The Republic of Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno, Gomel, Mogilev and Vitebsk. Forty percent of the country is forested. Most of Belarus's population of 9.85 million resides in the urban areas surrounding Minsk and other regional capitals
The Belarusian government sponsors annual cultural festivals such as the Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk, which showcases Belarusian performers, artists, writers, musicians, and actors. The suburb of Troitskoye Predmestye should not be missed; it offers insight into the way Minsk once looked – 19th-century houses with colorful facades line the streets. There are also excellent examples of baroque architecture, such as the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit (1642), the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul (1613) and the Maryinsky Cathedral, which has been rebuilt to its original shape. The onion-shaped domes of Russian Orthodox churches dominate the landscape throughout the country, but especially around Logoysk, Krasnoe, and Molodechno. The memorial at Khatyn commemorates its destruction by the German army during WWII. The village of Zhirovitsa is known for the 15th-century Monastery of the Assumption. Part of the monastery complex is a convent and a theological seminary.
About 75 miles from Minsk is the small town of Mir where one can see the Jewish Cemetery and the 15th-century Mir Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearby, historic Nesvizh still retains its old buildings. The former residence of the Radzivill family, one of the country’s palaces, is surrounded by a large park with lakes and gardens. Only a short walk away is the imposing Catholic Church designed by the 16th-century Italian architect Bernardoni.
Belarusian cuisine consists mainly of vegetables, meat (especially pork), and breads. Foods are usually either slowly cooked or stewed. A typical Belarusian eats a very light breakfast and two hearty meals, with dinner being the largest meal of the day. Wheat and rye breads are consumed in Belarus, but rye is more plentiful because conditions are too harsh for growing wheat. To show hospitality, a host traditionally presents an offering of bread and salt when greeting a guest or visitor. Popular drinks in Belarus include Russian wheat vodka and kvass, a soft drink made from malted brown bread or rye flour. Kvass may also be combined with sliced vegetables to create a cold soup called okroshka.
Minsk 2 Airport is 27 miles east of the city center. Buses and taxis are available to the city center; travel time is about 60 minutes. Minsk 1 Airport offers flights to destinations including Kiev and Stockholm, plus international flights to regional cities. All trains arrive and depart from Minsk Central Railway Station located in the center of Minsk. There are several lines from Berlin via Warsaw and Brest with connections to Minsk. Another line runs from Vienna via Warsaw and Brest. Further direct trains are available from other cities, including Kaliningrad, Moscow, Odessa, Riga and Vilnius. Belarus has a temperate continental climate with medium to heavy rainfall in winter.