Minsk. Part 1: My Minsk
And at last...Minsk!
My Minsk starts here. Here I had been living during my entrance exams and was enjoying this magic view from the window while looking through it and dreaming to become a student. To be honest, I don’t know whether I wanted more to become a student or to stay here.
This beautiful isle is called ‘Isle of Tears’ and there is a memorial chapel, dedicated to the belarusian soldiers who were killed in the Afgan-Soviet War, on it. It was erected in 1995-1996 and is stylized to look like an ancient Russian Chapel. Its four open arches create the form of a tower. The cross crowning the spherical dome has a ruby stone which symbolizes blood of Jesus and perished. And the inscription above the entrance says: ‘O, Lord, We Are Thy Children’.
And there is a very cosy nook nearby. Trinity Borough started to develop at the turn of the thirteenth century. They say, it was inhabited mostly by artisans and merchants before it became popular among officials and clergymen. Nowadays you’ll find souvenir shops, travel agency, beauty center, cafes and so on here in these little colored houses...
Another place in Minsk I like very much is Grand theater of Opera and Ballet as well as its square (or little park). The theater was built in 1936-1937 and, though it has been reconditioned recently, it is still the incarnation of classic Soviet luxury with its enormous chandeliers, its marble and its ‘golden’ patterns on the walls... Strangely enough, but at the same time the atmosphere is very warm inside and one don’t feel this pomposity.
Actually, opera premiered in 1933 with ‘Carmen’, but the building of the theatre was opened in 1939 with the premiere of the opera by Belarusian composer Eugene Tsikotsky “Mihas Podgorny”. Now the repertoire is based mainly on the Italian bel canto (Nabucco, Aida, Tosca, La Boheme and others) and Russian classical operas (Prince Igor, Boris Godunov, Eugene Onegin, etc). To be honest, I heard real opera for the first time at my 22 and was pleasantly surprised to like it.
As for ballet, “The Swan Lake” was among first ones at this stage and still is being showed. Nowadays you can also see “the Sleeping beauty”, “Romeo and Juliette”, “Esmeralda”, “Giselle” and many other nice classical performances. But the ballet “Passions (Ragneda)” is ‘the most belarusian’ one to my mind. It tells about the destiny of Polotsk (an ancient Belarusian town) princess Ragneda and events of ancient Slavic history. I love ballet since childhood and even dreamed to become a ballet dancer, but was either too fat or too lazy (or both). Anyway, it wasn’t meant to be and now I’m among the audience. The tickets price usually varies from $5 to $20, and I think it is cheaper than in many other countries, so when any foreign troupe comes here it can cost twice or three times more. There are more than 15 theatres (including modern plastic one and experimental one) in Minsk, but the Grand theater of Opera and Ballet is my favourite.
Another thing I can enjoy in Minsk is cinema. But let me hasten to add that I don’t mean popcorn-evening in a fashionable place.
Though we have a modern:) 5-screen multiplex opened couple of years ago, I prefer old cinemas with nice program. And I like the possibility to see b&w films on a big screen most of all about cinema here. Some of such places offer programs of Cannes films, or retrospectives by any director, or weeks of any country’s films or just art-house program... So we have anything special to watch every week there, while mainstream products are shown at fashionable 3D cinemas or at multiplex most of the time. As to cinema tickets, they cost around $3 (or even less); paradoxically, but often the better is a film the better is price. So if you are a cinema fan you’ll like it here :)
I also love walking along the streets, avenues and parks. And while attractions are not very exciting, the walking part of the parks is really beautiful in Minsk. Gorky Park is in the centre of the city and is one of the most popular places. It got this name in 1936 (it was quite common to give the names in honor of the Soviet writer at that time) and became ‘children’s’, though it was found at the beginning of the XIX cent by a governor and was ‘Governor’s’ first. Now it spreads for 28 hectares and besides beautiful nature, there are attractions, cafés, some other entertainments and a lot of daring squirrels too:)
I’m not a child of the capital, so my Minsk can be different from a common idea of a big city. I found it calm, strict and sad when I came here. It is old, it was mentioned in 1067 for the first time, but it can’t boast of the age or many ancient sights... It is just old. It suffered a lot from Wars and it suffered a lot from politics (that even has had a role in its naming: Minsk or Mensk). It used to be a city of a secondary importance (and perhaps was too obedient and too correct) and seems, it still keeps this obedience and is not ready for being a capital. Because it is too strict... And that’s why it is sad.
And that’s why it looks absurdly when they try to dress it up or to make it ultra-modern. It is beautiful if one don’t try to refashion it, but play up to its mood. Just stick to its rules. I watched ‘Eat. Pray. Love’ recently and they were trying to give special words to cities, I thought it would be ‘rules’ about Minsk, though I don’t know which rules. It just seems that everything is going on regularly and according to the rules here. Everywhere you turn, there is a chance to see right lines or forms.
Perhaps, it is the biggest illusion :) and Minsk is just pretending to be an old-fashioned or it is just pretending to be a modern city... I don’t know.