This short break is designed to give a taster of everything that makes Belarus a great destination. Experience the Soviet history in Minsk, historic castles, rolling countryside and rural traditions - all in just five days. Minsk - Discover its Soviet history and the unique Brazilian-Belarusian fusion street art Castles - Admire the grandeur of UNESCO-Listed Mir Castle and spend a night within the Nesvizh Castle complex Rural traditions - Explore the rolling countryside and Belarus's almost forgotten rural lifestyle and musical heritage
Arrive in Minsk. This exciting long weekend begins in Belarus's capital city. For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 8.30pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Minsk at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Minsk National Airport (MSQ), which is around one hours' drive. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to sample some Belarusian cuisine. Popular dishes include machanka, a hearty pork stew, and draniki, which are thick potato pancakes. For an after dinner tipple try Krambambula, a traditional Belarusian liquor, which is similar to mead and flavoured with spices and honey. On this trip we have packed in as many highlights of Minsk as we can, but there is very little free time in the city, so if you wish to spend some time discovering more on your own then we would recommend extending your stay for a night or two. Perhaps you might like to relax in the serene surroundings of the Sendai Japanese Garden or there's the Minsk Botanical Gardens. Please note that many of Minsk's museums are closed on a Monday or Tuesday, so if you wish to visit a particular attraction then please check that it is open on the day you wish to visit it.
Minsk is a city with a long history, set on the banks of the Svislach River, it was first settled by the East Slavs back in the 9th century AD. However, our guided tour this morning is going to focus on its more recent history, which has largely been dominated by Soviet rule that lasted from around 1920 to 1991. The city was almost entirely destroyed during World War II with around 80% of its houses and infrastructure reduced to rubble. Afterwards the city was rebuilt with its historic centre being replaced by Stalinist architecture with grand buildings, brutalist statues, broad avenues and imposing squares. Victory Square is the most famous part of the city and features a memorial to the fallen heroes of World War II. During our tour we'll have a brief visit to the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, which is the centre piece in Victory Park. This huge museum has hundreds of exhibits and two of the most poignant rooms are the Hall of Glory that celebrates the heroes of the Soviet Union and the emotive memorial found in the Hall of Remembrance and Sorrow. This afternoon we board the metro for the city market where we can see the local residents out haggling for fresh fruit and vegetables that are on sale from nearby farms. You can see, and of course buy, a whole range of edible goodies here including meat, cheese, nuts, spices and more. Next we will visit the Azgur Museum which houses numerous sculptures from the Soviet era that were designed by the architect Zair Azgur. Belarusian politics remains controversial with Alexander Lukashenko having ruled as president since 1994. During your free time for lunch you might like to dine in the Parliament's House of Representatives canteen where you may be lucky enough to spot politicians having lunch. Next, we drive to see Minsk's unusual Central Library building, with its unique architecture. In Minsk's industrial district we'll be able to view the result of collaboration between Belarusian and Brazilian street artists that have injected some much needed colour and fun into the formerly grey and stark buildings. Old tower blocks, factories, trams and buses have been decorated with fanciful designs featuring animals, folklore creatures, cartoon people, geometrical patterns and more. After a full day exploring, the evening is free to relax in the city before returning by metro at a time of your choosing to our hotel. You might like to take a stroll through the Trinity Suburb, which is one of oldest and most picturesque areas. There a number of Stolle Restaurants in the city, which are famous for their variety of savoury and sweet pies that you can either eat in or take away. Just a few of the many pie fillings include meat and egg, salmon, lemon, and cabbage. Please note that the Central Library can be closed at short notice due to events taking place, so we may need to visit this in the morning of day two or in the afternoon of day four instead.
Today we drive out of the city and head for two of Belarus's best known attractions. Firstly we have a guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mir Castle. Its red and white towers reflect in the surrounding water and protect an enclosed cobbled courtyard with a well in the centre. Creation of the fort began at the end of the 15th century and it is widely recognised as being one of the most splendid castles in Europe. It was reopened to the public in 2010 after being extensively restored to its former glories. Next we drive to the impressive Nesvizh Castle, which is also UNESCO-listed and has been home to the Radswill Family for over 400 years. The fortresses construction began in 1584, but it's been extended and changed over the years and now features a mix of Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Classicism and Neo-Gothic architecture. The estate also contains the largest landscape gardens in Europe and a number of ornamental lakes. On arrival we'll check-in to our rooms and have lunch at the castle before being taken on a guided tour. This evening is free to stroll through the castle park, which includes English and Japanese gardens as well as the native flora, and a number of monuments and memorials such as the Wishes Stone. Alternatively you can take a walk to Nesvizh town to see the 16th century Town Hall, old city gate and the Baroque church. There are also a number of restaurants within walking distance for you to choose from this evening.
On our way back towards Minsk today we'll venture into the rural Valozhyn district to experience what life is like outside of the city. Rosy Eco Village was created by several families who decided to escape hectic city life and get back to a more traditional lifestyle where they live off the land and reconnect with nature by farming their own food and creating a family nest. This type of settlement and country lifestyle used to be common, but was mostly lost during the many years of urbanization in Soviet Belarus. Now in this village there are 40 self-sufficient homesteads on five acres of land with cattle farms, fruit and vegetable plots, and gardens. We'll be introduced to the eco village concept by the families living here and get the chance to sample their organic tea, homemade bread, honey, and other delicacies. After having lunch in a tavern at Martinova Gus we head to Ales Los Farm, created by a popular Belarusian musician and artist called Ales Los. We will see here how his passion for folk music and folklore meets nature. We will be introduced to his collection of traditional musical instruments, almost forgotten folk songs and dances, and handcrafts. All of which formed an important part of old-time Belarusian culture that were almost totally erased during the Soviet years. We drive back to Minsk for our final evening in the city.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Minsk. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Minsk at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Minsk National Airport (MSQ), which is around one hours' drive.
4 Break Fast(s) 2 Lunch(es)
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