Capital | Minsk
Population | 9,612,632 (July 2010 est)
Area | 207,600 SQ KM
Official Language | Belarusian
Holidays | Dzyady (Remembrance Day) 2 November; Constitution Day 15 March
Currency | Belarusian Rubles (BYB/BYR)
Time Zone | UTC+2
Best Time to Visit | April to May (spring) or September (late summer) – but not during the 1930’s when Stalin ruled.
Connecting with the Culture | Being bowled over by the monumental scale of the Brest Fortress war memorial; Catching a glimpse of the European bison, the continent’s largest mammal, at the Balavezhskaja Pushcha National Park; Drowning a pint in the shadow the KGB building in Minsk.
Read | Maxim Haradsky’s Two Souls, a poignant expression of the repressed state of Belarus after WWI.
Listen | to Kupalinka: Folk music of Belarus
Watch | Kojak; The Belarus File, conspiracy-theory intrigue where Kojak investigates the deaths of Russian émigrés.
Eat | mushrooms – mushrooming is a traditional expedition in Belarus. Try the mushroom and barley hribony sup (soup) and korleta pokrestyansky (pork cutlet smothered with mushroom sauce)
Drink | kvas, an elixir made of malt, flour, sugar, mint and fruit
In a Word | Dob-re dzhen (Hello)
Characteristics | Onion domed architecture; the last dictatorship in Europe; splendid isolation; mountain villages; hearty peasant food and sweet, strong liqueurs; freezing cold temperatures; furry hats; monasteries; churches and cathedrals.
Surprises | Belarus beat the Swedes in the 2002 Winter Olympics hockey tournament; there are still some working collective farms in the Belarusian countryside.