Dating back to the 10th century, Minsk is the capital of Belarus and one of Europe's oldest cities. But it presents a surprisingly modern aspect today, with most of its historic buildings having been flattened during World War II.
Minsk was rebuilt as a showpiece Soviet city and little has changed since then. Wide boulevards and squares are lined with grandiose block-style buildings along the Svisloch River, interspersed with war memorials and Soviet symbols.
Nightclubs and casinos abound, while restaurants and theatre ooze baroque both on and off the stage. There are also a variety of amazing, themed health spas where waterfalls cascade into indoor pools.
The present of Minsk is interesting but so is its past. Because of its central eastern location between Poland and Ukraine, it has often been a European battleground over the centuries. It suffered at the hands of Russian troops in the 1600s, Peter the Great and Sweden in the 1700s, Napoleon and then Hitler.