• 04.09.2016
  • Author: 34mag
  • 35292

Meridian’28 team members who earlier travelled Belarus in search of abandoned places of architectural value, fortifications and cool natural sites now tell us where to go to enjoy the most unexpected views and feelings. This guide is for you if you think that after the chalk pits have been fenced off the list of natural wonders of Belarus has ended.



Gralyova dolomite quarry

Ruba settlement, Vitebsk region, Vitebsk district

– The biggest dolomite deposit in Belarus can be found in the settlement of Ruba near Vitebsk. Dolomite is used for building, for fertilizing and in 1986 after the nuclear accident the fourth power unit at Chernobyl nuclear power plant was buried under this material. Its extraction has been conducted in Gralyova since 1930s, so real mountains, serpentine roads and canyons appeared here; and even the inhabitants of Vitebsk region didn’t hear about them.

Make an effort and leave the city early in the morning to check out “the breathing of the quarry” – a milky fog that surrounds the dolomite peaks at dawn. You can’t see borders of the quarry so you feel either like an alpinist or like a desert vagabond. But one can notice big BelAZ trucks that take the minerals away move back and forth on the landscape. We bet you’ll be impressed by the speed at which move these giant machines!

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Saligorsk waste heaps

Chepeli village, Pivashy village, Chyzhevichy village, Saligorsk district, Minsk region

– Martian landscape and a real desert are waiting for you near Saligorsk. In 1949 one of the biggest potash deposits – Starobinskoye – was discovered here and 14 years later a potash plant was opened.

The deposit allows to benefit a bit from exporting, but besides this, it has been developed for many years and as a result splendid waste heaps – piles of waste rock – have grown here. But these are not just heaps but real silver gray mountains 120 meters high (a 44-storey skyscraper) that stand against a background of red send and technical reservoirs. The ground around the plant is cracked due to the overdose of potassium fertilizers; if you look down you can get perplexed and ask yourself a question: how could I possibly be in a desert? It’s impossible to find a better place for setting to zero.

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Radashkovichy ballast quarry

Praleski village, Maladzechna district, Minsk region

– Drive 5 kilometers away from Radashkovichy to Praleski village, and you’ll see a great quarry where sand and crushed stone are extracted for building railways. Besides amazing elevation difference (which is a rare thing for Belarus) one should watch here the process of mining industry operating. As the best observation point is situated high everything looks like on the model: here little excavators heap ballast (a mix of sand, crushed stone and pebble), then they take it to a sorting station where rock is divided into groups: stones separately, bulk separately; there carriages are loaded with the rock which they take to the base. If you decide to get closer, stay alert:  the noise is incredibly loud and you can sink in mud up to your knees. But in the center a reward is awaiting you – the ice conglomerate brought here by a glacier from Scandinavia. If are not good at geological history just look for a big pile of sand and stones in the shape of a sad man who is sitting and just dreamily staring away.

According to experts, this conglomerate was lucky enough as it wasn’t destroyed by excavator buckets, so take your time to look at it when it’s still there. When you will be exploring the quarry try to go unnoticed as trespassing is prohibited; however, one can easily get there.

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Abandoned barges on lake Syarheeuskaye

Praudzinski settlement, Pukhavichy district, Minsk region

– You can find yourself in anti-utopia on lake Syarheeuskaye. During the eighties sapropel (therapeutic muds) was produced here but later this deposit was abandoned – only barges and concrete platforms where the mechanisms used to be have survived. This landscape looks like that of the river Prypyat (one that flows through the exclusion zone): abandoned winches, half-sunken barges, silence. It’s an attractive place to be alone and think about life all the more since everywhere is intact nature.

Sapropel, which is abundant on the bottom of the lake, is an extremely useful fertilizer and is known in folk medicine as a remedy for aching joints. So you may well dive into the lake and bring a jar of this hot liquid to your Granny – she will be glad!

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Aqueducts of the Vileyka – Minsk water system.

Vileyka – Radashkovichy –  Zaslauje

– To look at aqueducts one shouldn’t go to Italy – we have a Belarusian answer to Italian engineers. You only have to drive approximately 10 kilometers away from Minsk in the direction of Vileyka. It’s the place where water is delivered to Minsk from: without the canal of the Vileyka-Minsk water system we wouldn’t be able to walk on the bank of a wide Svislach river but would be staring at a one meter long dirty stream. To get to the Svislach river water flows 62 kilometers and climbs from the plain to the Minsk upland; thus, the water supply system is rather complicated: two artificial reservoirs, six powerful pumping stations and dozens of aqueducts.

The issue of supplying the capital of Belarus with water was raised in the first post-war decade when the city was growing and the industry needed water to operate while spring high water hindered building up of the city center. Thus, in 1955 the Chyzhouski reservoir and the Minsk sea (which is a reservoir too) were dug. At the beginning of 1960s the local authorities started to think where from to take water for the Svislach river, and seven years later agreed on the project to drive water masses from the Viliya river. Later they cut out the forest, which used to occupy more than a half of the territory of the present-day Vileyka reservoir, moved or rebuilt 500 houses and drove away hundreds of cubic meters of the soil. The work was performed from one side towards the other and vice versa, the speed of work was incredible and in 1973 the Vileyskaye reservoir, and three years later the canal were handed over.

Grab a bike and ride along the canal. Clearly, if you’re not that crazy and there’s no Chinese engine in your bike, it’ll be difficult to go 60 kilometers, so we advise you to take a look at the main places of interests. For instance, these ones are worth seeing: the first pumping station near the Vileyskaye reservoir, aqueducts, pumping station #2 where water goes up 90 meters in height, a cozy Urdanskaye reservoir and, of course, a dam in the Vyazynka village near the house of Yanka Kupala (a Belarusian poet and writer).

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Islach sanatotium, exclusion zone

Islachouka village, Valozhyn district, Minsk region

– When talking about Chernobyl nuclear accident the associations one usually has are the sarcophagus of the fourth power unit, the Prypyat river and abandoned villages to the south of Belarus. But radioactive substances also locally polluted the north-western part of the country. There’s a small exclusion zone even near Minsk – right there, in Valozhyn district a big and abandoned Lyasnoye sanatorium can be found. And while it’s difficult to reach the Prypyat river, you can feel like a real stalker and see how nature is recovering its territory just 60 kilometers away from Minsk.

Start exploring the building from the canteen where amazing decorations in style of Socialist realism have survived, climb the front stairs where the curtains are still hanging on the windows, and enter the rooms with magnificent views on the Islach river. You can climb the tower of the sanatorium to look at Naliboki forest and storks on pinwheels. In the rooms you will be able to see a lot of 1980s artifacts, personal belongings and some pieces of furniture. Within a walk of several minutes you can check out the remains of the Tyshkevichy mansion – Vyalaye – a two-storey palace built according to a Swiss project. Unfortunately, nothing except the walls has been preserved but the atmosphere there is mysterious – just what can make adrenalin rush through your veins.

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Text by Nasta Eroha
Photo by Meridian’28
Translation by Alexandra