Location: Pyatigorsk, Stavropol Krai
The name of the city is derived from 2 Russian words "пять" and "гор" (five and mountains), symbolizing 5 peaks of the Caucasian mountain range.
How to get there:
1) From Moscow, you can take a plane to Mineralnye Vody airport and Pyatigorsk is only 20 km away.
2) There are frequent trains from (almost) all the main cities in Russia.
Read more: 10 Best kept Secret Destinations in Russia
After a nearly 4 hours drive from Dombay, we arrived safe and sound to Hostel Zhit Prosta, Pyatigorsk. I have to admit... during the journey, there were voices inside my head that keep telling me that we've underpaid the driver. The road condition wasn't the best to start with and the fog was scary... There wasn't a single road sign or lamp post when we were crossing the mountain area. We tried to identify our location using the google map but guess what, they couldn't find us either. It takes a highly experienced driver to navigate.... and this is exactly why a "cross country road trip" in Russia isn't practical.
I asked our driver if he is going to spend a night here in Pyatigorsk and his casual answer almost gave me a heart attack. He is driving back. He is driving 4 hours back. He is driving back 4 hours in the pitch of darkness, oh my dear Lord. It was extra cold that day, -20 to be exact, and after finishing his cigarette, he drove away with only 3000 Rubles. I thought we should pay him more but he is a man of his words.
Anyway, we begin the 2nd leg of our Journey by checking into this chic hostel called “Hostel Zhit Prosta”(Click to view on Booking.com).
Why do I highly recommend this hostel?
1. It's one of the cheapest in town.
We paid only 350 Rubles per person per night for a dorm bed.
2. Friendly owner
The owner of this hostel is an avid world traveler himself, and he is more than happy to share his experiences and thought on World traveling. He developed his business ideas after his eye-opening world tour and thus, the existence of "Zhit Prosta", a new hostel chain in Russia (also available in Kislovodsk).
3. Strategic location
The hostel is located right in the center of the city, only a stone throw away from the Tsvetnik Park and the grocery stores.
4. A decent kitchen
Although I couldn't say it is fully equipped (no stove), there were at least microwave and a multi cooker, so you can still cook up a decent meal. Also, a free flow of coffee and tea was provided.
5. The sense of community
The hostel has a great lounge with an X-box! Other than that, guests are invited to write or draw on the mahjong paper stapled to the wall. We found some words left behind by a group of Malaysian and Singaporean travelers!
Every bed comes with a storage place and padlocks are provided.
Where we visited?
Wanting to showcase the beauty of the Malaysian Culture to the Russians, we decided to brave the cold by wearing our traditional costume, the Baju Kurung.
How do you showcase the beauty of your home country in a foreign land? One easiest way-- wear your national costume out on the street. Here in Russia, we attempted to hike up a hill in Baju Kurung in the freezing temperature of -17c, on the third day of CNY. #malaysian #chinesenewyear #russia #traditionalcostume #bajukurung
We initially planned to reach Lake Proval by foot but after 15 minutes walking in the snow, we gave up. We hop into a taxi and paid 80 rubles to get to the Proval Lake. Journey took about 8 minutes passing a police roadblock.
However, to our disappointment, despite it being a Monday, the attraction was closed to the public. We bumped into another elderly couple who jogged 30 minutes to find the gates locked. It was a bummer, but life goes on.
We stopped the same taxi in time and at that moment we made up our minds to use the taxi for the whole day (since Taxi service here is so cheap). Imagine our frustration when we found the Mt Mashuk cable car still not operating. The cable car was supposed to start working on 10 am, but no, for some unknown reasons they decided to start their Monday at 1 pm. Never knew Monday Blue in Russia is that serious!
However, thanks to the unsystematic, odd working hours of the cable car, we discovered a gem directly opposite the station. We stepped into this fancy looking restaurant in order to take shelter from the cold wind, we thought we would barely be able to afford a drink here. Turned out that food served here is pretty affordable! The Russian granny who own the restaurant ushered us into a private ballroom. The whole ballroom, only for us, as if we rented the whole place. I was thinking, damn what had we gotten ourselves into? Would she make us pay the rent? Of course not, it was just a friendly gesture and she even allowed us to light up the chandeliers!
What I ordered: Plof with beef, potato fries and tea shared among 4.
Price: Only 235 Rubles
Other recommended dishes: Mutton Shashlik (Russian Satay) and Chicken Noodle Soup
We even tried to hike up Mt Mashuk since we believed that it would take forever for the staff to finally operate the cable car. But without all those unfortunate episodes, we wouldn't discover the beauty of the woods at the foot of Mt. Mashuk...
Finally, at 1pm+, we got to enter the cable car. However, it was too foggy that afternoon we didn't manage to catch a glimpse of the "legendary" panorama of the 5 mountains which made the name of the city "Pyat (Five) "i"gorsk (Mountains)". But anyway, we got to take some pretty touristy pictures at the signs and the arch of love locks.
Cable car fare: 360 Rubles 2 ways.
3. Duel Place and Lermontov's Memorial
I wasn't too impressed with the monument due to the fact that we came from the city of a hundred Monuments, Volgograd. However, I did realize the historical significance of this place, where Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov was shot in a duel on July 27, 1841. Meanwhile, I enjoyed a brief walk in the woods nearby.
4. The Savior Cathedral
This church features the typical golden onion dorm architecture like any other Orthodox Cathedral. There was a set of bells outside the church. I would love to play a melody... but I controlled myself. Wouldn't want a group of believers rushing to the church just to find out an idiot messing with the bells.
5. Tsvetnik Park
Tsvetnik Park is perhaps my favorite place in Pyatigorsk. The park is big, with several points of interest, including
- The peak - to enjoy the panorama of the city
- Diana's grotto- built in honor of the first ascent of Mount Elbrus.
- Lermontov Gallery- This building caught our attention with its striking light-blue color and beautiful stained-glass windows. It is now a concert hall.
- Flower, Exhibition Center - There is a statue of a traveler at the side of the exhibition center and a Russian women told us to throw some loose coins into the hat of the statue because according to local belief, one will revisit the city of Pyatigorsk if they do so (I don't know how true this is, someone please verify?). We also saw some Russians forcing the statue to "smell" their money. We did it as well using Euro and US Dollar, just for fun.
The owner of Zhit Prosta Hostel helped us to book a taxi to bring us to Kislovodsk. The journey took 45 minutes and we paid 200 Rubles per person.
In a nutshell,
Accommodation 350 r
Breakfast waffle 20 r
Taxi to Lake Proval 20r
Lunch at the Fancy Restaurant 235 r
Taxi to Cable Car 12.25r
Cable car 360 r
Taxi to Duel Place 25 r
Taxi to Svetnik Park 30 r
Dinner (Read and instant noodles) 25 r
Total: 1072.25 Rubles ($19/ RM84)
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Thank You for Reading! This post is based solely on my honest opinion or personal experience. If you have a different opinion, feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below!