Hidden gems of Minsk - the biggest European Museum of Boulders

Ivan Makarov | Live the World

November 23, 2022

I love unusual museums so much that I’ve even worked in one. Alivaria Brewery Museum, Museum of Broken Relations in Zagreb, Belarusian Skansen, Computer Games Museum in Berlin – they all left unforgettable memories. To my great pleasure, my latest addition to the collection of unique museums is located in Minsk. Let me introduce you to one of the hidden gems of Minsk the biggest Museum of Boulders in Europe.

Glaciers and scientists as the museum creators

For the last 350.000 years, massive glaciers cloaked territory of Belarus four times. On their unstoppable rush, masses of ice destroyed mountains and rocks, moving boulders all the way from Nordic countries and northern Russia. Each time when glaciers receded, they were leaving the stones behind. Sometimes they would form Stonehenge-like figures, or form a circle of rocks together. Pagans used to worship the boulders with sacred rituals. Christians first tried to destroy those altars, but later decided to leave them for their own use, carving crosses and sacred words upon shamanic writings. Dukes and warlords used the stones to mark the borders of their lands.

© Ivan Makarov

In 1975, geologist Gabriel Goretsky, younger brother of Belarusian poet Maxim Goretsky, drew academic society’s attention to the disappearing boulders. Government and private individuals blew the interfering stones up to build roads, extend fields, and for other infrastructural reasons. Special commission combed up every region of Belarus to prepare a catalog. Out of 200.000 registered boulders, 2134 were selected for historical and geological significance and brought to Minsk. Scientists preserved the stones in an open-air museum between the academic town and Urucchie neighborhood.

Belarusian map, altars and the alley of boulders

The museum is designed to represent Belarusian geology and history. Square bushes are planted in a line that copies the shape of the Belarusian map scaling one meter to two kilometers. Two rows of small stones crossing the territory from west to east are defining the borders, exactly where Sozh and Paazerye glaciers stopped 170 and 40.000 years ago. Around 500 boulders are located accurately at their original positions in 6 main regions of Belarus. 

© Ivan Makarov

Additional collections are presented on the sides around the map; e.g. milling stones and altars of “boulders in household use” are in the south. Landscape resembling original stone locations can be found in the “life-creating provinces” in the north. Moreover, the alley of the biggest boulders in the east, and a circle of stones from different mineral types are situated in the south-west.

Getting to the Boulders Museum

There are two reasons why the museum is unknown: there are no ads about it and its remote location. The Urucchie District is located behind Minsk circle road. Luckily, it takes only 15 minutes to get to the metro station with the same name from the city center. Turn left upon leaving the train, then left again after passing the glass doors. Walkthrough a long hall and go up the stairs on the right. Go down the hill and cross the road to the side with McDonald's and a casino. Turn left and walk till the bus stop. Catch a trolley № 2, 41, 61 or bus 27, 63, 77 and leave at the third station “Muzey Valunov” or walk along the road for about 15 minutes to reach the museum.

© Ivan Makarov

This museum is the only one in Minsk that is free and open 24/7. Locals from Urucchie neighborhood use it as a park; they walk their pets, play with kids, and organize picnics here. They’ve also hanged hand-made bird-feeders on the trees around, so it would be very nice of you to bring some seeds or grains as a small contribution. The lighting here is scarce, so it's better to come during the daytime for better views and pictures. After checking the must-visit locations, find some time to unwind and visit one of the hidden gems of Minsk – the biggest Museum of Boulders in Europe.

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