Here is a nice recreational area in the very downtown. Sort of Hrodna Central Park. ;)
It was dirty and disgusting just a few years ago. But now things changed and it turned into a peaceful place where you can sit on the bench and drink your beer or simply walk around and enjoy yourself.. ;)
In the evening it is all lit up and crowded with young people.
If you go further, you`ll see an amusement park with a few rides ($1 per ride). Those rides are old and primitive, but our children seem to enjoy it anyway. I guess it is better to have at least something, than nothing at all.
If you want to try it, I recommend ''flying'' on the one that looks like a bunch of mushrooms (left from the kids rail ride). It`s the scariest. :)
NOTE: If you are visiting someone who has kids, bringing them to the park on a nice day would be a good idea. Number #1 children`s favorite is the Kids Rail Ride (see my pic #4).
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Walking around Hrodna is always a nice experience and you can find some very nice places to walk around. There's a pretty central park in the very centre of the town, close to Lenin square, where once again it's easy to meet wedding couples taking nice pictures by the little river and bridges among the green.
There are some nice old wooden houses as well as some stone ones and some ugly communist block too, but not so many fortunately. And there's the big statue of Lenin, of course, in front of the Regional Building (I guess).
Here you can also find Eliza Orzeszkowa's house (a detail in the pictures), a Polish novelist of the 19th century which was born around Hrodna.
Just beside the Great Synagogue there's quite an unusual tower, which is the former firemen's tower. There was a firemen station there, and still it's there but in abandoned state, like the nearby Jewish temple.
I think there are projects for restoration of the old fire station, let's hope to see it back in its glory soon.
There's a second river in Hrodna, which is called Hradnichanka. It's really a very very small one which flows into the Nioman just below the Old Castle. It flows along the synagogue as well dividing it, with quite a deep gorge, to the park on the other side where the Sts. Barys and Hlieb church is.
There around it's full of old wooden houses and it really seems to be in the countryside, not just few metres from the old town of Hrodna, with its cathedrals and beautiful streets and houses.
It's really a pleasant and quiet part of the town, where you are surrounded by nature and you feel to be back in the past.
This area is in danger because of new constructions. See Warning & Dangers page.
Probably the most historically interesting church in Hrodna, and surely the oldest one, is the church of Sts. Barys and Hlieb, or simply "Kolozha". It's in a very nice park outside the old town and for some strange reason I didn't go there... I just saw it from the Old Castle ruins.
So I think it's better to report what Wikipedia says about this very interesting monument.
It is the only surviving monument of ancient Black Ruthenian architecture, distinguished from other Orthodox churches by prolific use of polychrome faceted stones of blue, green or red tint which could be arranged to form crosses or other figures on the wall. The church is a cross-domed building supported by six circular pillars. The outside is articulated with projecting pilasters, which have rounded corners, as does the building itself. The ante-nave contains the choir loft, accessed by a narrow gradatory in the western wall. Two other stairs were discovered in the walls of the side apses; their purpose is not clear. The floor is lined with ceramic tiles forming decorative patterns. The interior was lined with innumerable built-in pitchers, which usually serve in Eastern Orthodox churches as resonators but in this case were scored to produce decorative effects. For this reason, the central nave has never been painted.
The church was built before 1183 and survived intact until 1853, when the south wall collapsed, due to its perilous location on the high bank of the Neman. During restoration works, some fragments of 12th-century frescoes were discovered in the apses.
For pictures take a look here: Radzima.org
Church of the Birth of the Virgin
There's another orthodox church facing the new castle, I think it's the only one in the old town of Hrodna, close to the ghetto. I have not much information about this church, except the fact it's called Orthodox church and monastery of the Birth of the Virgin and it dates back to 1720; and surely it's a very nice church to take a look at.
At the far end of the Savetskaya square, close to the river Nioman, there's the Drama Threatre, a Soviet example of fine architecture... fine for Soviet times maybe, but quite ugly looking at it now, expecially once you are close to it and see how in bad conditions it is, even if it's really not old... I don't want to know what was there here before WWII, but surely it was more appealing...
The two castles
There are two castles in Hrodna, one facing the other and they are simply called the old and the new castle.
Not much remains of the 13th century old castle, but the ruins are nice and the view over the Nioman river is great, high on the cliffs.
The new castle is even less interesting, it's just quite a modern structure in neoclassical style which now houses a museum. Once again the view over the river is spectacular.
On weekends, expecially in Summer and Spring, the 2 castles are invaded by wedding couples all going there to take pictures with the beautiful view of the old castle and the river Nioman. It's nice just to walk around there and take a look at the celebrating people.
Starting from the 1st of November 1941 the Jews of Hrodna started being ghettoized. There were 2 ghettos in Hrodna, one in the old town, one in the outskirts. The Ghetto 1, in the old town, is close to the Synagogue and hosted abot 15,000 Jews. The ghetto was fenced and the entrance was from the nearby castle.
These days there's no fence anymore but just a little memorial, a plaque and a sort of fence/entrance commemorating the Jews killed in Hrodna during the WWII.
Walking there around is pleasant and nice, unless you think about all the pain those people suffered along those streets... and I think it's impossible not to think about it.
The Great Synagogue
As I wrote on the introduction, Hrodna's population before WWII was formed at almost 40% by Jews. It's not strange, so, to find some Jewish roots, even after the Nazis, the Communists and the bombing passed.
The most important of the old Jewish buildings in Hrodna is without any doubt the Great Synagogue, the most important one in Belarus, but nowadays totally abandoned in a very bad shape...
Orthodox churches are being restored, rebuilt or totally built from new, some catholic churches saw some good renovation too, expecially in Hrodna, while the only Synagogue is lying there in the dust and ruins... it's really a pity, it's a very important monument to one of the most important communities living in this pretty town, almost totally liquidated by the Germans during WWII. Let's hope the Belarusian Goverment will start to take care about this temple too.
Lying in the part of the town between the railway and Lenin square, there's the orthodox cathedral, built in the early 1900s in polychrome style. It could look a bit like a "cake with onions", but surely it's a nice piece of architecture and temple for the orthodox population in Hrodna, among the many catholic baroque churches, mainly used by the Polish speaking population of the town.
Church of the Annunciation
Hrodna is full of catholic churches and probably there were many more in the past (as well as other confessions temples) and it remembers me a lot of Vilnius. One of my favourite is the church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, quite a run down church you can find in the little streets of the old town, surrounded by a high wall partially hiding the Bridgettine cloister with the wooden two-storey dormitory (1630s) still standing on the grounds. This is one of the oldest Baroque churches in this part of Europe, dating back to 1642.
Unfortunately it was closed when I walked there around but it was already so beautiful just to look at it from outside with an early evening light. I found some other pictures on internet, also of the cloister and it's surely one of the best places to visit in Hrodna, surely my favourite one.
Catholic church of the Discovery of the Holy Cross
Always on the Savestkaya square, on the same side of the cathedral, but at the opposite end, facind the ugly soviet theatre, lies another catholic church dedicated to the Discovery of the Holy Cross (held by the Fathers Bernardines, if I'm not wrong).
It was originally built in the 16/17th centuries and I suppose it was reconstructed after the WWII. All the part of the old town around the Savetskaya square seems to have been bombed, in fact in the past there was not this huge empty spaces and there houses are really not old.
The church is by the way very nice and once again you feel like you were in Vilnius... or in Italy! :)
Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier
The most important church and landmark in Hrodna is without any doubt the catholic Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier, which can be seen from almost any part of the town. It was formermy known as the Jesuit church and it's supposed to be one of the oldest Jesuit churches in the World. It lies in Savetskaya square (a catholic church on Soviet square... quite unusual!), a huge soviet square which surely looked much nicer before WWII and the communists...
If you have been to Vilnius you'll feel quite familiar with this church since the high Baroque style is really very similar to several churches in the nearby Lithuanian capital. The church is more than 50 metres high and its construction was started in 1678, but consecrated only 27 years later. Of course at that time Hrodna belonged to the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom.
Unlike in Minsk, Hrodna has a pedestrian street, and all streets around here are much smaller, which is typical of old towns. Savetskaya (quite a nostalgica name...) is the main street of the old town of Hrodna, and it's all dedicated to pedestrians.
Here you can find some of the finest houses, all perfectly restored, shops and places to eat and buy a drink. The road is paved with cobblestones and lined with trees. I was there on an incredibly hot and sunny Spring day on a saturday, the street was crowded with people... and some of the most beautiful girls I've ever seen in my life. ;)
It's a nice place just to walk around and all young and old people of Hrodna seem to agree! :)
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