Only Shklov, in the Mogilev region, has a traditional holiday dedicated to the humble cucumber. As the most popular vegetable in the area, it even has its own monument. The festival gathered local residents and guests from other cities
Local resident Tamara Shersteneva notes, “Guests are always surprised on seeing our town covered with polythene film greenhouses and local markets full of cucumbers. My mother tells me that, once, trucks full of these vegetables headed to Russia. They are still popular among city dwellers, with each woman boasting her own secret for pickling cucumbers. It’s not for nothing that our city is called the cucumber capital.”
Inedible cucumbers are also popular in Shklov. The custodian at the local history museum, Olga Grishchenko, notes that vegetable-souvenirs are quite popular among tourists, who also like to take photos next to the cucumber monument outside. It’s said that your house will prosper and rich harvests will be collected if you touch the foot of the monument.
Of course, the district centre has many other sights worth visiting…
Old park avenues. The city park is full of ancient spirits, being founded on the former Zabramnoe estate. In the early 19th century, it was purchased by Duke Apollon Krivoshein, from merchant Voeikov. The Duke was the Transport Minister for the Russian Empire. He divided the park into a production zone (featuring a cardboard factory — which now houses the oldest Belarusian Spartak Paper Mill) and his household. His mansion was destroyed and trees now grow on the site.
“This poplar — which would take at least five people to encircle it — marked the place where carriages arrived from the eastern avenue,” explains the museum’s research officer, Irina Gapeeva. We walk along these shady avenues of poplar, birch, oak and lime and she tells me, “The trees, including firs and cedars — came from various countries. The park itself was designed and planted by Malinovsky, a resident of the village of Ulanovo. He studied gardening in Warsaw and designed the park in the shape of the Russian Empire’s emblem — a two-headed eagle. It’s clear when viewed from above. Another unique aspect is the abundance of lilacs and exotic flowers. An artificial pond was created on the Duke’s order and is now home to water lilies listed in the Red Book. They are rarely seen in Belarus. Luckily, they’ve taken root and local residents take care of them.”
A monument to Semen Zorich — a favourite of Russian Empress Yekaterina II — is situated nearby. He once owned the city, establishing a theatre and a college for the nobility, and is buried near the Dormitory Church.
Secrets of history. A city legend is connected with the Church of St. Transfiguration; in the late 18th century, Agafya Sidorova lived in Shklov. Jointly with her fiancй, she was hurt badly in a carriage accident, as the horses began racing too fast. He left her on the road to die but Agafya survived and began helping people. After the tragedy, she received the gift of divination and all the money which people donated was used to build the Church of St. Transfiguration over the next century. It remains open today and never closed — even during the years of atheism and war. Its high domes compare to those of the 18th century Town Hall in beauty.
“The Town Hall, the clocks and the emblem are unique,” smiles Ms. Gapeeva. It’s said that ‘Justice’ was once inscribed on the emblem. “Though the letters have disappeared, we still believe that a spirit of fairness watches over Shklov,” she adds.
We can only guess how many other secrets this land keeps. Recent archaeological digs state that the city is 400 years older than once thought…
By Olga Kislyak