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Belarus Travel Guide

The countryís full name is the Republic of Belarus, an area of 207,600 square kilometres and is filled up with around 10.5 million people. The locals are a mixture of Belarusian, Polish, Ukrainian and Russian whose religions are either Eastern Orthodox Christianity or Roman Catholic. The countries commercial growth has come mainly from food, textiles, timber, chemicals and agricultural machinery, trading mainly with the UK, Russia, Austria and Germany.

Up until the late 18th century, Belarus was a cultural unit, exclusive from that of the Ukraine and Russia. Towards the end of the century though, Russian moved in and took hold of Belarus, banning the writing of the Belarusian language and the Russian Orthodox religion was introduced. Moving into the 19th century, Belarus changed from agriculture to an industrialised market and by the 20th century the country had got that poor within its rural areas that around 1.5 million residents emigrated out of the country. By WWI, there were many Russian-German battles occurring in Belarus, with an enormous amount of destruction. Germany won and took over Belarus, but in 1939 the USSR took it back again. Germany invaded again in 1941 but was driven out in 1944 by the Red Army, by now though, Belarus was virtually destroyed and a plan was devised to repair the country, which made Minsk the business centre of the USSR. People moved into the city again and many Russians moved into the country to help the industrial workers. Sadly, part of the country became contaminated in 1986, by the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear power station, and by 1988 issues were raised concerning Chernobyl and the need to bring the Belarusian language into full force. By 1991, Belarus was declared an independent country, but in 1996 a referendum stripped parliament of its control and today Belarus has gone from a capable republic to a backwards moving, uncertain economy.

When it comes to culture, Belarus traditions have always included music, with many 12th century Orthodox hymns and sermons being first formed in Belarus. The folk music is well known throughout the country and visitors will usually get to listen to some whilst travelling around Belarus. The most modern folk music came from ritual ceremonies and church music, with the Belarusian classical music making its way into the country in the 20th century.

Visitors will find that when it comes to public transport, trains running between the bigger cities are cheap to ride and provide regular trips to popular areas. There are also plenty of local buses in Belarus, but they can sometimes get crowded and sweaty, with the many locals that travel the buses everyday. Hiring a car can seem like the best bet, giving visitors flexibility to go where they want and save money with the cheaply priced fuel, but getting the fuel can be difficult with petrol stations far and few between. Visitors must try to fill up the tank as soon as a petrol station is spotted and once out on the road, drive very carefully, as the roads arenít as developed as in Europe.

Whilst travelling within the country, visitors will notice some beautiful nature reserves to stop at, especially the Belavezhskaja Pushcha Nature Reserve, which has the largest area of ancient forest in the whole of Europe. Some stunning lakes can be found in the north of Belarus and anyone wanting to do try out some outdoor activities whilst in the country, should go hiking and camping in the Blue Lakes area, renowned for its natural beauty.

Travellers from places including Frankfurt, Moscow, Berlin, Beirut, Munich, Larnaka, St Petersburg, Tel Aviv, Tallinn, Zurich, Vienna and Warsaw will be able to get International flights to Minsk Airport. There is also a smaller Minsk Airport, where people from Moscow, Kiev and St Petersburg can enter the country and another international airport at Brest, allowing travellers from Odessa, Moscow, Warsaw, St Petersburg and Kiev to fly into Belarus. Bus routes and trains are also available, with trains having to cross through ten borders to reach the country! Weather wise, the summers in Belarus are always warm but wet, while the winters are cold, so the best time for visitors to come is usually towards the end of the summer.

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