[b]Zapadnaya Dvina River again navigable in Vitebsk after 25 year break[/b]Vitebsk boasts so many interesting and beautiful locations along the banks of the Zapadnaya Dvina River, on which Vitebsk stands: Holy Protection Church, Pobedy Square, Holy Assumption Cathedral, the former Gubernatorsky (Governor’s) Palace and the Marc Chagall Art Centre. Now, all can be admired from aboard a show-white steamboat. It has begun cruising along the river since October, enticing tourists to explore the regional centre while helping develop international water routes.
after 25 year break
Vitebsk boasts so many interesting and beautiful locations along the banks of the Zapadnaya Dvina River, on which Vitebsk stands: Holy Protection Church, Pobedy Square, Holy Assumption Cathedral, the former Gubernatorsky (Governor’s) Palace and the Marc Chagall Art Centre. Now, all can be admired from aboard a show-white steamboat. It has begun cruising along the river since October, enticing tourists to explore the regional centre while helping develop international water routes.
The ‘Vitebsk’ steamboat, constructed at Pinsk’s Shipyard, was launched from the city’s river port on October 9th. Before its maiden voyage, it had already covered almost a thousand kilometres of road, having come from Brest region to Vitebsk by truck. The 28m long white vessel glided majestically through the berths, having been traditionally christened with a broken bottle of champagne on its bow. The impressive steamer was consecrated in line with Orthodox custom and set off on its spectacular first voyage along the Zapadnaya Dvina River, accompanied by a brass band.
Although Vitebsk’s river fleet officially began in 1918, steam navigation existed along the Zapadnaya Dvina River for many years beforehand. During the Great Patriotic War, the Germans deliberately sank vessels but, in 1945, the fleet was revived. I still remember visiting the pioneer camp as a child, travelling by barge. However, no vessels have cruised along the river in the last 25 years.
“The decision to revive passenger carriage along the Zapadnaya Dvina River was adopted by Vitebsk’s Regional Executive Committee in November 2009,” recollects Valery Chevnerov, who heads Vitebskvodtrans Branch. “Alongside building a ship, this project envisaged the deepening of the river mid-channel and the construction of three berths. Employees of our enterprise have removed 35,000 tonnes of soil from the bottom of the river to allow the steamboat to cover a 5km route from Blokhin Bridge (at the city’s centre, near Pobedy Square) to a leisure park in Mazurino. No matter what the water level during periods of drought, the ship may pass.”
Vyacheslav Drobyshevsky captained the first trip to Kirovsky Bridge, from where a wonderful view opens up over the newly constructed Holy Assumption Cathedral. He praises the work of the Pinsk ship builders, as did the 60 passengers who took the maiden voyage.
This is the third steamboat we’ve made recently,” Victor Brutsky, Director of Pinsk’s Shipyard, proudly tells journalists. “The two previous vessels are operating along the Avgustovsky Canal and Vygonoshchanskoe water reservoir. However, ‘Vitebsk’ is the most contemporary and comfortable and least noisy.”
According to Mr. Brutsky, interest in such pleasure boat trips has grown recently. Spas and guesthouses located close to the Minsk Sea and other large Belarusian lakes have expressed interest in having their own cruise boats. Moreover, potential customers are contacting him from Poland and Russia. Of course, this is primarily connected with the development of tourism. Who wouldn’t want to embark on a cruise, enjoying all the latest modern conveniences: air conditioning, TV sets with DVD recorders and a cosy bar on the lower deck?
The steamboat hosted Vitebsk newlyweds on its first trip and carried Moscow tourists for the next. It’s sure to be very popular in summer, during the International Slavonic Bazaar Festival of Arts. According to Mr. Chevnerov, by this time, Vitebskvodtrans will have given one ship its own dance floor and a smaller rowing boat will be available for passengers to use; it’s a curious and original idea.
Several days ago, it began sleeting in Vitebsk, making it rather unpleasant to cruise by steamboat. Accordingly, the vessel is to rest in the city’s port over the winter. Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee, which has allocated money for the construction, is keen to extend the excursion route to cover Beshenkovichi and Polotsk and, even, Latvia and Sweden, liaising within the Panorama Dvina/Daugava international project. The ‘Varangians to the Greeks’ route may become a reality once technical issues have been settled.
By Sergey Golesnik