Away from Minsk to the West

Another day-trip guide by 34mag!  This time we are going towards the West from Minsk and explore the places that inspired Maksim Bagdanovich and Mikola Gusouski.

 

  Zaslaue

 

– This town situated within a distance of 27 kilometers away from Minsk and founded in 985 is one of the oldest ones in Belarus. These territories were ones settled by the Krivichs which is proved by the fact that there’re more than 300 mounds dating back to 6th to 12th centuries not far from Zaslaue and in the town itself. One of the cemeteries (consisting of 19 mounds that are 20 meters high) can be seen when upon approaching Zaslaue on the highway Minsk – Maladzechna.

We suggest that you start exploring the town from Zamechak – a place where a small wooden castle fortified with ditches once stood. The town was named after Prince Izyaslau whose parents were Rogneda of Polotsk and the Grand Prince of Kiev Vladimir known as Krasno Solnyshko (the Fair Sun). Vladimir took Polotsk, killed Rogneda’s father and brothers and forced her to marry him. Rogneda once tried to kill Vladimir but the plan failed and her son Izyaslau who immediately appeared in the room saved her from death. So Vladimir exiled his wife and son to this place – that’s how Zamechak appeared in Zaslaue.

Archeological excavations in this region led to many discoveries – guns, scissors, locks, and crystal beads were found. In the 12th century there already was a big artisan quarter in the town – in the Rynkavaya square surrounded by stone houses fairs used to be organized. If you go along Zamkavaya Street from the artisan quarter you’ll reach the place where the castle once stood. In the 16th century the town became the property of the Hlebavichy and a new castle appeared in the northern part of the town. Now it is referred to as the Val  (bel. ‘wall’) ancient settlement.

When in Rynkavaya square, visit the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This Baroque temple was built in the second half of the 18th century. During the Russian rule the building served as an Orthodox temple, therefore original decorations weren’t preserved. It’s said that the interior of the building was once adorned with three altars richly decorated with paintings, stucco and wooden sculptures.

Zaslaue Castle of the 16th century was one of the first bastions in Belarus. The fortress which was the residence of the prince was separated from the city by a wide ditch that could be overcome on a drawbridge.

When The Hlebavichy were ruling the territory the Protestant community was organized in Zaslaue, and Symon Budny, a Belarusian cultural figure of the 16th century, was invited to preach there. The Transfiguration Church reflects the influence that Reformation had on the Belarusian lands. The Protestant church was also founded in the 16th century. The next owners of Zaslaue, the Sapeha, transferred this temple to the Catholics and a Dominican monastery was founded at the Church. After the destruction of Rzeczpospolita Russian authorities closed the monastery and the building served as an Orthodox church until 1961. Later from 1977 to 1990 it housed the Museum of Crafts and Folk Art. Now it’s again an Orthodox church.

We strongly advise you to visit a local Museum of Mythology and Forest – where else can you find out what a forest devil or a werewolf look like?!

 

 

  Plyaban
 

 

– The history of this village is strongly connected to an extremely important event in the Belarusian history – the Uprising of 1863. There’re two amazing places in Plyaban – the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the cemetery. It was believed that in the basement of the church the rebels led by Kalinouski kept secret arsenal and near its walls the troops used to get armed. The leader of the uprising in this region was Yulian Bakshanski who (as well as with his colleagues) is buried in the local cemetery for noblemen.

Driving further along the motorway you’ll reach Krasnaye village where you can visit a Neo-Gothic Cathedral that is one hundred years old and also a church built at the end of the 19th century in Pseudo-Russian style.

 

 

 Rakutsyoshchyna

 

– The village is worth visiting as there you can visit the house-museum dedicated to Maksim Bahdanovich. The writer spent the summer of 1911 here in the mansion of the noble Lychkouski family and called that time the best period of his life. There he wrote the poem U Vyostsy (bel. ‘In the Village’).

Napoleon Bonapart stayed in Maladzechna during the war. We advise you to visit this town, have a meal and walk around a recently renovated park.

 

 

  Yakhimoushchyna

 

The Sulistrouskiya family mansion of the 19th century is 20 kilometres away from Maladzechna. This one has been very well preserved.

Besides the mansion you can also visit the winery where in 1906-1907 Yanka Kupala (a famous Belarusian poet) worked as a Chief technology officer. His furniture has been preserved in the house where he lived.

 

 

  Valozhyn
 

 

– The legend says that in old times a giant lived on these lands and always helped people. Now this “giant” lives at every Minsk crossroads and perhaps, in our hearts.

Naliboki forest is situated not far from Valozhyn; perhaps Mikola Husouski, a Belarusian poet, admired this place in his poem The Song about Bison.

Like the majority of Belarusian places, Valozhyn often changed its owner, and in the 19th century it became the propriety of the Tyshkevichs. In addition to a well-preserved palace where a military unit is now housed, the places of worship are worth seeing too: the Church of St. Joseph, the Church of St. Constantine and Helen and the Yeshiva university. All these were built in the 19th century. By the way, the 9th President of Israel from 2007 to 2014 Shimon Peres was born in Valozhyn region. 

 

 

  Ivyanets

 

The first mention about this settlement dates back to the end of the 14th century ‒ then Vytautus ruled these lands. Once Ivyanets was a renowned pottery center, and the artistic ceramics factory was working here. The production was sold not only in the town and its surroundings but also in Vilnius and Minsk.
Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Ivyanets is an outstanding example of Baroque architecture. Earlier, the White Temple (as the locals call it) was a part of the Franciscan monastery that was closed in 1832. The church itself was closed after the Uprising led by Kalinouski. After the Second World War the building was used as a shop and a plant where cucumbers were salted, and only at the beginning of the new millennium the process of its restoration was initiated. Also there is a neo-Gothic Red church in Ivyanets consecrated in honor of St. Alexis.

 

 

  Rakau
 

 

– This place is the last destination in our journey towards the West. During the period between two World Wars (1921-1939) Rakau was a part of Poland and was known as a town of smugglers. More than a hundred of shops as well as casinos and brothels worked there. The USSR border lied several kilometers away from Rakau.

Rakau’s attractions include the Transfiguration Church of the 18th century, the Church of St. Dominic and of Our Lady of the Rosary built in the Gothic Revival style in the early 20th century.

Pay attention to the Catholic chapel of St. Hanna (situated in the cemetery). You may well visit the Jewish cemetery and the hill where the town was founded.

The private museum of the Yanushkevich brothers is situated of the main square of Rakau; to visit it you should make an appointment in advance (call these numbers +375177252262 and +375295569627).

 

 

Translation by Alexandra

 


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