by Karina Sitnik
Want to see more of Belarus? Hop on a bike and go sightseeing around the capital or take a ride through the beautiful countryside! On a bike, you will be able to see all the hidden spots where you probably wouldn’t walk or drive. We asked those local guides who organize bike tours to suggest their favourite routes which will help you see Belarus in a new and unexpected sight.
Roman / Miensk Bike Tour
Roman is a tourist guide and an activist: he is usually the one to stand in the path of machines whenever the authorities want to demolish an old district. Brave and competent, he knows everything there is to know about the city and its underground history. He will show you all the hidden pathways that are not yet discovered by tourists and, being a musician, will be happy to tell you dozens of stories about people who have left their “musical footprint” in Minsk.
Route 1. Touch the roots
9 hours, near Minsk area
If you want to touch the Belarusian roots, go this way! Who told you that you see Minsk in its original place? You are going to unlock a secret which is hidden in the impressive earth fortress most probably called Miensk a long time ago. You will cycle along a green country path from the city to a famous open air museum near the village of Aziarco. There you will see the most interesting and distinctive examples of Belarusian traditional architecture. Authentic only! You can see original houses, churches and even a windmill: a number of these buildings were brought from their original places and renovated to be set in the museum. You will know way more about our roots after you listen to the guide’s stories! The spacious area of the museum is filled with fresh green or deep white, depending on the season you are visiting. At the end of the route, you will cycle along the nearby Pcič lake, where you can enjoy some sunshine and completely forget that the capital is so close!
Route: Belarusian state museum of folk architecture and rural lifestyle (1,5 hour cycling tour), memorial sign in honor of foundation of Voučkavičy borough, site of ancient settlement of X cent. near Mienka river, Pcič lake.
Photos by Etna.by
Photos by Planetabelarus.by
Route 2. Minsk Hippies
Minsk hippies is a route into the long-haired and liberated 60s and 70s. Minsk youth tuned into Western radio waves (which were muffled by the KGB) to get a taste of the new kind of music. They were dreaming of playing like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Of course, they didn’t really succeed, but that time did bring new unique and distinctive bands to Minsk, who mixed modern rock rhythms with traditional Belarusian music… Go on a journey around the places of glory and drama of the Minsk rock’n’roll. Put on your old shoes and jeans: flower children are coming back in the city!
The route: the stadium, where the notorious football match between hippies & metalheads happened (1986), the venue where “Mroja” (“N.R.M.”) band had its first open-air performance, the Philharmonic, the KGB’s muffler for foreign radio waves, Young Communist League’s rock-cafe, the place where a hippie Slava Maksakau was assassinated, as well as legendary meeting points of Minsk hippies: Broadway, the stairs leading to “Biarozka” cafe, the Green entrance, the Scrapyard, vulica Kastryčnickaja (graffiti), “Ǔ” gallery of contemporary art, the memorial wall of the soviet rock-star Viktor Tsoy, as well as (if accessible on the tour day) the Polytechnic and Radio technical institutes (Minsk big-beat-bands’ cradles), etc.
Photos by Mienskbiketours.by
Pavel / Journey to the past. Free walking tours
Pavel is a certified tourist guide, who is proficient in history. His charm and charisma would make every excursion a spectacular journey into the past! When he is not walking the tourists around the city, he is fishing out facts from archive documents to be able to tell even more stories about the everyday life of Minsk residents from the past centuries.
Route 3. Jewish Minsk
2 hours, Minsk
This route will open the Jewish history of Minsk to you. Jewish people appeared in Belarus in the distant XIV century, when Principe Vitaut welcomed them to this territory (at the time it was the Grand Duchy of Lithuania). According to the official UNESCO definition, a nation which inhabited some certain territory for more than 500 years can be counted as native. But why do we nowadays barely hear anything about the Jews in Minsk? Where has the whole nation disappeared? Some facts from the past might amaze you: Yiddish was one of the official state languages in BSSR from 1920 to 1930, and the Jews constituted more than half of all Minsk inhabitants! But where are all synagogues, graves, Yeshivas? You will get all the answers cycling along this route with Pavel. During the tour, you will visit the former Choral Synagogue, which used to house the Great Synagogue (at the time, it was the oldest building in the city, dating back to the XVI century). You will view the area of former Minsk ghetto, have a look at the Jewish cemetery and memorial “The Pit” and visit the only Synagogue that survived all World Wars and stayed in its original shape.
Route: Gorkiy theater – cemetery at Sukhaya street – Rakauskaye suburb – Niamiha street – “Yama” (“The Pit”) memorial – Traetskaye suburb
Photo by Kultprosvet.by
Photo by Tut.by
Route 4. Tales of the Loshitsa Park
3 hours, Minsk
Would you like to cycle around one of the oldest parks of Minsk? Loshitsa area used to be covered with four glaciers, which explains the variety of flora and fauna in this place: you can find 32 different types of soil and more than 400 representatives of flora and fauna. The park will greet you with a lime-tree alley from the XVIII century, which leads to the manor of Lyubanski family. The house has been renovated and is now open for visitors. Cycle through the shadowy park and get to know what events were happening at these places during the last centuries.
After this tour, you will easily distinguish an English park from a French one: you will discover such rare plants as magnolia kobus, Japanese walnut and Manchurian apricot; see unusual birch trees, learn why palms do not grow in Belarus, why the Canadians are so passionate about maple trees and why pine tree has the highest tree IQ ☺
This route is an amazing option if you want to get away from the city for a couple of hours and try yourself in a role of a noble guest of an old manor and the romantic XIX century park.
And we’ll be sure to meet a ghost!
Route: the area of Loshitsa park
Photos by Vitali Brazouski
Vlad / Bike Trip
Vlad is a professional cyclist who made a choice to open Belarus for tourists on bikes instead of his bike carrier. He has a couple of bike rentals around Minsk and organizes tours around Belarus with full support.
Route 5. Local gastro tour in the Vitebsk region
3 days, Vitebsk region
Vitebsk region, in the North of our country, is well known for its gothic churches dating back to the XVI-XVII centuries, manors of noble families and beautiful cozy towns. Cycling through this area would let you enjoy the picturesque view of the countryside and hospitality of local inhabitants. You are going to pass buy one very special village Mosar, a real must-see if you are in that area. Why? Thanks to a former local priest, who introduced revolutionary changes to the Belarusian province: he weaned the locals from drinking, so that after a while alcohol simply disappeared from the shops, because nobody bought it, and he opened a museum… of booze! He also set up a beautiful garden in the Church yard with rare blue cedars and other trees and flowers, making the village blossom from spring to autumn! Unfortunately, the priest is not alive anymore, but you can still see the results of his work.
Photo by Andrej Kuźniečyk
If you wanted to go to France but apparently ended up in Belarus, have no worries! At the north of our country you can make a selfie with an Eiffel Tower which is located in the village called Paris.
Photo by Amatary.by
In addition to the villages, you can enjoy Hlybokaye, one of the most picturesque towns of Belarus, which has five lakes and one river. Here, you will find a Catholic-turned-Orthodox Church, the grave of the famous Munchausen family and a monument to the spectacular Baron himself! This so-called “cherry capital” of Belarus invites guests from all over the world to the biennial cherry festival. Belarusians also know this town as the production centre of our gastro brand — condensed milk (a good present to surprise your friends), but everyone passing by will notice a number of cafes with delicious food! Visit the local cafeteria to try “Hlybokaye pot” (dumplings with mushroom sauce).
Photo by 34travel.me
You are going to spend the nights at the local eco-lodges, where you will taste some nourishing meals from our cuisine: draniki (potato pancakes), dumplings with crackling and delicious pies cooked following traditional recipes.
Photo by Cugust.org
Photo by Hanna Maltseva
Route: Paris village – Asinaharadok – Mosar – Udzela -Azerzy – Volodkovo – Hlybokaye
John / EuroVelo
John is an American who fell in love Belarus and decided to stay and live here. He also contributes to the development of the cycling infrastructure in Belarus: shares of his company are fully owned by Minsk Cycling Community, a local NGO. All proceeds go to develop the cycling infrastructure and new passes around Minsk and regions!
Route 6. Belarusian American Revolutionary
2 days, Brest region
This route is dedicated to Tadeusz Kościuszko, who emigrated from Belarus to become a general in the American revolution, and the tour is guided by a real American who emigrated from America! Isn’t this a curious coincidence? During this 2-day tour you will visit Puslowski Castle in Kosava, a grand building in the style of Gothic Revival. It was not typical for Belarus in the early XIX century, when it was built. It had 132 rooms, some of them with a glass floor with aquarium full of fish underneath! During the Second World War, the castle was almost completely destroyed, and today, after many years of restoration, several of its rooms are open for visitors. Also in Kosava, you will pay a visit to the nearby museum of Tadeusz Kasciuszko, a military engineer and national hero of four countries: Belarus, Poland, Lithuania and, surprisingly, United States.
Kosava Palace. Photo by Belarus.by
On this route, you will also visit the castle Ruzhany, which some call ‘the Belarusian Versailles’. It was created in the beginning of the XVII century as the residence of Lew Sapieha, the chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Here, important state issues were discussed, noble families would organize grand balls, and the whole Sapieha archive and the state treasury were kept in the castle. After the uprising of 1831 was defeated, the Sapiehas left the residence and the castle was turned into a textile factory. During World War I, the castle was burnt, and after World War II, the idea of restoration was completely abandoned.
Photos by Biketour.by
Photo by Belta.by
Two more points of interest here are the Church of Holy Trinity (Pervamajskaia St., 12) built in 1617 in the Baroque style (after restoration altered to classicism) and the Orthodox Church of Saints Peter and Paul (17go Sentiabria square) – Baroque again, but from the year 1778.