Belarus became independent from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, but has remained an enigma to many Western travellers. The government recently removed visa restrictions for short stays by foreign nationals, so Sebastian Schmitz paid Minsk a visit.
Belarus is a landlocked country east of Poland, south of Lithuania and Latvia, and north of Ukraine. Unlike many of its neighbours in the western portion of the former Eastern Bloc, it did not open up following the fall of the Soviet Union, partly due to visa regulations. However, these changed earlier this year and the requirement to obtain a visa prior to arrival was lifted for visitors from 80 countries making trips of five days or fewer.