Thursday, July 27, 2017

[MINSK] A Place Called Niamiha

Niamiha is three Metro stops away from school so I always told myself that I’d go there “one of these days” except that I have a master’s degree in Procrastination and I wasn’t really planning on going until my very last week in Minsk. However, the sudden arrival of a friend lured me out of my lair. In the end, he ended up showing me around the city I’ve been living in for the last fortnight. When the visitor becomes the guide! Anyway, I love Niamiha because of the chill vibes. It’s just so vibrant and full of life.

But it wasn’t my first time. This is where the 15:15 Minsk tour ended and I managed to reach that area called Верхні Горад which is part of the old city center, or at least what is left of it. The area has a lot of hip bars and restaurants frequented by young Belarusians, especially on weekends when there is said to be free concerts. The weird thing about the place is that it is set up like an old historic center but somehow you feel that it is just so modern, perhaps because it is a reconstruction or something?

Legit or not, the important thing is that it serves its purpose well, which is that of being a center of culture and hotbed of activity for the local populace. You will see a couple of churches here including the oldest one in Minsk. What used to be the town hall is also located here. The square is not that big but grants nice views of the architecture surrounding it as well as the nearby river which gets rather busy during weekends. You must experience this area on a Saturday night. The party vibe is plain contagious!

If you are not a big fan of such energy and prefer something more solemn, then just head to the riverbanks and claim your own spot. Minsk has only one prominent river at the city center. It’s called Svislach and it snakes its way around that area of the capital. On weekends you can rent a boat and just have a jolly good time sailing around. I even saw a speed boat when I was there. The river plays host to plenty of activities like fishing and kayaking. I don’t know if it’s forbidden, though, but I saw no swimmers there.

The area is also green with two or three parks within the vicinity. I haven’t been to Gorky Park but I was able to take a stroll at Victory Park and it was so cool. They have these literally giant benches where you can just laze around all day, playgrounds full of children, some monuments here and there. When I came back on a Friday afternoon the area was teeming with teenagers just having a good time as well as families just enjoying the nice weather because summer is finally here. I should have roamed around here more often!

If you are already in the area, I suggest checking out the Great Patriotic War Museum. You don’t have to be a fan of war, and if you are then what the heck is your problem, but I think the effort put into reconstructing those life-size dioramas and tanks is worth the kudos. My friend treated me so I didn’t have to pay, but the admission fee is really affordable. I recommend paying the BYN 1.50 (~PHP 35) photo and video fee because they are really strict in imposing it. You should see those grandmas in full green Soviet regalia in action!

Visiting the place is a good way to brush up on the history of the country during the two world wars. You might also like the place if you want to practice some of your languages because there is no shortage of Russian, Belarusian, Polish, and German there. What I really liked about it, though, was the façade. You know how these ex-Soviet republics love their monuments? Minsk made sure that hers will easily stand out among the competition. Why settle for an obelisk when you can indulge in gold and silver, too!

Overall, I have been pleasantly surprised as far as my experience in Minsk is concerned. I mean, let’s not exaggerate, it is not the most exciting city in Europe. I guess the point is that people are just not aware that it exists, or perhaps easily turned off due to the difficult visa process or lack of travel options flying in and out of the city. Now that Belarus is starting to liberalize its visa policy, it won’t be long before tourists discover that there is more to Minsk that meets the eye.

[MINSK] A Place Called Niamiha

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