Belarus is a traditional and charmingly unique country, often overlooked by tourists. Travel into landlocked Belarus through sweeping marshy areas and thick forests where deer, wild boar and buffalo reside and you’ll find crystal-clear lakes as well as warm hospitality from the locals.
You’ll undoubtedly want to visit the Belarus capital of Minsk. Much of the city’s heritage has been lost to invading armies over the years. However, there are various structures still standing, such as the striking Church of St Peter and Paul or the historic Cathedral of St Virgin Mary. Yet some say the city’s main attraction lies in its more recent past. Russian architects rebuilt Minsk in supreme Soviet style after the destruction of WWII. The city remains a masterpiece of Socialist-Realist urban planning with gargantuan buildings lining wide boulevards. Lenin still stands in front of the House of Government.
The KGB building is hard to miss, and so are the war memorials; the Island of Tears, the tragic WWII Victory Column with its heroic scenes of conflict and the poignant eternal flame. Of course, if you find yourself buckling under the weight of all this concrete, then just enjoy the city the way the locals do - people watching at a café or strolling round the squares, parks and beautiful gardens. For an equally modern, but lesser journeyed city, try Brest - one of the ‘Hero Cities’ of the USSR during WWII. Explore the pretty green streets, rows of chocolate-box wooden houses and the enigmatic 19th century Brest Fortress.
While Belarus may be landlocked it does have a sea! Join the locals and head for the Minsk Sea - an artificial lake just a few kilometres north of the capital with a free public beach and boat hire. Want to stay on land? Get all surreal in the town of Vitebsk - the birthplace of the surrealist painter Marc Chagall. There is a cultural centre named after him, and his family house has been turned into a museum.