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Brest, Belarus

Brest (also known as Brest-Litovsk and in Polish as Brześć Litewski, Brześć nad Bugiem or Brześć Białoruski) is a city (population 300,000) in Belarus close to the Polish border where the Western Bug and Mukhavets Rivers meet. It is the capital city of the Brest voblast.

It was a main railroad transfer point during Soviet times and it remains a rail transfer point and customs/immigration checkpoint on the Berlin/Moscow rail line. Some of the land in the rail yards is contaminated due to transhipping of radioactive materials during the Soviet regime. In Brest the train cars had to be transferred between the Russian broad gauge and the European standard gauge.

On the Western outskirts of Brest at the confluence of the Western Bug and Mukhavets River are ruins of a fortress dating back to the 19th century. There the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed in 1918. During the interbellum it was turned into a polish prison. The fortress was also the site of a fierce battle between the Nazis and Soviets that started on June 22, 1941. The fortress held out for a month. That battle helped to establish Brest's status as one of the Hero cities of the Soviet Union. A majestic memorial site was constructed on the site of that battle in 1971 to commemorate the known and unknown defenders of the fortress. The war memorial is a main tourist attraction of the city, which was heavily damaged during the war and following years of soviet reconstruction.

As to new attractions, the first Belarusian outdoor railway museum can be found in the city. The local airport (code BQT), which has been closed since the breakup of the Soviet Union has recently began operating flights to the capital city Minsk and to Moscow and Novgorod in Russia on a weekly basis.

Menachem Begin, the former prime minister of Israel, was born in Brest. A holocaust memorial commemorates the dead Jews of Brest ghetto.

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