Belarus – the Land of Lakes.

Itinerary: journey to the land of lakes

The length of the route, if you start from Minsk – 480 km. If you want to see everything in a day, get ready in the early morning.

Dokshitsky district, Vitebsk region

From Minsk we drive along the M3 highway. Our first stop is the memorial in the place of the village Shunevka near Dokshitsy (140 km from Minsk). On May 22, 1943 this village repeated the fate of Khatyn – it was burnt by the punishers together with the inhabitants, and the part of children the fascists threw alive in a well. Only three inhabitants managed to survive. In the 1980s, a memorial complex “Curse of Fascism” was opened on this land – a monument to the burnt-out Shunevka and 97 destroyed villages of the Dokshytsy region.

Glubokoe District, Vitebsk Region

Go north along the same highway for another 45 kilometers and we get to the town of Glubokoe. The town has been known since the XV century, and for a very long period of its history it was divided into two parts, which were situated in different provinces and had their town centers. Most Belarusians know Glubokoe because of the delicious condensed milk and meat products. And in the summertime there is also Cherry Fest, which is also held here, at least a lot of people have heard of it.

There are also interesting historical places in the city. In order to see them, we go to the center, to the 17th of September Square. On different sides of the square there are two powerful temples in the Vilna Baroque style. The first one is the eighteenth century Trinity Church. Inside there are a number of interesting artifacts: the icon of the Mother of God of Glubokoe, the chair of the abbot of the Carmelite order, the wooden table of the XVIII century with an inscription in Latin.

Near the church is the Alley of famous countrymen: busts of artists, poets, politicians, engineers, military, who were born in this land.

Crossing the square, we will get to the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary – the former church and klyashtor Carmelites, built in the XVII century on the money of the Mstislavl Voivode Jazep Korsak. By the way, he was buried in the cathedral’s underground. In the next century the church was rebuilt in the Vilna baroque style by Johann Glaubits, one of the most famous architects of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and creator of the present-day Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk. The church became orthodox after the Kalinowsky Uprising.

If you go a little further from the cathedral along Maxim Gorky Street, you will get to the cemetery “Koptevka”. In the cemetery there is Ilinskaya chapel of the XVIII century, a memorial column in honor of the Constitution of May 3, 1791, Polish military necropolis, as well as a number of interesting old tombstones, among which stands out the grave of Ferdinand Munchausen, who died in 1878.

Driving out of town along Sovetskaya Street in the direction of Braslav, stop at the penal colony No. 13. This area above the lake used to be called Berezvechie, now it’s part of the city limits. Now this place looks scary, but just a hundred years ago there was a monastery with a beautiful baroque temple of the XVIII century. During its history, the monastery complex has been in the hands of the Uniates, the Orthodox and the Catholics, and during the war there was a Soviet and a German prison. After the war the church was destroyed, and the monastery cells were converted into a colony, which is still located there today.

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Braslav district, Vitebsk region

On the way to Braslav, stop for a few minutes in Akhremovtsy. On the road there is a beautiful neo-Gothic chapel and tomb of the Pliaters, built in 1858. Plateri is a well-known noble family from Livonia. The representatives of the family occupied high positions in the Livonian Order. A part of the family Polonized and settled on the northern lands of the GDL (Lithuania, Northern Belarus, part of Latvia).

Braslav district, Vitebsk region

As you know, Braslav is one of the main tourist towns in our country. It is situated in the center of the Belarusian Lake Poozero, in the town and its vicinity you can swim in numerous lakes, go water-walking and fishing.

Braslav is a very ancient settlement, people lived here in the IX century, and, according to annals, in 1065 the Polotsk Duke Brjachislav founded a frontier town here. In the times of the GDL the town had the Magdeburg right and was the center of the district.

The historical center of the town is the Castle Hill, situated near Leninskaya street. Ruins of the once powerful castle could be seen there in the XVIII century. Legend has it that under the castle there are secret passages that hid the treasure, but it is not easy to find it, and even harder to get back. On the mountain there is a tomb-monument to Stanislaw Narbut, the son of the famous historian and engineer Theodore Narbut. Stanislav was a famous doctor and selflessly helped people, for which they built this monument in gratitude. From the mountain there is a good view of the lake Driviaty, which stretches for 5 kilometers into the distance, as well as the Church of the Holy Dormition of 1897 and the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. The wooden church was built in the distant 15th century, but has burned many times. And only in the XIX century was built a stone church. By the way, there is an icon of the Virgin of Braslav “Queen of Lakes” in this church.

In addition, there is a common grave of the Red Army soldiers who died during the liberation of the city. And not far from it there are preserved from the interwar period wooden houses in the Zakopane style built for Polish officials.

Braslav district, Vitebsk region

We are going in the direction of the agro-town Slobodka. The village has been known since the XVII century when it belonged to the Mirsky family. At the beginning of the last century there was built the church of God’s Guidance in Neo-Romanesque style. The white profile of the temple can be seen from afar. Pay special attention to the door fittings with a floral pattern and to the paintings inside the church.

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Braslav district, Vitebsk region

Let’s go back to Braslav and drive along Gagarina street, which will take you to the highway R-27. 19 kilometers – and you’re in Opsa. In the agro-town take Oktyabrya street and then Molodezhnaya street – you’ll see an old neoclassic building. This is the Plater estate from the beginning of the XX century, it is surrounded by a landscape park. The estate has survived a lot – there was a staff, a hospital, an agricultural school, a boarding school. Now the building is abandoned.

Further we go to the Soviet street, along which the place stretches. In the very center is the church of St. John the Baptist of the late XIX century. The first church was built in the XVI century, but it has repeatedly burned – the last time in 1886, when many parishioners were killed. A new red brick church in neo-Gothic style was built in place of the burned church. The cathedral was closed by the Communists in 1949, and the local priest Kazimir Tomkovich was sent to a camp. The church was returned to the Catholic community only in 1990.

Braslav district, Vitebsk region

Vidzy is 22 kilometers from Opsa. The name of the settlement, according to one version, comes from the historical region of Latvia Vidzeme, whose inhabitants may have moved into our area. According to another version it comes from the Baltic word vidinis – middle. There is also a version of the origin of the name from the word “see”.

The main attraction of the urban village is the Trinity Church, built by the architect Vatslav Mikhnevich in the early 20th century. The church was badly damaged during the First World War – the traces of those events can still be seen on its walls. The church is one of the highest in Belarus – 59 meters.

Not far from the church, in Sovetskaya street, there is an Uspenskaya Old Believers’ church of the same time.

At the exit of the village towards Zhdzegeli there is a grave of Tomash Vavrzecki (1753-1816) – deputy of Braslav district at the Seim of the Republic of Poland, a supporter of the Constitution of May 3, 1791, the last leader of the 1794 uprising.

Postavy district, Vitebsk region

Some time ago Postavy was the estate of Tizengauz. The most famous representative of the family – the reformer Antoni Tizengauz – wanted to create here a center of culture and industry of the region. The reforms were unsuccessful, but the city was left the beautiful central square with houses of the XVIII century as a legacy of Tizengauz. On the same square stands the church of St. Nicholas in 1894.

If you turn off the square on Krasnoarmeiskaya street, you’ll see an old mill and a passage across the river Myadelka, which offers a great view of the church of St. Anthony. The church is very beautiful from the inside and outside, and over the entrance you can see a clock – it’s quite rare in our churches.

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Also on Sovetskaya street is a hospital – the former palace of Tizengauzov, built at the end of the XVIII – beginning of the XIX centuries. There is a monument to Konstantin Tizengauz, the famous ornithologist, near the building.

Myadel District, Minsk Region

It is believed that there was a settlement of Krivichi from Polotsk back in the 10th-11th centuries on the site of modern Myadel. But for the first time the place was officially mentioned in a letter from Gedimin in 1324. Like Glubokoe, in the times of the GDL Myadel was divided into two parts – Old and New.

The main attraction of the town is the Church of the Mother of God of Shkapler, which was founded by Antonius Košice. Antoni swore that if he had a son, the church would be erected in honor of that event. A son was born – and in 1754 in the town was built quite interesting in its architecture baroque temple and monastery for Carmelite monks. By the way, in the crypt of the church rest the remains of the Kosice family.

In addition to the church in Miadel you can also see the first monument to the national poet Maksim Tank, opened in 2014. It is located on September 17, near the House of Culture. And of course you can walk along the nice embankment with the open amphitheater.

Vileika district, Minsk region

The agro-town Ilya is situated 64 km from Myadel, at the road to Minsk. In the XVIII-XIX centuries there was a famous private manufactory (Guta), which produced glassware. Now only an empty field is left of the manufactory. But well preserved is the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of the early 20th century. By the way, during Soviet times, the cathedral was equipped with a dairy.

In the town center, there is a building that was built at the beginning of the 19th century.

If you want, you can also drive along Sovetskaya Street and see the 19th century St. Ilyinskaya Church and the old Jewish cemetery.

Photo: Braslav, Slobodka, Glubokoe, Vidzy, Myadel, title photo – palasatka; Shunevka, Ilya – murmurash; Postavy – Yulia Mironova

Undiscovered Belarus-2018. The land of lakes

If you ask what sights you know in Belarus, even the native Belarusians themselves name the well-known Mir, Pushcha, Khatyn. But we are discovering the unexplored Belarus. The place which is visited by few tourists only. A part of the story about our previous trip in January 2018 is available here: Encouraged by the snowless January, we, without thinking too much, decided to go again to the Republic of Belarus for a few days in March, and we wanted to touch only some parts of the Vitebsk region. It should be noted that the trip was so-so. All natural sights (precisely on them was calculated), were buried under the snow and nature slept peacefully and soundly, because winter sleep is not so long. In addition, we were again awaited by gloomy, but already winter, white. We were unable to find anything bright either from the ground or from the sky.

And there was nothing to fix our eyes on, it was hardly better than two months before: not a single clear day, moreover, the snow was actively melting, and walking on such heavy snow from water, let’s face it, is unpleasant. But let’s move on to the actual story. I’ve mentioned my love of bogs more than once. There are quite a lot of them in Belarus, and we went to one of them immediately upon arrival. Elnia is quite a famous place among the nature lovers of the country. Eh, we wish we knew that there is nothing to catch here during winter and early spring. Numerous footprints indicate that the animal life here is excellent: mink, hares, moose and even wild boars. But in spite of the fact, that we walked quietly as usually, we didn’t manage to meet any of them. We reached the beginning of swamp. There is a tower for bird watching, because thousands of gray cranes stop at Yelnia before the migratory period. Yelnya is not a national park, but just a wildlife preserve, so it was surprising to see here everything you need for a person who came here: a gazebo for recreation and even a toilet. Nothing is broken, no trash. That’s just a comparison to the neighboring country. We are crossing the river covered with a crust of ice. No longer encouraging.

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And the premonition was justified. We didn’t manage to see the boardwalk of 1.5 kilometers long which leads along the bog to the inner lake: now it is completely hidden by snow. In fact, the silence of winter is still in the air here. There is absolutely nothing to do here.

Let’s go in the direction of Braslav lakes, maybe, at least there we will enjoy the beauty of the lake land and the pearl of Vitebsk region. On the way we visit the village Ikazny, where the church in honor of the God’s body is located. There was a castle in this picturesque place before. It was standing in the middle of the lake on an island. We launch the copter. No lake, no island. Everything is covered by a white veil. Only the red brick of the church adds color to the sleeping landscape.

And here is Braslav, the land of the blackey lakes. I would like to lay out the photos of the lakes from the high, green forests, but, alas, not this time. I can’t see the water surface in March. There are white fields of snow all around, perfectly cleared road, which takes our eyes to the horizon, and a lot of roofs of small houses.

By the way, now, in June, Braslav is undergoing some major reconstruction, doing something like a promenade. The square in front of the Church of Our Lady, pictured below, is already completely fenced.

We questioned the accessibility of the ecological trails and the expediency of taking them, and instead of taking them, we came to the village of Slobodka, to the wonderful white-washed Church of the Heart of Jesus.

From the top, it offers a completely different view. It turns out that the church was built in the shape of a cross!

It is so well located on the hill that it is visible from the whole Braslav region, even at a distance of ten kilometers.

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Then we are going in the direction of Osveja. This place, rather distant from the large cities, seems to be rather abandoned and untended now. Osweya stands in a wonderful place – on the shore of a large Lake Osweya, with the largest island in the country. But remembering the experience of Elnia and Braslav, we did not even drive up to the lake. Instead of the natural one we visited a man-made lake, but in ruins: the manor-house of Gilsen. It is a pity we were here not in summer!

The final point of our short trip is a landscape preserve Krasny Bor, the place we want to come back to again and again. This forest was given such a name because of its beautiful pine trees, this forest has no undergrowth, so it is red at any time of the year.

But the main reason why the guests from all over Europe come here is the prosperous hunting farm with the same name. Not only hunters are welcome here, but also photo hunters: the farm has many photo tours to take pictures of wild animals and birds. But even if you are not interested in (photo) hunting, it is not difficult to meet animals. Unfrightened fallow deer and elk graze peacefully along the dirt road thanks to excellent protection from encroaching poachers. On our way we met moose and four spotted antlers. To tell the truth, we photographed only doe walking leisurely by the road.

But we came here not for the photo hunt, but to visit the museum of guerrilla life, which is deep in the pine forest on the lake Derazhnya. You can reach it even in winter: there are a lot of paths, but the main ones are not so well-mowed, and if you go to Dobroplesy, all is cleaned by the grader. We decided to walk in hope to meet ungulates. The paths pass through picturesque places, the forest varies from light pine to dark spruce. We were expecting that a mighty elk or a noble deer would rush out of the bend.

Signs of an animal are many: from gnawing pines to fresh urine. But except for squirrels and woodpeckers, no one could be found this time. As Prishvin said, if the forest is empty, it is your own fault. We observe only a forge of woodpeckers.

So, the museum. It sounds loud, but in fact it is just a recreated dugout in the forest near the lake. There is also a parking lot for a long stay with a set of firewood. We even had people in front of us.

We decided to take a little flight over the lake, it’s very miniature, must be very photogenic in the summer and fall.

After getting to the car, we went on our way back, the good thing is that we are less than 500 kilometers away from Vitebsk.

June 29, 2019 Tags: braslavshchina , journey through Belarus , edge of lakes , ikazan , Belarus from above , unexplored Belarus

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