Difference between revisions of "Brest (Belarus)"
Revision as of 20:09, 7 December 2011
Brest is a city with a long and complex history, and at different times it has been part of different countries and linked to different cultures. First mentioned in 11th century chroincles, Brest was a city in the eastern part of Kievan Rus. Later it became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuany and eventually in the 16th century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. When, in the late 18th century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was partitioned between Prussia, Russia and Austria at the end of the 18th century, Brest became part of Russia on the newly created eastern border with Austria. After the first world war Poland was re-established as a country and gained control of Brest as well as most of today's western Belarus. In 1940 this area was again annexed, this time by the Soviet Union, and became part of the Byelorusian Soviet Socialist Republic. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Brest became a city in the modern Belarus.
In addition, the city has been invaded multiple times and often laid to waste. In the 13th century it was the Mongols, in the 14th the Teutonic Knights. The khan of Crimea burned it down in the 15th century and in the 17th and 18th centuries it was invaded by Swedish armies. In the 20th century Brest was invaded by German forces in both World Wars, but it escaped the fate of Minsk which was laid to waste in the Second World War.
Brest is thus a city closely linked to the history of Central and Eastern Europe and the ever-changing borders. One aspect of the city that shows this is its architecture, with parts of Brest quite Polish in character. However the eastern links are also strong, with beautiful orthodox churches as well as some very prime examples of Soviet building styles.
Train, car, bus connections are with the local town on the Polish side, Terespol.
Currently there are no regular services to Brest Airport (IATA: BQT) however there have been flight connections with Moscow from time to time. From June 2011 Belavia  will commence a service with Kaliningrad. A better option is to fly to Minsk or Warsaw and then take a connecting train.
Situated at the border between European Union and the CIS countries, Brest is a great place for train travel. The train from Warsaw by Polish Railways  runs 3-4 times a day and costs 150zł. Alternatively, you can take a connection to Terespol on the other side of the border from Brest for 40-60zł and then take the very cheap commuter train across the border which runs twice a day. Most other trains connecting Europe and Russia also calls at Brest.
Brest is also the starting point for several east-bound long-distance trains, services to Kiev, Moscow and Saint Petersburg are daily while others such as Astana, Irkutsk and Volgograd departs 3-4 times a week. A connection to the Arctic capital of Murmansk departs 1-2 times a week. In the other direction there are several trains heading to Sochi and other vacation hotspots along the Black Sea cost. Most of these connections are operated by Russian Railways .
When leaving Belarus, be aware that customs control at station is not very obvious. About an hour or so before the train leaves, people will be waiting at a railing next to some glass walls which look they open up to some rather bland and unused empty room. They look a bit like people waiting for arrivals at an airport, except that it's not obvious who they are waiting for. In fact, they are waiting for the customs office to open. If leaving Belarus, join the queue a good deal of time before your train leaves. By arriving 10-15 minutes before the train leaves, chances are good that the train will leave without you, not because the queue is too long, but just because the rules are strict.
See Belarus. There are six control lines of various sorts at the crossing. Allow something like 2 hours to get through them all.
If you are already in Terespol and need to cross over to Brest, you can walk over to the border crossing and "hitchhike" across with one of the cars that is already towards front of the line. They might be happy to take you across as they can "assign" some goods as belonging to you for the purposes of customs. Just go along with the arrangement. Alternatively, they might ask for a modest payment of $5USD or so.
Transport within Brest city is very regular, with many different bus route through the city, and also regular trolley-buses through the city. Taxis are also easy to order and "mashrutkas" (Private minivan taxis that follow bus routes) also operate throughout the city. The main attractions are all within walking distance.
Brest is home to two Universities:
There are many shops and boutiques on Sovetskaya street, which sell all kinds of products from fishing gear to real designer wear. Smaller shops are dotted around the town centre and there is a big "TSUM"- Central Department Store on Moskovskaya street.
Avoid at any cost the german owned cafe Crezo on Sovetskaya. Very rude staff, taking your passport if you want to use the WiFi, for which you have to pay separately from the cafe charges. Horrible.
Cheap rooms are offered by hotel of locomotive depot of Brest Railvay station, on the Geroiv Oborony Brestskoy Kreposty street. Two-person room cost about USD 5 per person.
Hotel Belarus 6, Shevchenko blvd. Central location, several blocks away from river Muhovetz. Rooms can run anywhere between $30-70/night for foreign citizens. Belorussian citizens still enjoy lower rates.
Another brilliant option is 5 Rings or 5 Kolets - a 2007-built hotel located on the third floor of Brest Stadium in Gogolya Street, a few hundred meters away from Vesta Hotel. During the high season which is in summer the place is booked out so a prior booking is the most reliable way to check in.
There are 3 major GSM providers in Belarus (including Brest):
All of them offer no-contract GSM sim-cards and USB modems for Internet access. Each of these companies has numerous stores in Brest city center. You will need your passport to purchase a SIM card.
Belarus has a low rate of crime, and mostly the atmosphere is very friendly even on big celebrations (when everyone is drunk) :)
Try not to wander off too far at night.
Buses do not run after 11:30PM so you will need a taxi.
Tel: +375 162 23-78-42, 23-80-69 Fax: +375 162 22-24-73 Email: [email protected]
Tel: +375-162-233202; +375-162-222071 Fax: +375-162-203829
Tel: +375-162-220455 Fax: +375-162-220299
Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park (Belavezhskaya Pushcha) is an ancient woodland straddling the border between Belarus and Poland, located 70 km (43 mi) north from Brest. It is one of the last and largest remaining parts of the immense primeval forest which once spread across the European Plain. It is a UNSECO World Heritage Site. There are buses going there from Brest.