Off the Beaten Path in Belarus
Located at the edge of Eastern Europe, Belarus is in some ways the outcast of Europe. But this can add to the country’s appeal. The people here are friendly and the landscape is one of cornflower fields, forests and picturesque villages. As a traveler to Belarus, you’ll be welcomed warmly by the locals. The three best cities to visit are Minsk, Brest and Vitsebsk and the country also has two excellent national parks—the Belavezhskaya Pushcha National Park and the Pripyatsky National Park.
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- Population: 9,625,888
- Capital City: Minsk
- Climate: Cold winters, cool moist summers
- Time Zone: GMT+3
- Language: Belarusian, Russian
- Country Code: 375
- Location: Eastern Europe, east of Poland, bordering Russia and Ukraine
My local cake shop window is a riot of color, with primrose-hued ribbons and vivid green felt as background for the elaborate display of chocolate fish. And chocolate eggs, chicks, ducks, and rabbits. It’s Easter this weekend, and sales of friture, or small fish, are speeding up. Although children are promised some of these for good behavior—supposedly “distributed” by the church bells that are said to fly off to Rome mid-week for their annual blessing—most of the chocolate is for grown-up gourmets, with dark versions of 70% cocoa outnumbering the white and milk choc options.
The Belleville and Tolbiac districts of Paris were a-blaze with firecrackers as February 18 saw in the Chinese New Year. Also known as Spring Festival, the holiday officially heralds the arrival of this season—in the capital it definitely feels as if spring is on its way. More Parisians are now thronging the Quai de la Mégisserie to buy flowering plants and seeds or pots for their balconies… daffodils are peeking through in the parks and squares around the city. Because of the clement weather, the park closest to me, the Buttes Chaumont, is already frothing with brides in white lace being photographed with their new husbands by the lake or under the budding trees.
Business as usual here in Paris now that the festivities are over. Or are they? There’s always a good reason to crack open a bottle and share something delicious here, and this weekend most people will be choosing their galette des Rois, a cake for Twelfth Night, made of flaky pastry—usually with a frangipane filling.
The Belarusians have the same passion for the banya (steam bath) as the English do for making tea. Convinced of its special healing powers, most people visit once a week to nurse their bodies while catching up on gossip with friends. Its original purpose was far more basic, of course—the banya enabled people to have a good wash when private bathrooms were rare.
Built by Stalin as his model Soviet city after seeing it reduced to rubble in World War II, Minsk remains a beautiful city. Its wide tree-lined avenues lead you through a succession of open squares and parks and the colonnaded facades really are breathtaking. But why come here? Here are a few recommended must-dos… Firstly, […]
The Belarusians say that a festive table isn’t worth its salt without a bottle of vodka or two on it. Despite having a population of just 10 million, Belarus is the world’s fifth largest vodka consumer. Walk into any local corner shop and you’re assailed by hundreds of bottles of the stuff—much produced by Minsk’s […]