My trip to Belarus started when my friend Viktoria suggested that I visit Belarus and she could show me some places. Belarus was already on my list of places I most wanted to see in Europe. But I had no immediate plans having being put off by close to extortionate visa fees when I made my first trip to Russia.
This time having some 9 or 10 days to travel I decided to go to Belarus in winter having to use up my annual leave.
I arrived from Polatsk via Vitebsk and stayed in the Mogilev Hotel. Quite cheap for Belarus and its overpriced hotel market, not particularly cheap otherwise. Having said that the hotel is right next to the Marshutka and I should arrived that way as Olya suggested to me but instead I walked from the Railway Station. The walk is a little long in the cold but not particularly difficult and Mogilev is not that big. When I arrived there was a receptionist who spoke fluent English. The only one I met there and the only time I saw her. Other staff were not confident about their English at all but they were very friendly. This made it difficult as I did not get the assistance I required but it was a good thing as I managed to achieve my tasks (such as buy a new charger, get my mobile phone credit etc) by myself. The level of English in Mogilev was a bit low. In the morning I met Viktoria and her friend also called Viktoria or Vika for short.
There is not a lot of information in English on the internet about Mogilev as a tourist destination but there are places to see worth a short trip should you be heading in the direction. The Bradt guide (at the time of writing) however falls short of useless with a list of places to see but none of them were depicted on the map (only restaurants). It is possible the author did not make it here. Hotel Mogilev also didn’t have a map and I had to search online to find online maps that were often unclear. It is significantly easier to find the required information in Russian.
Viktoria and her friend Vika took me to the square where the town hall is situated. Also situated in the square in the Western Front headquarters. St Tsar Nicholai II lived in Mogilev using it as his base during the First Word War before he was martyred by the Bolsheviks. And therefore there are even tours (in Russian) to follow the Tsar’s footsteps. Anyway the view from the town hall is quite pretty and from there we saw a modern Orthodox Church before finding our way through a market to an older one. Then we made the journey to the Belarusian ethnographic village. Inside old style houses or huts crafts can be seen and bought. There is an entrance fee but I think it would be better if free as it is essentially a cultural shopping centre. Also right by the village is Mogilev Zoo, where if you are lucky you may be able to see Bison as well as other animals some that live in the Belarusian forests and some that are from abroad. I feared seeing the zoo (a suggestion of my friends) having experienced the awful conditions and mental state of the animals in the zoo in Moscow but this zoo was of better quality. We also went across to Buinichi field, where the defence of Mogilev against the Nazis was fought.
The next morning I walked by Mogilev’s own modest Arc de Triomphe (it is not situated in traffic), walked past the impressive red brick theatre (again) on the way to St Nicholas Convent.
Again I struggled with the treacherous road to the convent. I made it but on the way back I needed help (and was given help without needing to ask) to return up the icy roads.
Olya’s sister Yulia was still in Mogilev (I had met her in Minsk) and I was happy to be able to meet her again after I returned from the convent. We went to an Irish pub as well as later to a restaurant with nice Belarusian food. However before that we also saw the Roman Catholic Church of St. Stanislaus (We didn’t enter – it was shut but reportedly has impressive frescos). We did enter a large Orthodox Church near the centre.
After Mogilev I returned in the early morning to Minsk. Mogilev might not have the attractions of Grodno but it is definitely worth a visit if in the region.
A good site (in Russian) http://www.belarus.nemiga.info/mogilev.htm