Braslav. The ‘Blue Necklace’ of Belarus

Address: Vitebsk Region, Braslav
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The town was first mentioned in 1065 as a castle in the border of the Polatsk Principality with the Lithuanian tribes. In the 14th century, Braslaw was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and, in fact, became an important fortification near the disturbing line with the Livonian Order in the 14 – 15th centuries. The town of Braslav lies in the very heart of Belarus’ lake disrtict: 30 lakes can be found within a radius of 30km. The town itself is surrounded by lakes. The biggest “pearl” of the area is Drivyaty, the fifth largest lake in Belarus. You can admire this natural beauty from the ancient hillfort Castle Mountain in Braslav downtown. The town which emblem bears a Christian symbol, the Eye of Providence, is also famous for its sanctuaries. Among them is the magnificent Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (late 19th century), with its wonderworking Braslav Icon of the Mother of God – the Queen of Lakes, the patroness of the land.

The town’s new landmark seen from afar is big letters making up the name of the town BRASLAU and the image of the emblem on a hill near Lake Drivyaty. The sign with night illumination is 15 meters long. Braslav is a center stage of numerous events: every year the town hosts the medieval festival Bryachislav’s Sword, the international cultural festival Braslav Summer Lightnings, the music and sailing festival VIVA BRASLAV, the music festival Living Sky of Braslav.

If you want to explore what is left of an ancient glacier then a visit to Braslav Lake Area is something that you can’t miss. There are approximately 300 lakes in the region that are known as the ‘Blue Necklace’ of Belarus due to their azure waters. The area is also studded with rugged countryside such as bays and cliffs, and the lakes contain over 30 species of fish. Bird watching is a common pastime here as well as rambling and climbing. You can also see the boulders left over as a result of the glacier, some of which can weigh up to 40 tonnes. The most famous of these rocks have names such as Devil’s Footprint and Cow’s Stone due to their size and shape.

Recreation opportunities of Braslav District were discovered back in the 19th century. Local aristocrats had their summer houses there, like the Plater family who owned theBelmont mansion. In the 1920s Braslav was frequented by office workers and students from Vilnius and Warsaw, water lovers and summer visitors. In the 1930s there were summer recreation facilities, children’s camps, three yacht-clubs, and sports grounds. Braslav became the venue of sailing competitions, festivals and exhibitions. During the Second World War, the tourist infrastructure of the district was destroyed and laid in ruins up until the end of the 1950s. The Braslav Lakes recreation center opened in 1958. A recreation resort Braslav was set up in 1970 and Braslav Lakes National Park was established in 1995.

The national park features 74 lakes with a total area of 12,590 hectares (or 17% of its territory). Braslav Lakes National Park offers exciting ecological routes and a safari park, as well as tours for hunters and anglers. In summer tourists are invited to take a cruise ship tour on Drivyaty Lake. Braslav District is a land of islands. There are over 100 of them, including some very unusual ones. For example, the island of Chaichin on the lake of Strusto (Belarus’ second biggest island of 1.6 square kilometers) has its own internal lake. Defense installations were built on the islands amidst Ikazn and Drisvyaty lakes in the Middle Ages. A monastery stood on the island of Nespish in the 17th-19th centuries. Fishermen and their families lived on the big islands until the 1940s, but now only tourists can be seen here.

Sights in Braslav:

  • Castle rock
  • Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church
  • Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church
  • Building of the St. Panteleimon Convent
  • Mayak Mountain, the best observation place in the area of Braslav Lakes (174 meters)
  • Unique island citadels in the villages of Ikazn and Drisvyaty
  • Klyashtor Island (Monastery Island) on Nespish Lake
  • Maskovichi Hillfort
  • Burial mounds in the villages of Uklya and Opsa

Museums:

  • Braslav Museum of Traditional Culture (Gagarina St.б 7a)
  • Braslav Local History Museum (Engels St., 39)
  • Museum of Traditional Culture (Braslav District Museum Association, Gagarinа St., 8)

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