From Mir, it is but a short drive on a straight road to reach the medieval town of Njasvizh. First settled in the 13th century, the town rose to prominence after the 15th century and the arrival of the Radzivili family which established a palace. In the 16th century, Njasvizh gained rights to self-governance, which sparked further development. When I drive down the main street, I look forward to walking the town; a parking spot is easily found next to the Corpus Christi church, or the Farny Polish Roman catholic church on a small square. From here, I walk to the bridge to the other side of the village, passing the Slutsk gate, the only remaining of four gates that once defended the city. A wall protected the city, but this is only partly visible.
From here, it is a short walk to the Benedictine monastery with its tall, white tower, and a little further on, walking through a residential area of Njasvizh, I reach the spacious main square with the city hall and shops. Walking backstreets, I end up on the main street again, where I see a new orthodox church still under construction, and a rickety wooden house which somehow looks very attractive. Back to the Italian-built church, I look up its obviously baroque interior, walk past the castle tower to the entrance of the main sight of Njasvizh: the palace. I walk across the lake on a dam to the other side, past yet another monument for the Soviet soldiers who liberated the country in 1944 - the same Red Army that expelled the Radzivili family out of their palace in 1939. I decide that I will not enter the palace for now, but instead, walk the enormous park belonging to the palace first. Walking around the moat, the palace rises above the defensive mound, and I walk across to the other side of the big lake behind the palace. A small beach with people enjoying the sun and the cool water, but I resist the temptation to crash here, and walk around the big lake.
It is an early sign of the wealth of the Radzivili family - this is a truly big estate with different parts of the parks laid out attractively around the lake; it is actually one of the biggest of its kind in Europe. There is the islet of love, with a statue of a couple, in a nicely laid out pond - to my surprise, no romantic couples to be found here. The trail gets a little overgrown, until I reach the other side and finally enter the castle from the backside. Inside, I am obliged to use covers for my shoes, and for more than an hour, I tour the richly decorated rooms of the palace, with an incredible display of wealth in the many rooms, the hunting room, the weaponry hall, a chapel, library, and much more. I now understand why the Radzivilis were thrown out of here: this private wealth goes against everything communism stands for. The original palace was destroyed after a war in the early 18th century, but the palace was rebuilt after it, and at present is one of the most attractive such palaces in Belarus, and has been declared a world heritage site.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Njasvizh (Belarus). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Njasvizh. Read more about this site.