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16.03.12 / The 46th International Tourism Fair, «ITB Berlin 2012», which took place from March 7 to 11 in Berlin, once again confirmed its status as the world's biggest tourism and services exhibition.
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A vigorous rooster’s cry, the first golden rays of the sun on a pillow and a tantalizing scent of an apple pie languishing in the oven… What can be better than a holiday in the countryside! And Belarus has great opportunities for this. If you’re tired of the hustle and bustle, want to enjoy the simple human pleasures, dream of breaking out of the dusty city – welcome to the rural homestead.
Farm tourism is a relatively new form of recreation for Belarus, but our country has already succeeded in it. Today more than 180 homesteads, which are located in the most picturesque places, host guests. Some of them will offer you a separate house with a fireplace, billiards and bath-house, others will offer you a small room in the house common with the owners and a basin of well water for washing. The price depends on a kind of rest but something still remains the same – it is delicious and ecologically clean food, fresh air and sincere hosts’ hospitality.
Anciently Belarusians were famous for their hospitality. There is no doubt that in a rural homestead you will not only be deliciously fed, but you will be also offered with many occupations which you will certainly be able to choose from something to your liking. And in the evening when the sky is flourished with star myriads, it will be nice to sit around the campfire and roast flavourful meat on skewers or cook a soup from fresh fish. The owner of the homestead will surely accompany you and, perhaps, will tell you many wonderful tales and myths that preserved in the Belarusian village in abundance.
By the way, our country still celebrates ancient festivals - Midsummer Night and Shrovetide. Magical midsummer night will certainly charm you over.
Midsummer Night occurs in July and marks summer halfway point. It is believed that the night of Ivan Kupala is the only night when the fern is flowering. Those who find the magic flower in the woods will live in happiness and will learn animals and birds’ language. On the Midsummer Night people in villages burn high fires near rivers and lakes. Boys and girls jump through the fire cleansing the body and protecting themselves from evil spirits. Unmarried girls look for their happiness by sailing crowns on water. That unmarried young man who caught the crown will marry the girl who sailed the crown.
Shrovetide is celebrated at the end of winter. It symbolizes the victory of Dazhdbog, the sun god, over evil witch Morana, the empress cold and darkness. Traditionally on this day an effigy of the Carnival (Morana) is burnt and flavourful pancakes are baked. It is believed that if you throw the first pancake into snow, it will melt quicker, i.e. spring will come sooner. Festivities are organized on Shrovetide in villages and towns, funny music can be heard and the brisk trade can be seen.
Even if you weren’t lucky to get to a village on the Midsummer Night or Shrovetide, you shouldn’t despair! There is lots of other entertainment. For example, you can go fishing. Not without a reason Belarus is called “blue-eyed” because there’re about ten thousand lakes and twenty thousand rivers in the territory of the country. It is a real heaven for those who love to sit on a shore with a fishing rod. A tench and a pike, catfish and eels, pike perch and burbot can become your kill. And dishes prepared from the fish that you caught yourself will seem particularly tasty.
A rural homestead is a good place for game viewing. You will nowhere find another place with such a variety of colours and themes as the Belarusian village has! All homesteads are located in very picturesque places. Shady woods filled with a heady smell of pine trees and flowers, endless meadows with rye and blue cornflowers, lake and river shores covered with reeds, clear creeks flowing between trees, hills with grazing horses – all that can become a subject for a photo shoot.
If you like a more practical kind of recreation, you will better go on a “quiet hunting”. Belarusian forests are exceptionally rich with mushrooms and berries. Cepes and boletus are especially famous for their taste and aroma. It is a great success if you are able to collect a bucket of those kingly mushrooms. Chanterelles, russulas, milk mushrooms and aspen mushrooms are more spread but aren’t less tasty. Crispy salted milk mushrooms with a vegetable oil and onion sauce will please any gourmet.
Some homesteads provide horse-riding. You will never forget a romantic walk under trees, hooves cluttering and a warm breath of a horse that takes a piece of salted bread from your hand. And if you take a few horse-riding lessons, later you will be able to impress your friends with your skills.
In winter the main entertainment is, of course, skiing. Even if you have never skied, it won’t be difficult to master it and failures won’t do much harm to you. Do you want to feel like a real landlord or a landlady? Then you will be interested in a winter ride in a horse carriage! Such entertainment is practiced by some homesteads’ owners. Snow that flies from under the runners, leaping bells ringing and, of course, sparkling joy are assured.
After you return to the homestead tired and pleased, you can relax in a bath-house and enjoy delicious herbal tea which will be prepared by the mistress. By the way, the Belarusian cuisine is one more reason to come to the village.
Hearty and flavourful dished will leave no one indifferent. Potato dishes are of great popularity. That vegetable is considered national and more than 1000 dishes can be prepared from it. 2 recipes are especially loved by housewives – potato cakes and dumplings. For both dishes potato is rubbed on a grater and mixed with different ingredients. Potato cakes are baked on a frying pan or in the oven and are served with sour cream or mushroom sauce. Dumplings should be first rolled into balls, pre-boiled and then fried. They are served with or without sauces.
A special and honored place in the Belarusian cuisine is left for pork. The tradition of pork consumption goes back to pagan times when a pig was sacrificed on Christmas Carols, an ancient winter festival. To this days Belarusian villages preserved the tradition of pig slaughtering in winter and salting bacon pieces as well as sausage and polendvitsa making (dried salted meat).
Every Belarusian table is served with mushrooms. They are cooked in a sauce, braised with meat, marinated and served as an appetizer.
Traditional Belarusian drinks are kvas, krupnik and krambambulya. Krupnik is a mixture of herbal infusions, strong spirits and honey. There’re male and female drink variations. In the first case alcohol prevails, and in the second case – honey and herbal infusions. Nearly two centuries ago the nobles representatives made up krambambulya. It is a strong alcohol drink, infused on spices. Kvas is made from birch juice. Sometimes bread crusts are added for additional taste. This drink doesn’t contain alcohol.
Unique souvenirs can also be brought form your trip to a Belarusian homestead. After all Belarusians are excellent wood carvers, leather processers and pottery makers.
A rustic ruchnik, a linen towel that was stitched by hand, will become a decoration in any interior. In the old days no important even could’ve been done without a linen towel, they were used at birth and burial, wedding and christening. There’s still a tradition of a newly-married couple to step onto a linen towel. It promises them a long and happy family life.
Children will obviously love things made from straw. One can choose luxury intricate flowers, a human-like doll, hopping horse or a modest, matchbox sized rooster that will become a decoration of a desk.
However, souvenirs are not the main thing in rural vacations. For example, there are special entertainments for indigenous city inhabitants: to milk cows, feed chickens or clip sheep. You can go even further - try to become a shepherd for one day and go on a field with the whole cows herd. The homestead hostess will kindly help you to master this easy skill.And, of course, you can also raise flowers and vegetables in a garden with your hands. The work on the ground will take you back to the origins and give you new mental strength. Such a recreation, covered with crisp apples flavour and trolled by morning birds singing, will permanently please you with sweet memories.
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