For my birthday trip in August, we visited Belarus! You can now visit visa-free for five days. I will explain how in an other post, for now, let’s see the sights!
When you leave the main train station, you are greeted by the sight of the looming city gates. Minsk is a really clean city and you don’t see litter anywhere, not even in litter bins! The buildings look very pristine also, almost as if they have also been cleaned.
It’s worth mentioning that there are not too many maps, and I didn’t have roaming data on my phone so its hard to navigate. Although the taxi drivers don’t receive many tourists, apart from Russians, they still know how to overcharge. I think there will soon be more tourists now that visa requirements have relaxed.
We stayed in Hotel Belarus for one night, which as you can see, is very Soviet-looking. The lifts tended to stop at all the different floors which was very annoying. It overlooked the city and the river. The lovely river was one of my favourite things about this city.
I’m not entirely sure what this office building was, but it was very imposing. There were ‘to let’ signs in the window as I’m sure it is hard to fill. These ladies are taking selfies on their pedalo, outdoor activities are big in a city with a large river and wide streets, as well as countless parks.
On our second night we stayed in the riverside hostel, also known as Hostel Trinity, and we faced the Island of Tears. This angel statues cries tears all day. The island pays tribute to Belarusian soldiers who died in the war with Afghanistan.
I like my city tours to show a bit of street life, so here is a street!
There are not as many shops and restaurants as you would normally see in a city. The restaurants generally sell local food as well as pizza and pasta. As a vegetarian, I ate a lot of pizza when I was there. Right now, it is not a city to visit for gastronomy, but it is worth sampling the local delights.
Here you can see a KFC under a Soviet building, capitalism and communism combined.
Modern Belarus is a relaxed place and the people are friendly, due to a lack of outside influence, less people speak English than the rest of Europe. It’s well worth learning some Russian words as you will certainly get to use it.
This is one of the old parts of town that looks over the river. Here you will find tourists – and maps – both of which are harder to find elsewhere in Minsk. There are also quite a few restaurants here, but they are more overpriced than the rest of town. I recommend the national dish of potato pancakes with sour cream.
I wanted to show an example of Brutalist architecture so here it is, the Republic Palace which is guarded by soldiers. I was afraid that I would be told off for taking a photo of the building, but in fact it wasn’t a problem at all.
Next to the park is the circus building, surrounded by statues showing scenes from the circus. This acrobat is on a horse, I saw kids loving the animal statues that guard the entrances. We also saw an old women urinating behind the gatehouse which we didn’t expect – and apparently neither did she!
Independence square is a huge square surrounded by big buildings just like elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Here you can see one of the buildings peeking out from behind the Belarusian flag.
We strolled around one of the lovely parks, Minsk is a really green city. It’s botanical garden is one of the biggest in the world. I love a ferris wheel and there was a whole fairground to go with it. I was also surprised by a woman holding a python which the kids loved. She also had a parrot and rabbits to be photographed with, I’m not sure how much fun that was for the animals.
I’ll leave you with this image of Minsk as the sun was setting after a hot day. Many building line the river to create a modern cityscape. There are loads of attractive people strolling by, getting dressed up is definitely a right-of-passage here. Many people hire bikes to navigate the massive boulevards. I have to say it was nice to be somewhere so spacious. The population of the whole country is not huge so you are rarely in anyone’s way.
I liked Minsk more than I thought I would, then again I had no expectations as there is not too much information about it compared with other cities. Considering that they’ve only just allowed visa-free entry, its a wonder why, as really they’re just hiding a nice city. It’s really cheap and laid back and the residents are not sick of tourists…yet.