| Minsk (Latvia) - Located on the banks of the Svislach and Nyamiha Rivers, Minsk is both the national capital and largest city in Belarus (with a population of roughly 2 million civilians). Almost completely destroyed during WWII, present-day Minsk contains some rebuilt pre-war architecture, Soviet-era architecture (including the impressive Architectural Ensemble of Independence Ave), plus modern residential and commercial buildings. And despite its reputation as a socialist capital, Minsk isn't at all a dull or boring city. From quality dining and entertainment, to captivating cultural and historical sites, there's plenty to see and do. A few notable Minsk attractions are listed below...
- Architectural Ensemble of Independence Ave: an integrated approach to city planning and architecture carried out post-war during the 1940s and 1950s.
- Minsk Botanical Garden: a beautifully maintained garden covering an impressive 106 hectares (262 acres). The garden is split into different sectors, each dedicated to a specific group of flora. Visitors can explore peaceful trails winding through a large collection of trees, shrubs and flowers, walk the shore of an an idyllic lake, and view tropical, subtropical and citrus species in a spacious greenhouse.
metro station: Park Chelyuskintsev
- Chelyuskinites Park: a 78 hectare (193 acre) leisure park located adjacent to the Minsk Botanical Garden. A favorite leisure destination of locals and visitors, here one will find shaded walking paths through a peaceful forest, sports venues, a children's amusement park, as well as kiosks and cafes for snacks and beverages. metro: Park Chelyuskintsev
- Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum: with 28 collections showcased in 10 exhibition halls, it is one of the largest and most well-stocked war museums in the world. Visitors of the museum are presented a graphic, moving depiction of the 1941 to 1945 Soviet struggle against Nazi German invaders - one that took the lives of one in every four citizens in Belarus (an estimated 2,230,000 Belarusians died in the war).
metro station: Nyamiha
- Minsk Zoo: located in southeastern Minsk on the floodplain of the Svisloch River, the 42 hectare (104 acre) zoo houses over 400 species of exotic animals. Newest pavilions include the Exotarium (a tropical pavilion of South American fauna) and Dinopark (a pavilion of prehistoric creatures). In addition to animal exhibits, visitors can enjoy the horse and pony rides, amusement rides, theatrical performances and workshops.
- Belarusian National Arts Museum: founded in 1939 (although largely pillaged by Germans during the war), it is the largest collection of national and international art in Belarus. The art museum is comprised of more than 30,000 works of art including - 12th to 20th century Belarusian Art, 18th to 20th century Russian Art, 16th to 20th century European Art and 14th to 20th century Oriental Art.
metro stations: Oktyabrskaya and Kupalovskaya
- Museum of Stones: located on the eastern side of the city, the park represents the geological history of Belarus. Using blue spruce and thousands of boulders brought from all corners of the country (including some with ancient inscriptions), the park forms 2000:1 scale map of Belarus in the horizontal plane (100:1 in the vertical plane).
metro station: Urucha
Since explanatory signage is lacking, here is a quick legend for the “map”...
- large city = a group of stones
- regional town = three spruce
- transport arteries or rivers = paths
- real hills = artificial hills
- national border = shrubs
- Belarusian State Circus: situated in a beautiful Stalinist architecture building (built 1952 to 1959), it is the only circus in the world that is located on the central ave of a nation's capital. Refurbished from 2008 to 2011, the modernized venue is able to host everything from traditional performances to water shows to circus performances on ice.
metro stations: Ploshcha Pyeramohi or Kastrychnitskaya
- National Library of Belarus: constructed from 2002 to 2006, the national library is 23 floors and has a unique rhombicuboctahedron design (geometric shape consisting of 18 squares and 8 triangles). With lots to see, the library houses an extensive collection of books and media, historical collections, art galleries, a cafe/restaurant on the 22nd floor, and an observation deck (with panoramic views of Minsk) on the 23rd floor. Plus, at night the museum becomes a beautiful glowing orb, which itself is a worth a visit.
Located on the outskirts of the city in a park zone along the Slepyanka River, it is easy to get to via the Maskovskaya Metro Line (Uskhod or Maskovskaya metro stations).
- Victory Square: located on Independence Ave (Prospekt Nezavisimosti) in the historic center of Minsk, the square is dominated by a huge 40 m (131 ft) obelisk - a memorial to the country’s war dead from the Great Patriotic War. On the sides of the obelisk at the base are 4 scenes engraved by Belarusian sculptures depicting...
- 9th May 1945 Victory Day
- Partisans of Belarus
- Glory to the fallen heroes
- Soviet Army during the years of the Great Patriotic War
Standing in front of the obelisk is an eternal flame that commemorates the war dead and is also a traditional destination for newlyweds taking their wedding-day photograph. Surrounding the square are great examples of 1950s Stalinist architecture, plus the park is the main entrance to Gorky park.
metro station: Ploshcha Pyeramohi
- Gorky Park: the oldest park in Minsk (established at the turn of the 19th century), it is located along the Svislach River next to Victory Square and Yanka Kupala Park. Gorky Park is a favorite recreation park for residents and visitors, with bike rentals, facilities or volleyball, football, tennis and ice skating, plus an amusement park with a Ferris wheel standing 56 m (184 ft) high.
metro stations: Ploshcha Pyeramohi or Kastrychnitskaya
- Yanka Kupala Park: named after the great 20th-century Belarusian poet and writer Yanka Kupalaa (pen name of Iván Daminíkavich Lutsévich), the park is a peaceful, green, central recreation area located on the banks of the Svislach River. Lined with foot and bike paths, the park also contains a central fountain, monument and literary museum dedicated to the poet.
- Church of Saints Simon and Helena: a Roman Catholic church built in the style of Romanesque Revival (between 1905 and 1910). Located on the corner of Independence Square (Ploshchad Nezalezhnastsi), in front of the red-bricked church one will find a statue of St. Michael slaying the Devil (represented by a dragon), as well as a monument (replica Nagasaki Bell) dedicated to victims of nuclear disaster and nuclear war.
- Mound of Glory: located on the Moscow Highway 21 km (13 miles) northeast of Minsk stands a poignant memorial complex dedicated to the Soviet Army and partisans that liberated Belarus from Nazi German occupation (during Operation Bagration). In total, the memorial stands at a height of 70.6 meters (231.6 ft). It includes a 35 meter (114.8 ft) high earth hill that is crowned by a monument comprised of four titanium bayonets, each with a height 35.6 meters (116.8 ft). The bayonets symbolize the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Belorussian Fronts, plus 1st Baltic Front – all of which partook in the liberation of Belarus.
- Waterpark Lebyazhy: the largest water park in Belarus and rated in the top 25 aqua parks in Europe, Lebyazhy is an indoor-outdoor, all-season entertainment complex. There are 7 indoor slides, 4 outdoor slides, a large “lazy river” swimming pool, a surfing simulator, a children's zone, spa and sports facilities, cafes and bars for food and refreshments, and more. Lots of fun for all ages.
- Loshitsa Park (Loshitsky Park): from the 16th century until the early part of the 20th century the park was a private estate for some of Minsk's most prestigious families. Not until 2011 was the park renovated and opened to residents and guests of the capital. Today it is a favorite recreation area where visitors can stroll, bike, or just sit on a park bench and enjoy peace and quiet. In addition one can visit the beautifully restored Loshitsa Estate mansion that showcases period furniture, fine art, clothing and linen.
- Zaslavl Water Reservoir (Zaslawskaye Reservoir): located roughly 17 km (10.5 miles) northwest of the capital, the “Minsk Sea” is a favorite beach and recreation destination of the landlocked nation. The second largest reservoir in Belarus covering roughly 30 km² (11.5 miles²), there is never a shortage of activity around the “seashore”. Swimming, sunbathing, fishing (summer & winter), hiking, biking, wakeboarding, kitesurfing, windsurfing, kayaking, sailing, barbecuing, celebrating, and just plain chilling are all popular pastimes one can partake in.
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