From the northwest, along Lenin street, we turn right into the famed Nyezhavisymosty, Nezavisimosti or Nezalezhnasti avenue or prospect, of which more later. Right on the corner is a department store that was once similarly famed, GUM. And from a distance, it’s still an imposing building.
GUM has seen better days, to be sure. The guidebook Minsk in One Day waxes lyrical about how wondrous it was shortly after it opened in 1951. Its staircase seems not to have been changed much, but to have become more decrepit. The interior deserves a respectful restoration — until which time, I’ll respectfully refrain from photographing it. But the details too of the exterior can still impress:
Along Nezavisimosti as far southwest as we’ll go, to the square of the same name as the avenue: Nyezhavisymosty, Nezavisimosti or Nezalezhnasti (independence) square. Minsk in One Day says that it’s “450m by 150m, an area of 7 hectares”. How high it ranks probably depends how you measure squares, but (i) this one is enormous, and (ii) it’s just one such enormity in Minsk.
Yes, that is a seven-metre statue of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin there. No need to go to Grūtas Park if you’ve been to Belarus. (And as if Lenin weren’t enough, there’s even a statue to Dzerzhinsky — who indeed still also has a Belarusian town named after him.)
We arrive at Maxi Bis.
This is a fine place to have a quick, cheap but nutritious lunch or dinner.
You know that the food is good because the moment that you leave it the sparrows are after it. (For every one sparrow in nearby Vilnius, there are at least five in Minsk, which in this respect is like London of a century ago.)
You can’t miss the building, which is on the corner of Pobediteley avenue (or Pieramožcaŭ prospect) and Nemiga (or Nyamiga). Here it is:
Appreciation of such design is not universal. Der Spiegel describes this as one of a pair:
Nemiga Street in the Belarusian capital Minsk, where an old church still stands in the old city core, between two monstrosities of postwar modernism. Bezjak made repeated trips to Eastern Europe over a period spanning five years.
Bezjak/Spiegel does have a point. But let’s go around the corner
and past the “old church” (the early seventeenth-century Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, no less)
and on to the second “monstrosity”, which is the Na Namige (or Na Nyamize; here) shopping arcade.