Despite being landlocked, Belarus is a country apart from its
continental neighbours, having stoutly resisted the integration
into Europe and embrace of capitalism shown by other former Eastern
bloc countries. While such isolationism has its negative side - the
tyrannical rule of its president and its stringent visa
requirements foremost among them - Belarus' Soviet-era atmosphere
is also its primary attraction.
Not many visitors include Belarus in their summer vacation
plans, but those that do get to experience a portion of Europe
entirely free of consumerist trappings, litter and advertising.
There is no doubt that life in Belarus is hard for the populace,
and the country has suffered more than its fair share of misery in
its history, including losing 2.2 million of its people
(particularly Jews) during the Nazi occupation of World War II.
More recently (1986) it suffered the fall-out from the Chernobyl
nuclear power plant accident just across its border in neighbouring
Ukraine. Moreover foreign investment is discouraged, and private
enterprise is virtually non-existent. The result is a country that
has evolved little in the last 20 years, providing visitors a sense
of time standing still.
And yet there is much that is bright and beautiful in the
culture and natural attractions of Belarus. Beyond the clean lines
of its capital, Minsk, the tiny towns and villages of Belarus are
living museums of medieval life, and the national parks contain
mysterious forests, murky bogs and swamps, thousands of smooth
lakes and a fascinating array of unspoilt eco-systems, fauna and
Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the great outdoors in the
Vitebsk Region, where there are almost 50 designated tourist routes
involving hiking, cycling, boating and plenty of chances for
hunting and fishing. Hotels and health spas offer rest and
relaxation, and there is even a calendar of art and music festivals
in the region.
Belarus is a destination that rewards those seeking an original
travel experience, with genuinely welcoming people, pristine nature
and traditional villages, all spiced up with interesting glimpses
into a Soviet past that appears to live on in the country's