Vitebsk

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Vitebsk is the middle of Vitebsk Oblast in Belarus.

55.169801 30.202266
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Points of Interest in Vitebsk

Vitebsk is often referred to as the "Cultural Capital" of Belarus. It is best known as the birthplace of the Jewish painter Marc Chagall, and his home has been preserved and operates as a museum. It is located near the railway station and costs 5000 rubles to get in. There is also a museum dedicated to his works that also frequently hosts exhibitions by the city's large modernist/post-modernist/avant garde artist community.

The Ratusha (Town Hall), with its renowned clock tower, is a beautiful piece of 19th century architecture, as is St. Varvara's Catholic Church. The church of Alexander Nevsky, sitting on the River Dvina across ul. Zamkovaya from the Yakub Kolas Theatre is also a beautiful example of old wooden style Orthodox churches.

As of 30 May 2008 the city's main art museum was closed for renovations. There is a museum in the old town (between the Hotel Eridan and the river) that holds a few hundred lithographs by Chagall (entry 5000 rubles).

There is a tram museum by the address: 5-Frunze street, 7. The entrance is free, but you have to contact the administration in advance. Tel.: +375 (212) 23-73-45 or +375 (29) 590-15-42, Petr Petrovich Ignatov, deputy head of tram and trolleybus administration of Vitebsk.

There is a museum and a park at Zdravnevo, former residence of a famous Russian painter Ilya Repin not far from Vitebsk. You can get there in ~1 hour by bus 26A from the city -- take off at the station right after the bridge, then walk eastwards about 1.5 km. Bus 26 is also OK, but its terminus is a couple of stations earlier, so you will have to walk some extra 1-2 km.

The Annunciation Church

Memorial in Honor of Soviet Soldiers

Marc Chagall Museum

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About Vitebsk

Background

Typically assigned a founding date of 974, Vitebsk has long been an important cultural and commercial hub for the numerous occupiers in its long history. It is still an important centre of arts and culture for the Republic of Belarus and is surrounded by stunning countryside.

Activities

Vitebsk is also home to the National Academic Dramatic Theatre named for Yakub Kolas. This company has seen considerable success internationally. It is especially notable for being one of the last two professional theatres in the world performing exclusively in the Belarusian language. Foreign travellers unable to understand Belarusian should not be afraid of attending a performance, however, given that much of the work directed by Artistic Director Vital Barkouski is both visually striking and frequently of such an avant garde nature that they can be appreciated without an understanding of the language. Traditional works with charismatic flair are frequently directed by Yuri Lizianhevich.

In November, the city holds the International Festival of Modern Choreography, which plays host to dance companies from around the world.

Finally, Vitebsk is the home of the Slaviansky Bazaar a huge festival of music from across the Slavic-speaking world. It is hosted in a stunning amphitheatre near the center. Other cultural events and activities, such as exhibitions and traditional crafts also play a significant part in the festival, and guest theatre productions are hosted in the Yakub Kolas Theatre.

Food

There is not a great deal of fine dining available in Vitebsk, nor a great deal of variety.

  • "Usad'ba", best regarded restaurant for both atmosphere and food quality (but not portion sizes) located in close proximity to city concert hall, and provides a portion of its menu in English.
  • "Traktir" - is another famous dining venue, yet with arguable quality of food. There is also a
  • "Zolotoy Drakon" (the Golden Dragon), good Chinese restaurant another few short blocks away, which also issues its menu in English.
  • "Cafe Teatralnoye," underneath the Yakub Kolas Theatre, has a fairly extensive menu and reasonably attractive dining area. Closer to midnight, the cafe hosts show-girls performances.
  • "Melody" (Lenina street, 65) stylish, cosy cafe with live music every weekday. Short stroll from "Ratusha" towards "Philharmonia" and on the right side.

There are numerous other smaller cafes around. Kiosks sell fast foods like hot dogs, "home-style" pizza slices, and 'Tchebureks', a student favorite of meat in fried crust. For some time, there was only one dedicated pizza restaurant, of middling quality but with a wide variety of toppings, sitting near the pedagogical and technological universities on Moskovski Prospekt. A new pizza restaurant, Arena, has opened in the center of the city. It is spotlessly clean, popular with locals and serves decent pizzas for around 10,000 rubles, including a vegetarian option. Late night dining is normally available only in dancing clubs.

Belarusian food is normally of the "meat and potatoes" variety. The best known Belarusian dish is "draniki," which are fried potato pancakes, frequently filled with meat, that are best served with sour cream. "Draniki" is a common specialty in Slavic countries like Russia, Ukraine or Poland. "Kotlety" or pork cutlets, are also a regional favorite. Mushrooms from the local forests add a rich flavor to many local dishes, and fresh fish from the regions lakes also make for delicious entrees. Soups are absolutely not to be missed. Salads will typically throw the typical out-of-towner off. Leafy greens are extremely far and few between. Instead, Belarusian salads are normally some combination of rice, mayonnaise, mushrooms, chopped boiled eggs, and other flavorings. The best comparison, in texture and flavor, would be to American potato or chicken salads. The closest to a purely vegan salad to be found would be chopped cucumber and tomatoes in oil. Vitebsk's proximity to Russia has had an impact on the variety of dishes served.

Drinks

The previously mentioned Cafe Teatralnoye, Club Aurora, and the club on the main floor of the Hotel Vitebsk are the most popular places to go for drinking and dancing. There are numerous other smaller cafes, such as Cafe Gulliver behind the Yakub Kolas Theatre, Cafe Aladdin and Cafe Jamaica, where you might grab a quick drink. Cafe "Melody" would be the ideal destination for those seeking serenity and good quality of service and food.

Vodka is normally enjoyed with food, but if you're not hungry, it is customary to at least purchase a soft drink to serve as a chaser. Drinking vodka straight without anything to chase is associated more with drunkards. Apart from certain brandies, you'll pay incredibly high prices for foreign liquors, even those which Westerners might consider ordinary, such as Jack Daniels whiskey or Jose Cuervo tequila. Beer is easy to come by and cheap, though. Better beers available in Vitebsk include own brands of "Nikolayevskoe" and "Dvinskij Brovar". "Baltika", a Russian brand, and Minsk's "Olivariya" brand are the most advertised and easily found.

Shopping

Traditional Belarusian handicrafts are available in the Univermag department store on ul. Zamkovaya or at the train station. They can also be purchased at the open market not far from the train station. Vodka of particularly high quality is available at shops around the city, and Vitebsk is home to a distillery which produces fine vodkas with "tourist-worthy" bottles. The best time to buy Belarusian arts and craft is the time of the aforementioned festival "Slaviansky Bazaar" when dozens of artists come to Vitebsk to sell hand-made crafts.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Vitebsk on Wikivoyage.

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