Five days in Belarus; a fantastic adventure. Minsk, largely destroyed in the Second World War, is today a capital with wide streets and sidewalks and many parks. It therefore seems never busy, despite the fact that almost 2 million people live there. The hotel was close to the old quarter, where many cozy places can be found; restaurants, (sports) bars and karaoke bars. On the way to the Berezinski biosphere reserve, we visited the Stalin Line, a WWII museum that you don’t find in Western Europe. The terrain is full of vehicles, helicopters, fighter jets, rockets, etc. You can ride a tank and shoot with a weapon of your choice. In any case, there are quite a few experiences for the bucket list! We visited Khatyn, where it becomes compellingly clear how much the Belarusians suffered in WWII. In the small forest park where we spent the night, we met a group of local hunters who were distributing a freshly shot deer and invited us spontaneously for dinner. This became an unforgettable evening full of good food, repeated toasts on everything, lots of music and fun. What a warm people! The following morning we saw the European big five, albeit in captivity. Back to Minsk we stopped at a monument in Studenka, for the fallen soldiers of the French army of Napoleon; another dark page in the history of Belarus, where they were again in the line of fire. This evening the Belarus – Netherlands football match was scheduled in the beautiful Dinamo stadium. The match was quite bad, but the Netherlands won. The last day the Belaz factory was on the agenda. This company produces the largest dump trucks in the world. Very impressive. After a lunch at the Druzya brewery and a nice tour of Minsk, this surprising and super fun trip was over. Belarus may not be an obvious choice as a travel destination, but these five days were unforgettable!
My guide and driver Irina and Viktor were great. They treated me kindness and courtesy. My accommodations were great and the itinerary was very good.
We had a very nice holiday. We were especially surprised, in all the booklets and on all sites there are stories that it is really the last Soviet country that exists and that you have to adjust to it, but it just isn’t that way anymore. You could get everything but really everything and the shops are open every day (also on May 1st). Minsk is full of Malls, with expensive Western brands, where young people without looking or blushing buy expensive New Balance shoes and eat in pretty expensive restaurants. It seemed a little less rich in Brest, but in the city center there was really everything there, including hip vega bars. The driver was sweet and had a nice Skoda that he was very careful with. He could not find us on arrival at the airport. The tour with the guide and the car in Minsk was a very good plan, the city is quite large and all those six-lane roads don’t make it very friendly for pedestrians. The hotel was decent, good place, but a bit squeaky with too few sockets and an air conditioner without control panel (it was hot and the windows are really noisy) and a little faulty shower. In Brest it was better and the hotel near the castle was the best, Irina was right about that. The breakfast there was also fine, much better than in Minsk (there it was really Russian with those pale sausages, fat bacon, no brown bread or yogurt). This looks like complaining but it is explicitly not, we like that. Moreover, you could get sandwiches everywhere and especially cake and great coffee. That really did not even remind you of the Eastern Bloc. There is not much to do, people walk quietly with their children in the park. The botanical garden in Minsk was a hit, really big with a lot of parents with children and grandfathers and grandmothers with grandchildren who just enjoy the nice weather and the garden. It looked a bit like the Gorki park in Moscow. Brest was very nice, with some hands and feet we could get a taxi to the fort (and back, with google translations). The fort itself was great, it was practiced for the May 9 celebration, with wreath laying and marching, very pleasant, everyone took pictures and videos of it. Nice museum too, huge monuments. The Museum of the Great Patriotic War (WWII) in Minsk was also extremely impressive, with quite a few English or German captions. There were many Polish children on a school trip there. The museum is full of all kinds of different things: tanks and other weapons, lots of photos, German regulations, clothing (home-made hip bags where you could keep your money and coupons in case you came across something to eat), German overviews of the progress of the Barbarossa attack. I especially found the soldiers’ diaries heartbreaking, tiny booklets written with ink. Furthermore, traveling by car on the highway was very special, extensive agricultural areas with only grain, no small roads, villages with church towers or farms with trees. More than 30% of the villages and towns were razed to the ground by the Germans in 1941 and no longer built up, so you can see that too. No tourists by the way, actually almost nowhere. I was glad that we spoke a little Russian, which helped us every now and then, at the station in Brest for example. We did not understand whether we should be on the Moscow or Warsaw platform. Vegetarian food is not easy when we asked: no meat? We immediately got back: yes, yes meat! So I ate a lot of grilled vegetables. All in all, we could have traveled alone, but it was also very nice to have a guide and a car, we could never have reached that primeval forest without a car. We still had a bag of cash left because you could pin everywhere (even contactless) and get money out of the wall (that was expensive by the way). Customs also went under a curse and a sigh, only they wanted the registrations at the exit. That was well arranged at the hotels, so we had that. A very special experience all in all, for me in particular a look at the history, the fate actually, of a Central European country in the 20th century.
Dear Mr. Langedijk, the trip was wonderful. I have visited more than 100 countries but this was one of the top countries. Much tranquillity, friendly people and a lot of culture. I’d like to return once more but that’s only possible in a year time. Best regards.
From Schiphol we flew to Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The airport in Minsk was very modern, funnily we had expected it to be old-fashioned. We were advised as follows: pin cash as soon as possible, because withdrawing money in the country is only possible in a few places … .What a misconception, even contactless payment could be done almost everywhere! Minsk is a beautiful, clean city with lots of stories. With the help of an English speaking guide we have also taken a tour of the city and the Stalin line, a real must. Our next place to sleep was in Mir, this is a traditional village that has no tourism yet, so hardly any English is spoken. Hands and feet, together with Google translate, provided conversations. In most places there are no English references, so it is useful to know what the signs mean in Belarussian writing. The most beautiful experiences in this journey we have gained in the homestays. We stayed with private individuals twice, they cooked for us and knew a lot about their country and history. With the help of a bit their home-brewed vodka, we spoke better Belorussian and the host and woman spoke better English or German! We have also been in a primeval forest, the back garden of the ancient Tsars and the rich Poles and in the birthplace of Marc Chagall, the city of Vitebsk. We have experienced so many things, we are so surprised by the country that we hope to go back someday. The biggest recommendation is: book all the guides before departure, they all speak perfect English and the country is comes to life even more. Belarussians speak and understand Russian, but the official language is Belarussian! The people may seem stiff, but they are sincere and proud and like to share with you if you are genuinely interested.