Welcome to the 3rd part of my trip to Belarus with UIA. This part covers my 3-day stay in Belarus and the flight from Minsk to Kiev.
Let's start with the bonus pics and some description of what I managed to see and visit in Minsk and its proximities. As I mentioned in the end of the second part we arrived to Minsk in the evening after a day long stay in Kiev. A warm welcome from a very unfriendly customs officer wasn't a very nice start of our stay and somehow remained inside me like some kind of a warning reminding to be careful as the country I was visiting wasn't exactly up to the standards I'm used to. I don't know really whether it was rational or not but I couldn't get rid of this strange fear/discomfort till the very last moment of my stay here.
The airport is located almost 50 km east of the city and there are only two ways to reach it - by bus that runs frequently to the main railway station (it takes 1 hour) or by taxi. We decided to take the taxi as it costed approximately 20-25 euro that is not much for this distance and if you divide it between 2 passengers. A huge advantage of the taxi ride is that you reach your hotel (not the railway station) within 30-40 minutes, can take a shower, have a cold beer and go to bed. That was exactly what we did.
When we woke up in the morning and went out of our hotel, we discovered that Minsk was as we saw yesterday night from the taxi window: huge streets, lots of space, big distances and architecture that we remember well from the 80-ties and 90-ties with some modern touches. One of the first things you notice here is that the city is very clean. We will find out later that this applies rather to Belarus as a country and not only to Minsk. Let's start the tour.
Our hotel "Planeta" was situated in the central part of the city, but as the distances here are very big, everything was far away. The hotel itself was, as everything here, huge (the say it has 500 rooms) but almost totally empty and very quiet which made it a little bit scary. Anyway the staff spoke good English and it was nice.
Close to our hotel was the museum of World War II called here "Great Patriotic War". The building itself, situated on a kind of hill, was more than strange. We didn't go inside as being Polish usually makes you automatically fed up with Second World War and I'm the one who personally has no interest in the subject.
Next on our way to the Old Town is the river Svisloch with some (artificial in my opinion) lakes that make it a little bit wider. Some nice parks are situated on both shores with not so nice but again very big new block of flats in the background.
Then we pass the "Palace of sport" and "the City" with shopping mall and prices that must be science fiction to most of people here.
Not much remained of Minsk Old Town as it was destroyed during the war and afterwards to build these motorways called streets, however what remained makes good impression, is freshly renovated and nice.
There's not much to do in the very small Old Town, the next on our way is huge Kastrycnickaja Square with an enourmous building called Palace of the Republic and another one, looking more like an ancient temple and being the Palace of Culture as we find out.
2017 is the Year of Science in Belarus
Point "0" from which all the distances in Belarus are measured. This pictures shows quite well how crowded the center of the city is ;)))
Let's go to the main street (4 lanes in each direction) called Niezalieznasci which means Independence. To be honest I like this architecture mostly because almost whole city centre looks like this, I have never seen so many socrealistic buildings in one place. We have some in Warsaw but comparing to Minsk, we have nothing! Moreover everything looks so clean and well maintained.
A mosaic from the past ;)
The main street leads to the mains square that has two names: the Independence Square (they seem to like this word) or Lenin Square. It is (that's going to be the most frequently used word here) huge and quite ugly. Again - there's nobody here! Are we the only tourists?
The Belarussian Government building and Lenin himself. I've read it is strictly forbidden to take any photos here and there were some policemen around but as nobody paid any attention to us, we made ourselves a small photo session and ran away :)
In the square you may see also the church of Saints Simon and Helena. It doesn't really fit here being a pre-war building.
Underneath the square is my favourite underground station in Minsk. Here there is only one name: Lenin Square and should you have any doubts about that, just look around. It is also strictly forbidden (according to all the guidebooks) to take any photos in the underground but nobody seemed to bother.
Just in front of the main railway station you may find another socrealistic building (or buildings) called the City Gate. The left tower has the biggest clock in Belarus.
Another square and another monument… this time the Victory Square, the USSR is back (or maybe it has never gone away here)
Coming back to our hotel I found more interesting buildings with huge (again!) neons MINSK - THE HERO CITY and GLORY TO THE WINNERS
There is also a cinema called "Moscow". I reminded me of the "Moscow" cinema in Warsaw that fortunately doesn't exist any more.
As you see Minsk is quite an interesting city but for us it was very important to visit two castles: Nesvizh and Mir, both on UNESCO heritage list, both situated 100 km westwards from Minsk and only 30 km one from another. We took a very old bus from a very modern and well organised central bus station that took us first to Nesvizh.
Nesvizh is a city that belonged to Polish-Lithuanian aristocratic family Radziwill (western Belarus was once a part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth). You can visit here a well preserved and renovated castle, a town hall and a church - family mausoleum with more than 70 coffins of the Radziwill family from 16th to 20th century.
The Town Hall
The church with one of the most beautiful interiors I've ever seen
The most beautiful however is the castle itself
The main courtyard
And some pictures of the interior
Hunting was very popular before the 2nd World War and the former owners left a lot of this stuff here… I'm not sure I would like to have a teddy like this in my appartment ….
… so I decided to buy a smaller one in the castle souvenir shop
Nesvizh has its own Lenin monument of course…
There are not many foreign tourists here, definitely not as many as you would expect in a place like that. What I really like about Belarus is that it is not crowded so even in a big city like Minsk you don't feel tired. The only place I saw crowds of people was the underground on Monday morning. My friend made me laugh saying: so that's where they all hide! :)
The second castle is situated only 30 km from Nesvizh but there are not many buses or other means of transport between the two main Belarussian monuments. We were lucky as we arrived at the bus station and found that one of the very few buses departs in 5 minutes.
The Mir castle looks really great
It is situated by the lake and a walk around it can be very nice
To get inside you need special nylon covers for your shoes but be careful as the floor is so slippery that in these covers your visit is more like a figure skating championships!
There is not much to see inside as the castle was a ruin and was renovated not so long ago. Except for nice celings there are a lot of dead animals watching you from every corner…
You may find there some plastic food too
Coming back to Minsk late at night gave us opportunity to see all the city lights. To be honest, I've never seen a city such illuminated and what was strange even some completely irrelevant buildings were shining like christmas trees.
Time to finish this long bonus (hope it wasn't too boring) and go to the airport for the first of the two flights supposed to take us home. This time we took the bus from the main railway station. To our surprise the buses not only run very frequently but they also depart on time and a special board informs not only about the departure time but also the number of seats available. As far as the organisation is concerned, Belarus continues to surprise me.
Approaching the airport that looks much better landside than airside
This FIDS is so big you can see it even with your eyes shut I suppose ;)
The terminal inside looks pretty well, it seems modern, clean and big enough for the number of flights operating
Queue to UIA check-in desks, very long and slow, but I have to admit the staff was very polite and spoken good English
Security check in MSQ is diveded into separate parts (you can find the information on the FIDS) and unlike other airports I know it takes place in a separate room where only 2-3 pax are let to enter and the rest needs to wait for the automatic doors to open. Inside (no photo allowed of course) you enter a strange glass capsule that emits strange sounds and some part of it moves around you and scans all your body.
There is nothing to do really airside, the prices in duty free shops are not competitive at all and the part we were able to move inside was quite small. Here you can still see the older face of the airport.
Some spotting must be done. It looks my 737 has already arrived from KBP
Bus boardings aren't that bad if you manage to spot some planes an take a photo of your jet.
Sorry for the quality (the stairs were glass covered) but I couldn't miss this Belavia 737-300 in World of Tanks livery
My 737-800 (this time not so old)
I take my seat and ask myself a question: is there any legroom here? It seems worse than Ryanair. They pack 189 pax to a 737-800 if I'm not mistaken… maybe these old classic 737s weren't that bad…
Cabin view. The plane is generally in good condition and quite clean but packed to the very last seat.
View from my window on some Belavia E75 jets.
Some more views with some nice old aircrafts in the backround
Take off is very powerfull with deep turn right as we take off northwards and bound southwards
The flight is smooth and short. We get our free of charge cup of water when we already begin descending to Kiev. We are told by the captain we fly over Tchernobyl power plant but I couldn't spot it unfortunately.
Safety card of this 737-800
Descending over east suburbs of Kiev
Boryspil is visible on the left
Then we will again cross the big and very picturesque Dnipro river
and fly towards KBP in beautiful late afternoon sun
Short finals and touch down
Parking next to another 737-800, this time we will deboard the aircraft by jetbridge
Cabin shot during deboarding
That's the end of this long report. I hope I didn't bore you with my bonus. Anyway, thanks for reading and see you in the next part soon!
Minsk - MSQ
Kiev - KBP
MSQ is a strange airport with many different faces. It's a pity I didn't have more time to see all the TU and IL aircrafts parked in front of the terminal. UIA was ok on this flight, even though they seem to go further and further into the low cost style (they will shortly charge 20 euro for traditional check-in at the airport). Belarus seems an interesting destination generally, a mixture of great monuments, USSR and some modern stuff too with mostly nice and friendly people offering their help if needed.
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