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About Minsk

Is it so cloaked in Soviet gloom or the lack of what is perceived to be "amazing" sights to see, that Minsk does not enter the tourists' list of must do places to visit? Minsk may just surprise you, if you really open your eyes. The capital of Belarus is dominated by mammoth Stalinist architecture, the massive KGB Headquarters shadowing Independence Square and the Red Church (aka Church of Saints Simon and Helena). It is the largest city of the Republic of Belarus, sitting on the Nyamiha and Svislach Rivers. According to historical records, Minsk was mentioned in 1067 as a provincial city and became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1242.

The former home city of JF Kennedy's assassinator (Lee Harvey Oswald), Minsk does hold surprises. A modern and progressive metropolis with most of its sights sitting on Independence Avenue, the main thoroughfare ends at Independence Square. Minsk is awash in somewhat impressive restaurants and hip cafes with dynamic nightclubs and funky art galleries in its heart. Totally destroyed during World War II, it does have a fascinating Soviet feel interrupted by a cosmopolitan flair.

The most striking landmark is the Holy Spirit Cathedral with its double towers and the classic onion-domed Orthodox Church of St Mary Magdalene. There are stunning memorials to Minsk's dark past such as the "Island of Tears" - statues of mourning women with weeping angels - in memory of the war with Afghanistan 1979-1989. You should also head to the underground memorial hall bathed in dappled sunlight beneath the eternal flame at the Victory Circus. You can actually stay in an historical monastery that is now an iron chandelier cloaked hotel, complete with a sauna to ease those weary walking legs. The Museum of the Great Patriotic War is for the war -mongers, where biplanes and tanks sit in a huge atrium. You can grab a great view over the whole city from the 23rd Floor of the National Library of Belarus, if the books don't grab your attention first.

It is easy in this city to gorge yourself on traditional rustic cuisine such as "machanka" (pancakes dipped in rich port broth) or "solyanka soup" (think floating dumplings). You can revel in the distinct beer brews available and swill back as much vodka as you can handle.

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