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Belarus, October 2015

Located in Eastern Europe and part of the USSR until independence in 1991. Belarus is bordered by Russia to the east, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the south-west, Lithuania to the west and Latvia to the north-west. A presidential republic and commonly considered a dictatorship. Headed by president Alexander Lukashenko since 1994.

To visit most nationalities require a visa. The currency is the Belarusian Ruble.

Minsk

The capital and largest city. Founded in 1067. Situated on the Svislach and Nyamiha rivers.

Saturday, 18th October 2015

Tony outside the main entrance to the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts. Established in 1975. The building is a large white-painted eight storey block.Tony outside the main entrance to the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts. Established in 1975. The building is a large white-painted eight storey block.

Tony in the hall of Plošca Lienina (Lenin Square) metro station in front of a bust of Lenin. This metro station links with Independence Square via an underpass.Tony in the hall of Plošca Lienina (Lenin Square) metro station in front of a bust of Lenin. This metro station links with Independence Square via an underpass.

Tony sitting on a bench in Independence Square. This large rectangular square is located in central Minsk. In the background, the large Minsk City Council building, completed in 1984.Tony sitting on a bench in Independence Square. This large rectangular square is located in central Minsk. In the background, the large Minsk City Council building, completed in 1984.

View across Independence Square from a fountain in the centre. In front, the Belarusian State University building with a 14-storey central tower. It dates from 1962. To the right, part of Government House. This huge building was constructed between 1929 and 1934.View across Independence Square from a fountain in the centre. In front, the Belarusian State University building with a 14-storey central tower. It dates from 1962. To the right, part of Government House. This huge building was constructed between 1929 and 1934.

People sitting on benches in Independence Square. Next to a large circular fountain with water around the outside and a glass dome in the centre. Again the Belarusian State University and Government House buildings can be seen beyond. People sitting on benches in Independence Square. Next to a large circular fountain with water around the outside and a glass dome in the centre. Again the Belarusian State University and Government House buildings can be seen beyond.

Another part of the City Council building. A pedestrian street passing through an opening in the lower floors.Another part of the City Council building. A pedestrian street passing through an opening in the lower floors.

Still in Independence Square. In the foreground, the central fountain with a bronze sculpture of birds in the centre of its glass dome. Beyond, a view of the red brick Church of Saints Simon and Helena (also known as the Red Church). Built between 1905 and 1910. It was named and consecrated in memory of prominent business man Edward Woynillowicz's two deceased children, Szymon and Helena. It is Roman Catholic in affiliation.Still in Independence Square. In the foreground, the central fountain with a bronze sculpture of birds in the centre of its glass dome. Beyond, a view of the red brick Church of Saints Simon and Helena (also known as the Red Church). Built between 1905 and 1910. It was named and consecrated in memory of prominent business man Edward Woynillowicz’s two deceased children, Szymon and Helena. It is Roman Catholic in affiliation.

Buildings in the north-east corner of Independence Square. Several more glass domes can be seen in the square, providing light to a shopping mall beneath.Buildings in the north-east corner of Independence Square. Several more glass domes can be seen in the square, providing light to a shopping mall beneath.

Steps leading down from Independence Square into Stolitsa shopping mall below.Steps leading down from Independence Square into Stolitsa shopping mall below.

A bell hung from a wooden frame near the Church of Saints Simon and Helena. This is the Nagasaki Bell, a memorial to the nuclear attack on the Japanese city of Nagasaki in August 1945. It was unveiled in September 2000. It is a replica of a bell from Nagasaki's former Urakami Cathedral.A bell hung from a wooden frame near the Church of Saints Simon and Helena. This is the Nagasaki Bell, a memorial to the nuclear attack on the Japanese city of Nagasaki in August 1945. It was unveiled in September 2000. It is a replica of a bell from Nagasaki’s former Urakami Cathedral.

Tony outside the Church of Saints Simon and Helena. The small boy in a woolly hat standing alongside is Dominik, son of Tony's friend Aliaksej.Tony outside the Church of Saints Simon and Helena. The small boy in a woolly hat standing alongside is Dominik, son of Tony’s friend Aliaksej.

Close-up of Tony on Independence Avenue (Prospect Nezavisimosti).Close-up of Tony on Independence Avenue (Prospect Nezavisimosti).

Neoclassical KGB headquarters building on Independence Avenue. Tall entrance portal with Corinthian columns. Tony in the foreground with Aliaksej and his young son Dominik.Neoclassical KGB headquarters building on Independence Avenue. Tall entrance portal with Corinthian columns. Tony in the foreground with Aliaksej and his young son Dominik.

Tony in front of a small granite pyramid marking the spot said to be the city centre. October Square (Oktyabrskaya).Tony in front of a small granite pyramid marking the spot said to be the city centre. October Square (Oktyabrskaya).

View across October Square to the huge austere concrete and glass front façade of the Palace of the Republic. This conference centre, concert hall and entertainment venue was erected between 1986 and 2001. Tony standing in front.View across October Square to the huge austere concrete and glass front façade of the Palace of the Republic. This conference centre, concert hall and entertainment venue was erected between 1986 and 2001. Tony standing in front.

Tony next to a bronze statue of a woman sitting on a bench. Taken in Mikhailovsky Park during the evening.Tony next to a bronze statue of a woman sitting on a bench. Taken in Mikhailovsky Park during the evening.

Tony with 'Girl with an Umbrella' statue.Tony with “Girl with an Umbrella” statue.

Tony touching a hand of the 'Smoking Man' statue, again in Mikhailovsky Park. The park is located near the main train station in the city centre.Tony touching a hand of the “Smoking Man” statue, again in Mikhailovsky Park. The park is located near the main train station in the city centre.

The Minsk Gates, two 11-storey buildings resembling castle towers. One has a large clock, its face is the largest in Belarus. At Station Square, in front of Minsk train station in the evening. Tony in front.The Minsk Gates, two 11-storey buildings resembling castle towers. One has a large clock, its face is the largest in Belarus. At Station Square, in front of Minsk train station in the evening. Tony in front.

Brest

This city is capital of the Brest Region of Belarus (not to be confused with the French city) on the western border with Poland. It is opposite the Polish city of Terespol, where the Bug River and Mukhavets Rivers meet. Founded in 1019.

Monday, 20th October 2015

A road bridge over the Mukhavets River close to where it meets the Bug River. Tony on a riverside path.A road bridge over the Mukhavets River close to where it meets the Bug River. Tony on a riverside path.

Tony still by the river. A suspension footbridge in front with a view along the tree-lined river beyond.Tony still by the river. A suspension footbridge in front with a view along the tree-lined river beyond.

Main entrance to Brest Fortress passing under a huge concrete block with a five-pointed star cut into it.Main entrance to Brest Fortress passing under a huge concrete block with a five-pointed star cut into it.

Brest Fortress is one of the most important Soviet World War II monuments commemorating the Soviet resistance against the German invasion on 22nd June 1941 (Operation Barbarossa). In 1965 it was given the title “Hero” Fortress in recognition of its role in resisting the German invasion. The Germans took the town of Brest, but the two regiments garrisoned inside the fortress held out. The town and fortress were liberated in July 1944.

The memorial complex was opened on 25th September 1971.

Preserved remains of walls inside Brest Fortress. These are the remnants of the 18th century White Palace, which originally had three floors, but was almost completely destroyed during the 1941 battle.Preserved remains of walls inside Brest Fortress. These are the remnants of the 18th century White Palace, which originally had three floors, but was almost completely destroyed during the 1941 battle.

Tony in the large Ceremonial Square. At the far side the 104.5 metre tall Bayonet Obelisk.Tony in the large Ceremonial Square. At the far side the 104.5 metre tall Bayonet Obelisk.

Tony at the base of the obelisk, which is constructed of steel with titanium plate. It is intended to resemble the bayonet of Russian Mosin rifle.Tony at the base of the obelisk, which is constructed of steel with titanium plate. It is intended to resemble the bayonet of Russian Mosin rifle.

The main monument, a massive sculpture depicting a warrior stepping forth from an unfolded banner. It stands at more than 30 metres in height. It is made of concrete built on to a concrete frame.The main monument, a massive sculpture depicting a warrior stepping forth from an unfolded banner. It stands at more than 30 metres in height. It is made of concrete built on to a concrete frame.

Tony in front of an orthodox church inside Brest Fortress. It is painted white with a central dome. First built in the mid-19th century, it was later reconstructed as a Roman Catholic garrison church (1924-1929) and later held the Red Army Officers Club. During the battles in June-July 1941 the building became an important point of defence and changed hands more than once. It was returned to the Orthodox church in 1994 and is now part of the memorial complex.Tony in front of an orthodox church inside Brest Fortress. It is painted white with a central dome. First built in the mid-19th century, it was later reconstructed as a Roman Catholic garrison church (1924-1929) and later held the Red Army Officers Club. During the battles in June-July 1941 the building became an important point of defence and changed hands more than once. It was returned to the Orthodox church in 1994 and is now part of the memorial complex.

Canons and other old artillery in front of the inner defensive wall.Canons and other old artillery in front of the inner defensive wall.

Tony in front of a memorial near Terespol Gate. It includes a bronze sculpture of three soldiers carrying out an attack.Tony in front of a memorial near Terespol Gate. It includes a bronze sculpture of three soldiers carrying out an attack.

Tony at Terespol Gate. One of four gates leading into the fortress's citadel. This large brick built gate dates from the early 19th century. It was badly damaged in World War II with the upper part destroyed.Tony at Terespol Gate. One of four gates leading into the fortress’s citadel. This large brick built gate dates from the early 19th century. It was badly damaged in World War II with the upper part destroyed.

Tony in front of a memorial plaque attached to the brick inner walls. A wreath at the base.Tony in front of a memorial plaque attached to the brick inner walls. A wreath at the base.

Tony by the monument 'Thirst'. It depicts a soldier creeping to water with a helmet in his hand.Tony by the monument “Thirst”. It depicts a soldier creeping to water with a helmet in his hand.

View along Sovietskaya Street. A pedestrian shopping street which runs north-south for 1.7 kilometres (1 mile) in the centre of Brest.View along Sovietskaya Street. A pedestrian shopping street which runs north-south for 1.7 kilometres (1 mile) in the centre of Brest.

The Millennium Monument at the intersection of Sovietskaya and Gogol streets in the early evening twilight. It was designed by Belarusian architect Alexei Andreyuk and was constructed between 2009 and 2011. A bronze sculpture of the Angel of Mercy with a cross stands on top of a 15.1 metre high granite column.The Millennium Monument at the intersection of Sovietskaya and Gogol streets in the early evening twilight. It was designed by Belarusian architect Alexei Andreyuk and was constructed between 2009 and 2011. A bronze sculpture of the Angel of Mercy with a cross stands on top of a 15.1 metre high granite column.

At the foot of the Millennium Monument. A series of bronze plaques around the 8.6 metre diameter base.At the foot of the Millennium Monument. A series of bronze plaques around the 8.6 metre diameter base.

Grodno (Hrodna)

A city in western Belarus founded in 1128. Located on the Neman River close to the borders of Poland and Lithuania.

Wednesday, 21st October 2015

Tony inside the outer entrance to Old Grodno Castle (also known as the Grodno Upper Castle and Bathory's Castle). Next to an arching brick wall.Tony inside the outer entrance to Old Grodno Castle (also known as the Grodno Upper Castle and Bathory’s Castle). Next to an arching brick wall.

The castle originated in the 11th century as the seat of a dynasty of Black Ruthenian rulers. It was a royal residence until the 18th century when it was badly damaged during the Great Northern War. At present it is a museum.

Tony by stone walls, part of the castle's ramparts, overlooking the Neman River. Buildings of the city visible on the opposite bank.Tony by stone walls, part of the castle’s ramparts, overlooking the Neman River. Buildings of the city visible on the opposite bank.

Excavated ground outside the old castle. The river again visible below.Excavated ground outside the old castle. The river again visible below.

Tony in front of a doorway into the old castle. A pair of old canons and canon balls adorning the steps in front.Tony in front of a doorway into the old castle. A pair of old canons and canon balls adorning the steps in front.

A good view looking south-east along the Neman River from the castle ramparts. Sloping grassy banks lining the river.A good view looking south-east along the Neman River from the castle ramparts. Sloping grassy banks lining the river.

Tony close to a stone statue of Vytautas the Great. He lived from circa 1350 to 1430 and was one of the most famous rulers of medieval Lithuania. He ruled the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1392 to 1430, before this he was Prince of Hrodna from 1370 to 1382.Tony close to a stone statue of Vytautas the Great. He lived from circa 1350 to 1430 and was one of the most famous rulers of medieval Lithuania. He ruled the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1392 to 1430, before this he was Prince of Hrodna from 1370 to 1382.

Tony in front of the main gates to New Hrodna Castle. This royal palace was constructed in the early 18th century a short distance from Old Grodno Castle on the high bank of the Neman River.Tony in front of the main gates to New Hrodna Castle. This royal palace was constructed in the early 18th century a short distance from Old Grodno Castle on the high bank of the Neman River.

The rectangular courtyard of New Hrodna Castle. The castle building on three sides. The main entrance portico in front.The rectangular courtyard of New Hrodna Castle. The castle building on three sides. The main entrance portico in front.

A hazy view looking north-west along the Neman River from close to New Hrodna Castle. Tony in the foreground.A hazy view looking north-west along the Neman River from close to New Hrodna Castle. Tony in the foreground.

Tony with the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin behind. This church is part of a Basilian Monastery complex. Built 1720 to 1751.Tony with the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin behind. This church is part of a Basilian Monastery complex. Built 1720 to 1751.

Tony in the rain. Behind the 300-year-old arch bridge linking the old and new castles.Tony in the rain. Behind the 300-year-old arch bridge linking the old and new castles.

Inside the Great Synagogue of Hrodna. Tony wearing a skullcap (Kippah) as is customary. White painted walls and columns. The synagogue was first built from wood between 1576 and 1580 at Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe's invitation. It burnt down in 1902 and was rebuilt in a mix of eclectic and Moorish styles.Inside the Great Synagogue of Hrodna. Tony wearing a skullcap (Kippah) as is customary. White painted walls and columns. The synagogue was first built from wood between 1576 and 1580 at Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe’s invitation. It burnt down in 1902 and was rebuilt in a mix of eclectic and Moorish styles.

Tony in front of a large raised recess inside the synagogue.Tony in front of a large raised recess inside the synagogue.

Tony with a local Belarusian guy inside the Great Synagogue. Tony with a local Belarusian guy inside the Great Synagogue.