Ines Orinčić - Erasmus+ mobility at...

Caucasus – mystical mountain chain on the very south of endless Russia is the place I've picked for my Erasmus program. City of Pyatigorsk is the exact place of my adventurous study this year. The city is one of the most famous touristic destinations of the south Russia, being one of the richest healing mineral waters point in this amazing country. City itself is surrounded by seventeen bigger and smaller mountains and hills, and is actually named after one of them – Beshtau. Beshtau literally means „five hills” or „five peaks” (depending how one looks at things), therefore „Pyat (five) – i – gorsk (hills)”, and is spreading to the hight of 1400m. The most famous hill is definitely Mashuk.

At the bottom of this natural sports and recreation center happened the famous duel of Lermontov and Martynov in which Lermontov died. Today on that place stands beautiful monument which is always surrounded by tourists, even during night. Famous spots on Mashuk are also The Gates of Love (or The Gates of Sun, how they were called earlier) and Polana Pesen where concerts and big gatherings usually take place. 

It is necessary to mention another wonder of this area, and that is Elbrus – a dormant volcano and the highest peak of Europe (5600m) that can be seen on the horizon during clear days, only five hours away by car. 

There is at least 20 types of magical mineral waters inside the city and arround it – some of them are for drinking, some for bathing and some are just cool to see. Therefore, city is filled with sanatoriums, springs and all sorts of healing places. Some of the waters are salty, some are neutral, and some are incredibly stinky (because of high amounts of sulfur). 

But the soul of each city is their people, and Pyatigorsk definitely has all sorts. Nowhere have I ever met such opposition of characters as here – on one hand warm and welcoming, and on the other closed, rude and grumpy. And believe me when I say that you most definitely don't want to anger a lady who sells cups in the water springs because you asked (in feeble attempt to speak russian) for a ceramic cup instead of a paper one. 

Besides keeping a lot of old (slavic) traditions in their language, Russians kept some of the tradition in their everyday lives. Week of Maslenica is the perfect example. Professors and students of PSU (Pyatigorsk State University) organized a real celebration – they baked bliny (pancakes with all sorts of fill), organized a tiny show and burning of Chuchelo (scarecrow). Legend goes that if Chuchelo burns entirely the winter will be over soon and the summer will be long and warm. It burned completely, but snow fell the other day nevertheless. 

That's what it was like before Corona situation. Now the city is closed – both in borders and in shops, but people still go out. They still walk to nearby forest, chill underneath the trees, grilling meat and having fun. We have our classes online, and still do a lot of work. I must admit that my suddenly developed skills of speaking russian did not fade. Our professors here are making sure that we don't rust in that area. I have given myself a task to write at least one poem in russian while I'm still here – for me that would mean that I really got a grip on the language. It still didn't happen, and until it does I'll just study hard as I did from the start. 

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Ines Orinčić
Faculty of Humanities student at Juraj Dobrila University of Pula

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