Minsk is a city with a long history, set on the banks of the Svislach River. Our guided tour this morning is going to focus on its more recent history, which has largely been dominated by Soviet rule that lasted from around 1920 to 1991. The city was almost entirely destroyed during World War II and its historic centre was replaced by Stalinist architecture with grand buildings, Brutalist statues, broad avenues and imposing squares. Victory Square is the most famous part of the city and features a memorial to the fallen heroes of World War II. During the tour there will be a brief visit to the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, which is the centre piece in Victory Park. This huge museum has hundreds of exhibits and two of the most poignant rooms are the Hall of Glory that celebrates the heroes of the Soviet Union and the emotive memorial found in the Hall of Remembrance and Sorrow.
This afternoon we board the metro for the city market to see the local residents out haggling for fresh fruit and vegetables that are on sale from nearby farms. You can see, and of course buy, a whole range of edible goodies here including meat, cheese, nuts, spices and more.
Belarusian politics remains controversial with Alexander Lukashenko having ruled as president since 1994. During free time for lunch you might like to dine in the Parliament's House of Representatives canteen where you may be lucky enough to spot politicians having lunch.
Next we drive to see Minsk's unusual Central Library building, with its unique architecture. In Minsk's industrial district we'll view the result of collaboration between Belarusian and Brazilian street artists that have injected some much needed colour and fun into the formerly grey and stark buildings. Old tower blocks, factories, trams and buses have been decorated with fanciful designs featuring animals, folklore creatures, cartoon people, geometrical patterns and more.
After a full day exploring, the evening is free to relax in the city before returning by metro at a time of your choosing to the hotel. Maybe take a stroll through the Trinity Suburb, which is one of oldest and most picturesque areas. There a number of Stolle Restaurants in the city, which are famous for their variety of savoury and sweet pies that can either be eaten in or taken away. Just a few of the many pie fillings include meat and egg, salmon, lemon and cabbage.
Please note that the Central Library can be closed at short notice due to events taking place and so we may be unable to go inside. The entrance to the Museum of the Great Patriotic War will be at a set time, so the order of places visited today may need to be changed to accommodate this.
On our 8-May-20 departure date, today is Victory Day where they celebrate the end of the World War II. It's a great time to visit Minsk as there will be a fantastic atmosphere. There are normally parades and patriotic events taking place that we will hopefully be able to see during our sightseeing. There is also a salute in the evening, which you may choose to watch during your free time. Most shops will be closed today, so we recommend visiting these on your arrival on day one if you wish to go shopping. It's also possible that some central streets will be closed to traffic.