Have you ever dreamt of having an island of your own? I bet you have. You have a good chance, then, if you live here in Belarus. You don’t have to be some tycoon or landowner, the only thing you need is to go to Braslav Lakes.
Braslav Lakes is a unique natural facility that was given the status of the national reserve eleven years ago.
Fifty relict lakes emerged after the most recent glacier melted in the territory of Belarus. These lakes form an unparalleled ecological system with special flora and fauna that is over 130 square kilometers large, more than some famous lake groups in Finland, the country of lakes. The Braslav District is often compared to Finland and even Switzerland, and there is definitely a good reason – it is an amazing natural necklace of blue, turquoise and azure lakes connected by a string of tiny rivers.
The beauty of these lakes inspires. These are not evergreen groves of the west of the country and impassable woods of the south, but the melancholic smoky valleys that have a mood of impressionists’ best canvases. This is modest charm rather than luscious beauty.
The area is unbelievably clean, with pure air, water and ground, almost untouched by civilization. There are over 35 kinds of birds, plants and animals that are on the Belarusian endangered-species list. Black stork, badger, lynx, flying squirrel, waterlily and lady’s slipper “dwell” only here. The lakes boast enough pike perch, pike, bream and eel to please the most fanciful fishermen.
About two years ago a source of mineral water was discovered not far from Braslav with the same medical qualities as the famous Georgian Matsesta.
The lakes are different from each other. Lake Drivyaty is like a small sea that is never calm. A light wind makes it leaden waters grow in waves with white caps, but for some strange reason the lake becomes even more inviting. You jump into the water and surrender to pillow-like waves. Lake Voloso Yuzhnoe is the deepest one (almost 40 meters in depth) and so transparent that you can see the bottom seven meters below yourself. You look at the underwater seaweeds and realize this is how the world looked like millions of years ago before life crawled ashore.
This is why the lakes are so attractive to tourists, both Belarusian and foreign. Belarusians are getting more eager to spend their summer vacation near the lakes, and they are not just saving money.
Over 30,000 tourists visit the lakes every year, and this year’s exceptionally hot summer will certainly raise this number.
The infrastructure of Braslav Lakes falls under three categories: the first is the recreation centers and vacation hotels that have been there since the Soviet Union times (the well-known names include “Slobodka”, “Drivyaty”, “Zolovo”); holiday camps with everything a family needs (fresh air, excellent beaches and three meals a day); comfortable cottages that have been built around hotels over the past few years (it takes a week in a comfy European-style cottage to forget about your troubles and get several years younger).
Cycling, caravanning and trekking are there for those who prefer a bit of extreme.
If you are near Braslav, you must drop in to have a look at the town with a 1,000-year history. It was built by the Polotsk Prince Bryachislav and became an outpost of the famous Polotsk Principality, so the air around the town is filled with the aroma of centuries.
The Castle Mount in the center of the town has a wonderful view of nearly all the lakes. If it does not seem enough, you may rent a helicopter flight to have a trip of your life.
At the same time, you may see a part of the world-famous route “from Varangians to Greeks”. The route is available to tourists, and there is a special water trip for enthusiasts. A couple of kilometers from Braslav there is a site with open cages where you (and your eager kids) will be able to see roes and elks.
Lake Strusto boasts the largest isle of the whole Braslav Lakes system. With an area of 1.6 square kilometers it has a 25-meter-high hill with a tiny lake on the very top.
A couple of years ago one could see a real miracle in one of the islands of Braslav Lakes near the village of Bogino. Wooden idols turned the village into a heathen temple forming rows of guards of the unique Braslav area, a perfect spot for leisure and sightseeing.
by Alena Izraztsova