Belarus has always been famous for its agriculture. Households vary in the architecture both inside and outside, depending on which part of Belarus you’re visiting. Unfortunately, modern trends in urbanization make people move to towns and cities, leaving their houses and local traditions behind. Finding several active and well-preserved villages in different regions would be impossible if not for one open-air museum - the Belarusian Folk Museum of Architecture and Rural Life, also known as Strochitsy. It allows you to visit three Belarusian villages for the price of one, just 4 km away from Minsk!
Take a kid on a school-trip to an important and famous historical place or cultural site and chances are high they will never like it. As for children raised in Minsk, those infamous locations are the Great Patriotic War Museum and the Belarusian Folk Museum of Architecture and Rural Life. As a teenager, I’ve been to both of them multiple times, and to be honest with you, neither nature’s beauty nor historical exposition were on my priority list. For this very reason, coming there with no positive expectations as an adult was a great experience I’d like to share with you.
Belarusian Folk Museum of Architecture and Rural Life is an open-air museum opened up for the public in 1987, although the initial idea discussions took place as far as in 1908. Museum’s original mission was to preserve the cultural peculiarities of rural life in different Belarusian regions. Such museum complexes are often called "skansen", following the most famous example of such a concept from Sweden. Altogether 40 exhibits are representing three regions: Central Belarus, Poozerye and Dnieper region. Those exhibits include churches, schools, windmills and private houses, that were transported from their original villages in one of the regions.
Now, that means that the houses were literally dissembled to the last piece of wood in their village, put on a huge truck, brought to the venue and assembled there again! Can you imagine that? Of course, some parts of the walls or basement would first be renovated, with all the stuff from the rooms decorated in a “stand-still” fashion, making a very lively impression.
In general, roaming through the museum complex, you’ll feel yourself a magical spirit, who had stopped the time and is wandering around the villages. It seems like you just need to snap your fingers, and the time will start running again: a housewife will enter the room to put her baby to sleep, you will hear a sound of a grandfather lighting his pipe at the main gate and a wind will bring the words of a beautiful harvesting song from men and women working in the fields. A couple of cats, that can be found almost in each house, are just making it feel more real. If you come in winter, make sure to bring some cat food, milk or sour cream to treat the fluffy mouse hunters.
The museum is open for visits from Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm. It might also be closed on national holidays, so make sure you check their schedule on the web-page. You might also stumble upon one of the events (like Kupala night) that are happening there pretty often on weekends, especially in summer.
The place is located 4 km away from Minsk, between the villages “Ozertso” and “Strochitsa”, and Belarusians tend to use those landmarks when talking about the museum. It makes a lot of sense, especially after trying to pronounce “Belarusian Folk Museum of Architecture and Rural Life” (40 letters!!!) for the third time. Before going there last time, I was actually sure I’ve never visited the place until I got there and realized it’s the same “Strochitsa” from my school trips. If you come by public transport, don’t get confused, and get out at the “Dzyarevnya Azyartso” bus stop. You’ll see a wooden sign with an arrow and a ticket office 200 meters after it. Here, you can pay the entrance fee and roam on your own, rent an audio guide or book a tour (for up to 25 people) in English – the choice is yours. For an extra fee, you can get a chance to enjoy the village complex view from above on a motor-glider or a helicopter.
And of course, munch something from the traditional Belarusian cuisine in the Belarusian Inn. Some of the meals on the menu are almost impossible to find even in the authentic restaurants in Minsk, and at the same time, prices are decent. If it’s hot, refresh yourself with locally made kvas, and if it’s snowing or raining, a horseradish tincture will prevent you from catching a cold. Please, note, that on busy dates or if you’re a big group, it’s better to make your order one hour in advance.
Nowadays, the Belarusian Folk Museum of Architecture and Rural Life keeps getting the offers from locals willing to donate their family houses to the museum. Nineteenth-century houses are beautiful and nostalgia-rich, but very impractical - no lights, no central heating, no sockets for your iPhone charger. Living there or even maintaining the buildings is impossible for most of the people we know. That’s the reason why locals are ready to gift their grand- grand-parents houses to the museum. They know the museum will keep the houses safe and sound for their descendants to visit and catch a feeling of the mundane rural 19th-century life. And maybe in 10 years, the Belarusian Folk Museum of Architecture and Rural Life or Strochitsy will have more than three Belarusian villages in one open-air museum to explore.
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