Valozhynskіya Gastsіntsy has much to show of interest

Belarus’ most famous green route — Valozhynskіya Gastsіntsy — attracts 10,000 visitors annually
By Vasily Kharitonov

The route appeals not only to those who love historical and cultural attractions, but to those wanting to enjoy the unique colour and atmosphere of the region. Each of its estates, built by local residents, draws 4-5 tourist buses every weekend and, every year, the number of tourists has risen by a quarter. The route was developed in 2010 but is only now complete: tourists can explore rare artefacts, learn about bee keeping, listen to lyre playing and take their picture with a bison. In bygone days, the ‘gastsinets’ was a trade road connecting towns and villages.

The route covers 220km, although only a small portion is open to tourists over their 1-2 day excursion. Further development is possible, especially as Valozhynskіya Gastsіntsy (Volozhin Routes) is of interest to foreigners. Special programmes could be created, including thematic, as the owner of Martsinova Gus estate, Ales Bely, agrees. He offers tours for visitors from Poland.

He usually begins by taking guests to the museum of ‘Rakov Civilisation’, which features a plaster model of Adam Mickiewicz; it belongs to artist and restorer Felix Yanushkevich. In the centre of Rakov, he has gathered a rich collection of items from local culture and every day life. He often tells visitors of the history of the famous town — from the days of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the present. Guests then tour the art gallery, where paintings and sculptures from the estate of his brother, Valerian Yanushkevich, are exhibited, alongside various ceramic and metal items: from pots to a crossbow. It took decades to gather them in one place.

Meanwhile, the Frolov family love to share their beekeeping knowledge with visitors to their estate. A brave soul is invited to drive the bees into the hive and everyone can learn about the life of bees via a video documentary. There are sweet little souvenirs to buy, such as a glass hive in which a little bee family lives peacefully. Naturally, guests never leave without tasting pancakes served with honey and herbal tea.

Borok Farm is owned by talented artist and musician Ales Los, who makes his own musical instruments. He also has a display of wooden boats dating from various decades and is soon to launch an open-air theatre and plein air event, entertaining guests with traditional concerts. He plays familiar and less well-known instruments, including the pipe and lyre, performing not only popular melodies but rare ones from Belarusian villages.

You can stop for a meal at Ganets’ banqueting hall, which looks out onto a small pond. Seated in its original interior, you can enjoy locally sourced dishes and chat intimately about the advantages of rural life. Owner Anatoly Ganets, who plays the accordion professionally, sometimes hosts musical evenings at which artists from Belarus, Poland and Lithuania gather.

Martsinova Gus’ home replicates that of a mid-19th century nobleman and often hosts discussions on history, teaching guests about ancient rituals and culinary delights. 

Not to be missed is a visit to Naliboki Forest, whose hiking trails lead you past a wealth of flora and fauna — including bison. You can even have a picnic, surrounded by bird song.
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