Belarus: Vitebsk

Vitebsk is the fourth largest city in Belarus and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s also the second oldest city in the country after Polatsk. Picturesquely located on the hilly banks of the Western Dvina River, the city is dotted with several spectacular churches and many museums and cultural sights (Vitebsk is often considered to be the cultural capital of Belarus). The best view is from the 19th century Ratusha (City Hall) Tower, where a knowledgeable guide will give a step by step instructions of what to see and where. Next to Ratusha is Church of Resurrection. Further closer to the river is the massive Cathedral of the Holy Assumption (both are orthodox). Marc Shagal was born in Vitebsk and a museum shows some of his original works. Down near the river are two tiny churches – one is the wooden Church of Alexander Nevsky, while the other is the Church of Annunciation. The latter is very interesting, since it is one of the oldest building in Belarus, the church was built at the time when it was still pagan and not affiliated either with Kievan Rus or Moscovia when it was built in 1140 . Finally, it’s a pleasure roaming around Vitebsk – theaters, cafes, parks, and even the huge stage of an annual music festival.