Vilnius motorway until the Ostrovets turn (after Oshmyany). The magnificent farmstead is situated a mere 4km from the noisy road. It has a long history, as the construction of an equestrian centre began 15 years ago, 500m from the village. There was a rumour that Olympic champion Victor Ugryumov was coming to work there and his fame enabled the project to be completed quickly. However, Victor changed his plans and left for Russia. The centre’s ownership passed on to others, who used their own funds to build a large agro-tourist complex there – named in honour of the famous Gippika: Book on Horses (written by Krzysztof Monwid Dorohostajski 400 years ago in Oshmyany).
The guided tour of the farmstead begins with the words, “This historical site is most precious.” Tourists learn about the Book on Horses and see the wealth of local sights. There are two fields here (for shows and training), two indoor manages and a stable with 46 stalls; 30 thoroughbred horses are kept here, most of the Hanover breed. Among them are stud Valentino and mare Electra; anyone can ride them, as well as the other horses. Instructors are at hand for novices, as riding is popular among tourists. A coach is available too, alongside winter sledges. Young riders even put on a show for visitors; it’s proven very popular.
Among other entertainments at the farmstead are tennis courts (with rackets offered for rent), billiards and Russian banya (sauna). The latter is situated in one of the two wooden two-storey hotel buildings, each sleeping 10-12 guests, with deluxe and ordinary rooms offered. Each has a horse theme, with paintings and ornaments dedicated to all things equine.
The local medieval-style restaurant housed a stable five years ago. Now, only horses’ muzzles remind of this. Gippika’s cuisine is tasty, with meals served three-times a day. Meanwhile, the courtyard is filled with beautiful bushes and flowers; dozens of trucks brought fertile soil to the site, allowing hundreds of plants to decorate the farmstead and please guests.
Nearby is Boruny Roman Catholic Church and Monastery (15km) and Golshany’s Castle (some distance further). In Zhuprany, tourists can visit a huge brick-built Roman Catholic church, with a plaque honou-ring Frantishek Bogushevich. Muro-vannaya Oshmyanka attracts with the ruins of the Dorogostaisky Palace (from which Gippika began).

By Iosif Popko
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