Article by our local guides at Free Walking Tour Minsk
Among traveler expectations from Belarussian capital there is one that stands very solid and concrete: there must be many USSR related stories to hear, as well as places to see. It isn’t our mission to leave you disappointed, therefore we have prepared this secret attractions list. And we are bound to guarantee that Lenin himself approved it!
Grocery store with 40 meters long bar table. Built in 1954 and used to be the favorite choice of mom’s with kids to eat Soviet style cakes, but turned out to become the most prominent spot for “cheap drink and go”. How did it happen? They literally permitted to consume all kinds of spirits inside of the grocery, after you paid for them and because the sale of alcohol went almost without any margin unlike a restaurant, this led Centralniy bar table to be a treasure for industrial workers, students or even punks from the neighborhood. Expect no chairs, no waiters, nor high prices. While sipping your low cost beer have a look at wall paintings, depicting scenes from local lifestyle and massive chandeliers.
Built after WW2 partly by German and Italian prisoners who were captivated at war time. Predominantly houses were distributed to officers and high ranked generals from Army Headquarters. About 40 two-story houses colored in light yellow encircled by trees. Stroll there to feel yourself as a colonel and find out that it looks like a village, hidden in the heart of our city. Additionally, at northern tip of Osmolowka quarter you will end up at entrance to Alivaria Beer factory. The museum visit plus degustation set must be booked in advance. Link: https://alivariamuseum.by/en
From Spanish word “la Muralla” – literally meaning “the wall”. This type of graffiti like art decorated many cities in Soviet Union, certainly having ideological context behind. There are several of them well preserved, in good condition and easily accessible. For example, the most worthy to check and see would be murals located right after exits from metro stations “Frunzenskaja”, “Ushod” and ”Kastrychnickaya”.
Creating statues and sculptures of communistic leaders and placing them in every square of Minsk city obviously was a fundamental idea for seventy years. On the basis of one workshop, belonging to local sculptor Zair Azgur, was created the fanciest museum you may find in Belarus. And, surely, not one you may reach accidently. Heads of Karl Marx, Stalin, Lenin, Dzerjinskiy gathered in one room looking at you from shelves. And exactly in the same room local community “Cinemascope” runs silent black&white movie festivals throughout the year. If it’s summertime then screening moves into a nice green courtyard nearby. Already imagined atmosphere you will be surrounded with? Just remember to get cinema tickets in advance. You can find schedule at : http://cinemascope.by/.
Largest death camp on Soviet Union lands organized by Nazi during WW2. Being positioned on southern outskirts of Minsk close to simple residential houses it makes hard to believe that in this peaceful field more than 200 thousand people were murdered. Consisted out of three main facilities: “Trostenets” – barracks, grain warehouse, greenhouse and administration; “Shashovka” – cremation pit; “Blagowschina” – place of execution by means of shooting to the back of head. Site has origination since autumn 1941, right after formation of Minsk ghetto. Primary aim of Nazi authorities was not to create labour camp as it was widely practiced that time but directly extermination place. It existed till 1943 and only few people managed to survive. Also has not to be forgotten that third part of all “Trostenets” victims were Jewish nationals from Austria, Germany and Czech Republic. Specifically designated trains brought them from cities like Berlin, Hanover, Frankfurt, Dortmund, Wien and Prague straightforward to “Blagowschina” pit. In 1943 danger of approaching Soviet Army troops forced “Trostenets” administration start hiding traces of the crimes. For this reason today you won’t be able to identify any ex-grand complex remains but rather memory signs, roads and pits only. Site accessible by taxi from city center.
Yes, we do have one! Even in the literal sense it is only a freshwater reservoir, but in broad vision it is the main relax destination on the map around Minsk. Story behind it tells that in 1956 officials wanted to create a flood management system in order to prevent main Minsk river Svisloch from flooding the whole inner center and additionally to set up a resort in close proximity to Minsk. Fun fact: in the 1960s you could even reach Minsk sea by plane, though small one – “Antonov AN-2”, but any average person could afford ticket, then today's reality suggests that flying such a small distance (17 km) by air is opportunity only for privileged one’s. If you are eager to see a picturesque sunset, walking on a long dam and catching light breeze onshore, finding one of six beaches with pine forest around or maybe even yachting, then Minsk sea is a proper place for you. It is a 20-minute train ride from Central Railway station. The stop you have to get off – “Minskoe More”.
For almost 70 years Belarus stood solid among 15 permanent members of the Soviet Union, till the last day of the Empire on December 26, 1991. A traveler should never be confused thinking only grayness, low quality life, deficit and rusted tanks are in the bucket of what’s left behind from communism paradise. Regardless of the ideology in which one lives, Belarussian commitment to squeeze out the best from what we have can be described as our main “soul characteristic”. Turning for good long life under the red sickle and hammer flag as well.
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