Monday, January 01, 2007

Minsk, Belarus

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Advantages - Friendly people.

Disadvantages - Concrete blocks. Flat countryside with lots of birch trees.

Some of the information below may be out of date. Check about visas and flights....


The fairground in Chelustintsev Park evokes Fellini-like dreams. Go see it when you are in MINSK.

Also in MINSK:

1. Shop in the GUM department store at Skoriny 23, and imagine you are agent 007 on a little mission. Prices in Minsk vary. Inflation is high.

2. The First Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party Museum may not be on your list of must-sees. But, the Great Patriotic War Museum (at Skoriny 25a) may be of interest as it reminds us about concentration camps and the many deaths on the Eastern Front in World war II.

3. Then there are lots of lovely old Orthodox cathedrals such as the 17th century Cathedral of the Holy Ghost, at Kirilla and Mefodiya 3 and the Cathedral of St peter and Paul built in 1613. The cathedrals and churches have that exotic feel that you get in places like St Mark's in Venice or churches in Naples.

4. Want to row a BOAT? Go to lovely Park Janki Kapaly. GORKY PARK, next to Pobedy Square and the river, is a good place for walks and picnic.

5. Fancy a daytime drink? Head for the cafes and shops and rebuilt 17th century buildings east of the Svislach River.

6. Strolling: Minsk is like parts of East Berlin, back in the 1950's and 1960's. Big concrete buildings, clean streets, and not too much traffic. Take your camera and photo this workers' paradise.

RESTAURANT: NOSTALGIA, Ivanovskaya 43, has a nice fireplace and good Belarussian food. MILK and MUSHROOMS should be avoided because of Chernobyl contamination.


PARADISE, Masherova 13, Moskva Cinema, has music and a risky show.

COSMOPOLITAN, Kommunisticheskaya 86, near the Belarus hotel, has youthful local bands. Ever been to a concert in a scout hall? It's not as bad as that.

WEST END CLUB, Storozhevskaya 15, next to Hotel Belarus, is a disco for the well -heeled. There is a show which might shock your mother.

MiLord, Skoring 25, Trade unions Culture Palace, has a restaurant, disco and unusual atmosphere! Decadent.

THE PEOPLE: very friendly (mostly). Very musical. Lots of music!

HOTELS in Minsk: Recommended is BELARUS, which is well equipped, although not perfect! Nearest METRO Nemiga.



Khatyn is 54km North of Minsk.

During World War II the Nazi Germans were here. Many villages were wiped out. Many concentration camps were set up. In 1943 the Nazis burnt the small village of Khatyn. 149 people, including 75 children, were burnt alive. Only one person survived. You can visit the memorial and see the statue of a villager carrying his son. Haunting. Tears may come to your eyes as you glimpse yet another sign that fascists fail to see that they reap what they sow.


This is 15km North of Minsk. This time it was the Russians who did the killings. Around 250,000 people from Belarus, the Baltic States and Poland are thought to have been shot in the back and dumped here.

BREST, on the border with Poland, has the 19th century Brest Fortress, almost destroyed in 1941, during the war. Not really worth a detour.

BELAVEZHSKAJA PUSCHA NATURE RESERVE, reached by bus from BREST, 25 miles journey, has wild boar, elk wild horses etc. there is a nature museum if you like that sort of thing.


Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the KGB, came from Belarus. Belarus still has its own KGB. This is not a democracy, so they say, so watch your step.

Typhoid is not unknown, and, tick-borne encephalitis and hepatitis can be problems. Typhoid kills. Medical insurance is compulsory. "Visitors should bring essential personal medications."

Chernobyl: 70% of all the fallout from 1986's Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion landed in Belarus! Up to 40% of children who were exposed to the fallout are expected to get thyroid cancer. Thousands of children already have it.

The British Foreign Office has a warning about muggings, pickpockets and thefts from hotel rooms. It warns against 'attracting unecessary attention.' In particular, visitors should avoid demonstrations and rallies.

FLIGHTS: Austrian Airlines will fly you via Vienna to Minsk, capital of Belarus. You must get your visa before you go. ( The British Foreign Office warns: "Proper maintenance orocedures are NOT observed by some local airlines. On arrival, visitors must fill in a currency form and KEEP it.


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