If you imagine Belarus as a chess-board, the town of Kamenets in Brest region is a very strong figure which is a white rook.
Kamenets is a town of «Belaya Vezha» which has overtopped the town for 8 centuries and actually looks like a chess rook. Its top (30 meters) overlooks the impressive view of the surroundings. It's not far from Belovezhskaya Pushcha, it’s only a few dozens of kilometers to go there.
Why the Tower of Kamenets became Belaya Vezha
All these things happened because of the error of the monograph named “Belovezhskaya Pushcha” (1903) that was done by its author, George Kartsov. He mentioned in his book that Kamenets Vezha stood on the White River, though the river was called the Lesnaya. But people popularizing the history of Belarus were so deeply impressed with the combination of “Belaya Vezha” that this name soon became the brand and the symbol of Belarus. And whatever has been called by the “Belaya vezha" in our country! Those were sanatoriums, vodka, casino….
Paradoxically, but Kamenets Vezha with more than 700-years-old history was white for only 40 years. Whether by the reason of ignorance or for the sake of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, it was whitened in 1957. However its native dark-red color was returned to the Tower in 1998. In fact the White Vezha is red (made of red brick).
The town and the Tower: the same story
All the life of the central district of Kamenets goes round the Tower. The town and the Tower have the same history beginning from 1276 when Vladimir Vasilkovich, the Prince of Volynsky, decided to build “beyond Berestye” a town-fortress and invited the famous builder Oleksa for that purpose.
Kamenetz Pillar (as it was called) was erected for 12 years, and the Tower turned out to "surprise everybody who sees it" (Galician-Volhynian Chronicle). The tower was surrounded by a wooden fortress. And the town itself was named Kamenets as “the earth was stony” (“kamen” – “stone” in Russian).
By the way, later the town was called Kamenets-Lithuanian and Kamenets-Russian in order to distinguish it from Kamenets-Podolsk.
Naturally, on the coat of arms of the Belarusian Kamenets there is a tower, a red one on the blue background. In 1503 Kamenets received Magdeburg Law.
Kamenets Vezha is 30 meters high, the thickness of the brick wall is 3.5 meters, and the diameter of the tower is 13.5 meters. Surprisingly, neither the Crusaders nor the Tartas could occupy the Vezha. It is impressive! It is the only monument of Ancient Rus, preserved in Belarus entirely.
Nowadays there is a museum of local lore in Kamenets.
The Myths and the Legends of Kamenets
The Legend of Giants. There is a rumor that the Tower was actually built by the giants who had come to the Lesnaya River from the unknown direction. To lay bricks they had to kneel down. If you are in Kamenets it is necessary to bend the knee to the Vezha in order to feel like the giants.
The Legends of the underground passages. They say that one of them goes just behind the river, but the exit is covered up with two huge rocks. However there is historical evidence, that there was indeed brick masonry under the tower. You must look for it when you visit it!
The Myth about the phantom of Galya. It is said that in the tower there lives the phantom of the White Lady named by Galya. She doesn’t touch local residents but she likes to frighten tourists. So it is worth visiting for fans of gothic thrilling impressions.
Kamenets is a "town of the Titans"
The glorious town of Kamenets (the population is only 8.5 million) is home to many famous Belarusian personalities, for example, for the first President of the Academy of Sciences of Belarus Vsevolod Ignatovsky, academic scientist Vladimir Gnilomedov, a national team player Sergei Kislyak, 7-time the record-holder in weightlifting Irina Kulesh and for many others. Indeed, it is a town of the titans.
But the most popular sculpture in the Kamenets is situated near the "White Vezha". The people call it "the man with the bull" (bison) and local historians have been arguing up to now after whom the tower was set up - either in honor of the town founder Vladimir Volynskij, or in honor of the builder of the tower Oleksa. You can, of course, get involved in the dispute, but it is better to take a group selfie next to the monument.
Besides that, Kamenets has two beautiful temples – St. Simeon Church (1914) and the Church of St. Paul (XVI).
Oh, and after going upstairs the Tower and walking around the town, don't forget to taste natural "Belovezhsky cheese".