First hostel soon to open in Minsk
In mid-August, Minsk’s first hostel will open its doors in a three-story building with a sauna, cozy yard for barbecues, and billiard, ping-pong and foosball tables. What is interesting about the hostel is that it’s not the brainchild of an oligarch who understands the profitability of the discount hotel business, but the dream of a few young men and women who have almost no experience in this field. 34 spent the day with the founders at the hostel, discussing its future while helping to paint a door, grilling some sausages, playing some foosball, consuming 6 liters of beer and debating the subject of "there’s gonna be a city garden here."
"Be careful, the paint is wet" - Vladimir warns us when we enter the cottage, which will be hosting "honorable guests of the capital" in a few weeks. Vladimir is one of the hostel owners and a founder of this movement in Belarus. A couple of years ago he became obsessed with the idea of creating a network of low-budget hotels in the country. Last November, he launched the first hostel in his native city of Vitebsk.
After operating for eight months in an excellent area in the city center, the hostel changed its location but not its concept, namely offering cheap, comfortable and "home-style" accommodations with photos of well-known jazz musicians on the walls. The name of the hostel also remained the same – «Jazz». It’s still not known if the Minsk hostel will take the name of its predecessor in Vitebsk. Although the hostel opening is in the countdown phase, the guys keep reworking the name, logo and concept – in between breaks from painting walls, setting up bunk beds and fixing the plumbing.
Sergey is the second founder of the Minsk hostel. He found Vladimir via the Internet and suggested collaborating on something similar in Minsk. For now, he works at a scrap metal processing plant and his wife, Zoya, for one of the banks. When the hostel opens its doors they’ll have to give up their regular jobs and embrace their new love full-time.
The renovation is still in full swing. It smells like paint stripper in the hallway. In a soon-to-be living room, mattresses, shelves and a plasma TV are piled in a heap. A tour around the hostel takes half an hour. On the ground floor there’s that living room, several bigger VIP rooms, a kitchen and a toilet. The sleeping rooms with five, six, and more beds are on the first floor, along with a few bathrooms with showers.
As we hung out at the site of the future hostel, we explored its interior, checked out the window views and estimated the crop capacity of grapevines which cover almost the entire building. Sergey built a fire to grill sausages. Zoya was out picking currants in a corner of the yard. It was raining so we gathered on the porch where the freshly painted doors were drying and poured some beer. Sergei did not drink, because he was the driver. Zoya refused at first too, but then nevertheless consented to a glass of “sbiten,” a traditional, alcoholic peasant drink made with honey.
"The cottage was in good condition, but as soon as we began the repair work it became clear that way more work needed to be done than we expected. We’ve been getting dirty for about three weeks already,” said the owners. “We are doing everything ourselves, without any Tajik cheap labor. The Wi-Fi is already installed, though the coverage still needs to be expanded to entire place.”
The most interesting thing came up a bit later. None of the owners has actually studied the European experience of running hostels. "Well, once I lived in a hostel in Bialystok (Poland)… I’m also a bit familiar with how it's done in Russia and Ukraine," says Vladimir.
One nice selling point of the Minsk hostel is that it will have special offers for nonresident students. "It will be possible to rent a bed for about $ 100 dollars a month,” adds Vladimir. “If you weren’t given a place in a dormitory and cannot afford to rent an apartment, the hostel may be a good option, keeping in mind that you don’t have to cover other household costs and the Internet is free."
During the course of his work in the Vitebsk hostel market, Vladimir realized that the most difficult problem was that locals didn’t comprehend the format of the establishment: "Everybody asked “what is a hostel?" and I had to explain that it’s a kinda mini-hotel. Then people wondered, if it’s a hotel, why do you have six beds in one room and no TV?"
Nevertheless, Vladimir and his buddies believe that, in a year or two, the hostel format will become familiar even in our country of ministry hotels and cheap gasoline. Therefore, it’s important for them be leaders in the field. But this is what’s most difficult.
37A Mazyrskaya St., Minsk, Belarus
tel: +37533 3361633
Price from €10