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June 25th 2009
Published: August 13th 2010
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Now I have the time to write a little about Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Several months ago I started learning the Byelorussian language, and now stopped for a while. I have been to Minsk twice, first in June 2009, and then in November 2009. I like this city very much and it is perhaps in my top five of the cities I have seen. My general impression from staying there is a feeling of complete comfort, and it is difficult to explain this. It is not too huge, and it has many wide streets and green areas which make the city look spacious. Its centre is very harmonic, to my mind. I have in mind to go to Belarus for several weeks sooner or later and visit its major attractions, because the country is perhaps the first one into the life of which I want to get a deeper insight.

I will not speak about the second visit to Minsk much. It was only for a party, but I also managed to have a new look on the city - I walked in the evening, and enjoyed the lights. It looks quite different in daylight than in the evening, and sometimes even more beautiful. Photos from that visit are lost. I also tried the Express hotel that time, which is located right at the train station and, by my observations, is the cheapest. I had a room without shower, because I stayed only for one day. I advise this hotel to those who do not care much about luxury. Though, for myself, this was a perfect place, and there was a separate shower on the floor.

During my first visit to Minsk I stayed in Hotel Zvezda, it is cheap though it lies almost at the end of the city, but taking a bus, you can quickly get to the centre. I went from Ufa to Moscow by plane and then from Moscow to Minsk by train. I remember one particular striking fact - the identity cards were not being checked in the train. It was puzzling, but I liked it. That time I had the so called “common” seat in the train. It’s the most inconvenient mode of traveling because it’s actually impossible to sleep. It’s not a chair, it’s just three people sitting on one long seat. Horrifying, isn’t it. Though very cheap, and perhaps quite convenient when the journey isn’t long and you don’t want to sleep. I had the most terrible 7 or so hours, but finally got asleep sitting, and then even managed to lie because the other people have descended from the train at their destinations. In the morning I had a terrible stomach-ache, it felt like it was going to explode and it even was difficult to walk. I don’t know why, may be because the food in it was heavily shaken during the journey. I suffered because of the stomach ache until I spent an hour in the hotel and visited the WC. Gee, it was such a relief to feel good finally.

I had a smile on my face when I entered the railway station. It felt like another country, with sign boards in Byelorussian language (which is very similar to Russian). The train station is modern, good-looking, convenient to use and looks gorgeous from the outside. I exchanged my rubles for Byelorussian rubles and was at once struck by the very low prices (may be two times lower than in Russia for things like metro, buses etcetera). The next task was to find a map, which I did; decided to go by metro… Later I found out that there was a bus directly from the train station to the Zvezda Hotel. I looked at the map and found a metro station nearest to the area of the hotel; from there I’d go by bus. Now look, I reached the metro station Pushkinskaya and behaved like an idiot. I didn’t know which bus to take and where to go and didn’t ask anyone… However, soon I explored the map, found the right street and bought another map with transport routes. Soon I was already in the bus to the hotel. I checked the stops on the map so as not to miss it. However, buses in Minsk (the large green ones) usually have electronic sign boards showing the stops.

I came to the hotel about 8 or 9 o’clock; check-in hour being 12-00, I had to wait. I was to get my ticket for Global Gathering, so I went naturally to the centre of the city again and bought it. I spent some time trying to find the office where I called previously and booked the ticket. Having failed to do that, I just found another ticket office and bought it. Meanwhile I also took some pictures of the city.

Back in the hotel, I waited a while until 12-00, and then went to my room. It was somewhere round the 10th floor, so I liked the view out of the window. I got rid of my stomach ache by visiting the WC and lay for half and hour musing about the future walks. I decided not to rest much, took my player and went outside. It’s a short ride by bus to the centre; here the map also helped me to find the bus stops.

I had a glimpse of the city from the bus window - it’s very spacious and green and cozy. I liked it at once and now Minsk is definitely one of my most favourite cities.

It’s quite natural that I started walking from the centre. I remember clearly I came to Nemiga Street, visited the 8th of March Square, saw the magnificent Svyato-Dukhov Cathedral (Saint Spirit’s) and then walked to the Nezalezhnosci Square (Independence Sq.). The red Church of St. Simone and Elena has elements of Gothic and modern styles. There are some important buildings like the university, the post office, the House of Government etc in the area, and also an underground shopping mall. From there I went on the Nezalezhnosci Avenue which is the main street of the city. I may not stick to the chronological order, I only try to remember the events. I had a bite in a restaurant of café (don’t remember the name) - pizza, soup and macaroni. It was an Italian establishment definitely; very tasty. From there I reached the Central Children’s Park named after M. Gorky and had a stroll there. River Svisloch flow near it. You can take a boat trip there and there are some other amusements as well. Notable for me was the big wheel; but for my bad luck it got broken the very moment I came to the ticket booth. A sad coincidence, that.

I waited for 20 or so minutes, but the big wheel wouldn’t work. So I left the park in low spirits. I walked along Svisloch to the Nemiga Street. On my way there I saw the Opera and Ballet Theatre. I forgot to mention the Square of Victory with a monument. It reminded me of the St. Petersburg’s Vosstaniya Square - the arrangement is basically the same, though a bit smaller.

The Upper Town. It is the oldest area of Minsk with several buildings of interest. I spent there a while making photos and enjoying the views. Then I walked along the Svisloch River. You can rent a twin-hull boat (catamaran) there or a simple boat. Then I reached Belarus Hotel and not far away from it there was another church - St. Maria Magdalena’s. Well, I wrote so little, but the day was already coming to an end at that time and I decided to go home. Before taking the bus, I bought some food in the Nemiga Mall. Prices are cheaper that in Russia. I can now compare Minsk to Warsaw to some extent, they’re both Slavonic capitals with a similar atmosphere and coziness. When I say cozy I mean that it’s spacious, without too many tall buildings, not too many cars and people, and my own general feeling of comfort.

On the second day there would be another long walk and Global Gathering in the evening. My intent was to get to the big wheel again, find some other churches I saw on the map, and then walk along the Nezalezhnosci Avenue.

I started from Nemiga Street again. I walked to the Gorky Park to enjoy the big wheel, but it didn’t work again. I was quite lucky. I walked in the park for a while and then went to another park nearby - the Yanka Kupala Park, after which I returned to the Gorky Park and went to the St. Alexander Nevsky Church, then to the Church of the Holy Trinity from which it was only a short distance to the Nezalezhnosci Avenue and Yakuba Kolasa Sq. Further on the Avenue one can see the Technical University, the Academy of Sciences, the Cheluskintsev Park and the Botanical Garden, and the National Library.

I stayed in the Cheluskintsev Park for an hour or so. It’s a very nice place for rest, walk, and amusements. There was a smaller big wheel offering a view on the vast green area covered with trees and on tall buildings. My next stop would be the end of the city, so as to be close to the Borovaya Airfield (Global Gathering took place there) and have a rest. I went to some small park with a lake and sat there.

Global Gathering was excellent, especially Tiesto. The crowd was crazy for his whole two hours.

I came to the city by bus (it was a whole bus of ravers) to the Bus Station, from which it’s a short way to the metro; so I was home by 7 o’clock in the morning. My train left at about 16-00 or so; I bought food and fell asleep sitting in front of the Privokzalnaya Sq. Can you imagine that I also slept the whole day and the whole night in the train? I remember that I slept so much that my destination came very quick.

Additional photos below
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23rd February 2013

An interesting and nice blog. Amazing photos. Greetings from Portugal Paulo Gonçalves http://viajaredescobrir.blogspot.com

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