On our next day in Belarus we ventured outside the capital to see some of the historic structures of the region with our guide Natasha. Our first stop was Nesvizh Castle (Нясвіжскі замак), home of the Radziwiłłs from 1533 to 1939. This family were the richest landowners in the region for centuries. Even as the land around them moved from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to the Russian Empire, the same family remained in power. This castle was their winter residence, and is surrounded by vast parklands.
The Radziwiłłs were avid hunters, and we saw a photo of a room filled with antlers and other hunting trophies. We heard a story about an elderly Radziwiłł who still insisted on hunting even though he was wheel-chair bound. His grandsons lured an old bear our for him to shoot, but the bear was not killed instantly and lunged towards the old man. His hunting dog leapt to protect him, killing the bear but losing her life in the process. The old man commissioned a statue of the dog, and now she sits overlooking the parkland, a medallion draped around her neck.
Around 2pm I asked Natasha if we were going to have lunch, and she looked surprised. Even though this was a six hour tour, no meal was scheduled. We didn’t end up eating until we got back to Minsk in the late afternoon. Our patterns of life are a little different from the Belarusians.
Next we visited the Mir Castle, which was also claimed by the Radziwiłłs in 1568, and was often used a summer house. There was a long line to get into the interior courtyard. Natasha and I tried sneaking in the exit, but Adrian hung back, and we were shoed out by a staff member. Natasha argued fervently in Russian, but the staff member stood their ground. So she took us on a tour of the exterior, and then we had a long drive through green meadows back to the capital.