One of my worst fears while travelling – other than being kidnapped and taken into the Bulgarian mountains by a crazy sect and forced to grow a beard – was having to stay in a bad hostel. The worst place we stayed on our entire trip was our first hostel in London and it nearly put me off hostels forever. We were in an eight-bed dorm, with a leaking toilet that people (read: dudes) kept using anyway. On our first night some guys came in during the middle of the night and organised their drug-taking-party-fun-times, which required a lot of whispering, racking up and the use of torches. The next night a bunch of people came in really late, obviously on the disco biscuits, as we hip young folk call them, and one couple made out and felt each other’s bits for about four hours. J-man liked it more than I did.
After that horrifying experience, we were much more picky about the hostels we chose. In reality, I think it’s hard to find a really, really bad hostel. Like I said in my previous post, just look for the ones with the best reviews.
These were my favourites:
Centrum Hostel, Budapest: This little number reminded me a lot of a student house, ala Heartbreak High. The owner, a super cool guy named Alex (who also happened to be cute), was so accommodating and liked to confuse everyone by using the greeting “good evening” at all times of the day. We liked him a lot. He cooked everyone dinner every night, took us to some cool bars and generally just treated us like friends. It really felt like home and we ended up staying for five nights, having originally booked for three. Unlike a lot of hostels, which are more like re-jigged motels with lots of rooms, this one was actually in an apartment so we got to know everyone pretty well over wine and stew at the dinner table. Yep, a dinner table. Also, fresh bread rolls and Nutella were served for breakfast. Win!
We don’t have photos of the Budapest hostel. But here’s a picture of J-man at Buda Castle, just shooting the breeze. As in, he didn’t hit anything.
Archi Rossi, Florence: We had the greatest time of our lives in Florence – it was so, so romantic, friendly and beautiful – and it was made even better by this hostel, which had everything you could ever want. It had comfy rooms, lots of computers, really big, clean bathrooms, and was attached to a cheap restaurant that served the most incredible French toast I have ever had. Ever. Breakfast was free and simple meals could be bought for dinner. The hostel is in a grand, old building down a little lane close to all the major sites and the train station. I would absolutely recommend this place to anyone, even those who have a plentiful budget. FRENCH TOAST!
The walls of Archi Rossi were covered in graffiti and stencil art. Some of it was clever. I also saw something along the lines of “Josh and Shazza shagged here”. Umm, congratulations?
Athens Backpackers, Athens: The first thing we did in Athens was our washing. While waiting for our undies to dry we got talking to the most boring teenager ever, who said he chose this hostel because “I just pick what comes up under ‘party hostel’ on Google”. Man, I almost cried into my fabric softener upon hearing that. I had just gotten over the worst, longest-running case of weebum I had ever had and the last thing I felt like doing was partying with a pimply Pom, who could not register the “I’M BORED” look in my stone cold eyes. Yes, this hostel has an amazing rooftop bar with a view of the Acropolis, but if getting drunk isn’t your number one priority in life you’ll still have a great time. Again, it was comfortable, clean, offered a simple breakfast, free walking tours, a movie room and was close to everything important. Plus, the staff were super friendly and helpful. On your travels lots of people might tell you Athens is awful, but we loved it and this hostel was a great place to call home.
This is the famous view, even more beautiful at night when it’s all lit up. As a side note – see how my fly is half undone here? My jeans are too small for me. Yes, I ate a lot of gyros in Athens, but not THAT MUCH. Turns out this particular brand are designed to shrink a few sizes if you wash them in hot water. You can’t wash in anything else in Europe. Thanks a lot, jerks.
Kismet Dao, Brasov: Romania was not really on my list of “holy crap, I have to go there immediately” countries. But I am so, so glad we didn’t skip it. It’s a challenging place – most of the towns we visited were very industrial, grey and cold – but once you conquer it, just like Dracula, it’s amazing. Beautiful Brasov was definitely one of our favourite places, thanks in part to this really cool hostel. We stayed in a private room (called The Shagging Room [vom]) with its own little balcony overlooking the mountains, which felt very luxurious. The hostel offered a free drink for each night you booked, free breakfast, a huge lounge room, lots of balconies, tours of Bran Castle and seemed to attract the coolest of travellers.
Here’s me looking weary and manish on the aforementioned balcony. I’m accepting J-man’s very unique brand of romance. Thanks, J-man!
Greg and Tom’s Junior, Krakow: Everything I heard about this hostel and the larger one, simply called Greg and Tom’s, was “duuuuuude, they have the best paaaarties”. From what I heard through my foam earplugs, the parties did indeed seem to be tubular, radical and awesome. Poor old J-man, who loves people, definitely made an epic mistake in choosing me as his life party partner. Here are the things that stick with me about this hostel: being greeted with fresh juice after an overnight train trip, clean showers with radios and water massagers, comfortable beds and incredibly friendly, young and helpful staff. They also offered tours of Auschwitz-Birkenau, which is a must-do if you visit Poland. I can’t finish on such a sad note. They also had fresh fruit! Best grapes I’ve ever eaten.
Again, no photos of the actual hostel. Instead, here’s evidence of how happy we were on our first day in Krakow, after being allowed to have a hot shower and juice after a night on a train.