Minsk is a city with a long history, set on the banks of the Svislach River, it was first settled by the East Slavs back in the 9th century AD. However, 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 with around 80% of its houses and infrastructure reduced to rubble. Afterwards the city was rebuilt with its historic centre being 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 our tour we'll have 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 where we can 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. Next we will visit the Azgur Museum which houses numerous sculptures from the Soviet era that were designed by the architect Zair Azgur.
Belarusian politics remains controversial with Alexander Lukashenko having ruled as president since 1994. During your 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 be able to 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 our hotel. You might like to 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 you can either eat in or take 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, so we may need to visit this in the morning of day two or in the afternoon of day four instead.