I carried on my route along the riverside in downtown Minsk towards the Island of Tears. This man-made island acts as a memorial to the Belarusian soldiers who fought and died in the ten year conflict in Afghanistan.
The centrepiece of the Island is the chapel which commemorates the fallen, listing all their names, encircling the anthropomorphised Belarus surrounded by her sons; the men who fought and died for the country.
On the island you can also find The Crying Angel. The Angel is said to cry because it could not save the Belarusian soldiers from their deaths. When the fountain is on, water pours from the Angel’s eyes, giving the statue its name.
The island itself is a very popular site in Minsk. Whilst we were wandering around, we noticed a couple having their wedding photography performed on the iron bridge which links the island to the mainland. It is also said that it is good luck for newlyweds to rub the Crying Angel’s genitalia in order to bring luck on having children!
Following the river out of town takes you to the Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum. This place is certainly worth a visit. Learning about WW2 from the other side of Europe certainly was an eye opener for myself. The war is known as the Great Patriotic War in Ex-Soviet countries because of the USSR involvement between 1941-1945, as they were not involved until the Nazi invasion of their territories. This included the Belarusian capital of Minsk.
In the museum we learnt due to Minsk’s resolve against the Nazi occupation of the city, it became a Hero City of the USSR. This is a Soviet honourary title for outstanding heroism during the war. It was in Minsk where the Soviets led an underground resistance to assist in ending the war.
You could spend hours wandering around the museum looking at all the military equipment and reading about how all the cities fought on the Eastern front during the war.
There were aeroplanes in the grounds!
This is a fragment of thigh bone that exploded into a water bottle. The water bottle being made of metal protected the soldier carrying it from shrapnel damage.
Here is a Soviet propaganda poster.
There were several tanks indoors too!
I would like end on a final thought about Minsk. It is definitely worth a visit. It is not too touristy yet and there is enough to do on a long weekend to make the visit worth your while. It can get very cold, even in October so watch out for that. The food I ate was great and there lots of great beers to try, plus it is very walkable and the locals are very friendly. All in all it was a great trip.