In my last post, I tried to dispel your fear of hostels. I am fortunate that the movie, Hostel, didn’t come out prior to my stay in one. What this movie did was create fear in something many Americans are ignorant of. This kind of fear tends to linger unless you oust it with your own personal experiences. This is why stereotypes and profiling exists. We tend to believe what we hear or read which make blanket statements about things we know very little about, so that when we encounter them, we can voluntarily shield and protect ourselves. It’s a defense mechanism.
As far as hostels go, the United States has so few of them that blanket statements made about them will be believable to this audience. Fortunately, I have stayed in a plethora of hostels in many nations, and can say with confidence that the grim picture the movie paints is but a myth.
That being said, one tends have a few odd experiences when you’ve stayed in quite a few of them. It’s unavoidable.
Brno, Czech Republic:
When I booked my flight to this city in Eastern Europe, I didn’t even know how to pronounce it. Flying into Brno from London was a third cheaper than the popular city of Prague. And so I went forth. Because this city is not in the popular tourist circuit, hostels were very few and far between. As I stated before, I choose my hostel based on location and ratings. Still, there were so few reviews that I was taking a stab in the dark with this one. Finding the hostel wasn’t too complicated from the airport. A bus here, a tram there, and uphill walk to finish. Actually, as usual, I did get lost. This hostel was not easy to find once in the right neighborhood because it was unmarked, therefore, I kept passing it. A local biking couple was kind enough to show me the way without my asking.
When I arrived, a group of three Belgian young guys, doing a road trip of Eastern Europe, arrived to the hostel at the exact same time. An hour later, an Asian young man traveling alone checked in. And that was it. Myself, three Belgian guys, and an Asian man were the only guests that night. (Now, get your head out the gutter. It wasn’t that kind of awkward).
The hostel consisted of only two main dormitories, with about six beds each, with a courtesy curtain around each bunk. A kitchenette, a toilet room, a shower room and a table full of excursion fliers lay close to the entrance. Oh, and an empty private room was set in the back. Luckily for me, I don’t mind sharing a dorm room with guys, so long as they don’t snore, and they usually do, so I’ve stopped sharing dorm rooms with guys.
However, this is the first time that I was the ONLY girl in a whole hostel. This is also the first time that there were only 5 people in a hostel I stayed in. I don’t know too many women that would book a flight to an unknown, hard to pronounce city with few hostels and not mind bunking with a four men. But it was so. And thanks to the Belgians, I didn’t even sleep in my bunk that night. (Again, mind out the gutter please).
Who knew an unknown, hard to pronounce city with so few hostels and hostel tenants could prove to be such a great time? I tagged along with the boys, eating great steak, walking around the city center, enjoying the Brno nightlife into daybreak, then getting lost and walking barefoot back to the empty hostel over the rising sun, where I finally got a few hours of sleep. The Belgians moved on the next day and so did the quiet Asian guy. And so, the very next night, I would be the ONLY guest.
The next day was a plethora of interesting experiences as I explored Brno on my own. So after a day of outdoor café eating, camera breaking and new camera purchasing, clothes shopping, carnival exploring, rock concert listening, the best firework show witnessing, I was ready to return to my hostel for a goodnight sleep!
I vaguely remember the hostel staff mentioning in passing that the key to the front door was tricky and to open it like so.
I didn’t pay attention.
Surely, if I couldn’t open the door, the staff would do so for me, right? Wrong.
When I said I was the ONLY guest my second night, that also meant that I was the ONLY person in the WHOLE hostel. No other guest, no other staff.
Dodging his many attempts to smooch, I finally said goodbye to Johnny, my new local Czech friend who accompanied me home, and whom was slightly obsessed with Black women and spoke great English, but which I later realized was slightly mentally retarded due to a history of spina bifida and locals laughing and pointing because of his excited volume when speaking to me.
It was closer to 1am than midnight, and I was anxious to get inside. Shaking off the chill that ran down my spine as I opened the front gate, I was acutely aware that my chill wasn’t due to the weather. It was fear.
This fear was due to an incident that occurred less than an hour before as I was waiting on my tram with Johnny in the city center.
How did I meet this Johnny, by the way?
After a mesmerizingly beautiful firework show on the lake on the outskirts of Brno, half the city rushed for the trams that ran every minute for this occasion. As usual, I was confused as to which tram I needed to take. Sure, there were conductors which I implored to help me.
Nyet! No English!
Fortunately for me, Johnny was within earshot and asked if I needed help. The exchanges were made in Czech and without an opportunity to protest, Johnny boy was to be my guide. Lucky for me! And lucky for him, he finally met his first Black chic, a source of his fantasies for years ( his own words).
So, here we stood in the city center, talking for over an hour, as tram after tram passed by, filled with the same group of animated youngsters I enjoyed the carnival and fireworks with just hours before. In one particular tram, I heard shouting and chanting from young hippies, drunk with courage and purpose, which unbeknownst to me were racial epithets, when a short, punkish woman clad in dark lipstick, dark hair, dark eyeliner and dark attire, locked eyes with me as the tram slowly passed by.
To my horror, she boldly stuck her middle finger in my direction with vigor, while her comrades laughed and followed suit. I stood poised, unable to move or even blink.
“Johnny, what were they chanting?” I pleaded several times when the tram passed as I regained my composure.
His kind heart would not repeat the chant. He quickly blurted out that some Czechs didn’t like the dark-skinned gypsies and apologized and explained that not everyone was the same. Poor Johnny was beet red with embarrassment.
Although slightly reassured, I suddenly felt cold and quickly realized that I was the only Black chick in the whole city center of Brno, which felt eerily quiet, with the exception of random teenagers walking by in groups. Suddenly, mental images of an ensuing attack and subsequent headlines to the tune of: “American Woman Attacked in Hate Crime…” made me anxious to end my good-natured conversation with Johnny and get to my hostel quickly.
The earlier-in-the-day “protest fest” consisting hippies carrying signs of “white power” and cannabis, and the nervous waitress who wouldn’t translate their chant for me, made me realize that I need not be out at this hour in this strange land.
I locked the front gate behind me as Johnny sadly walked away, promising to email me, and in a frenzy, reached the front door of the hostel and sure enough, the front door was tricky to open.
I stood there with shaking hands, as if in a scary movie, trying the key in the lock every possible way with no result. I banged and banged and banged on the front door and the windows and the walls for what felt like hours. Surely, there must be SOMEONE else inside. Nothing. I went back into the street and waited for two ladies who passed by to help me with the lock. As soon as I opened my mouth to plead for help, they shook their head “no” and walked faster. Wow!
Eventually, just when I thought I’d have to sleep right inside the front gate, one of the many maneuvers I tried on the stupid lock magically worked! I heaved a sigh of relief and reveled in the silent, dark, all-to-myself hostel, but not without making sure the doors were tightly locked behind me.
The next day, I got the hell out of Dodge and went to Prague!
Well, now that I think about it, this experience wasn’t so bad. It was my fault, really. I was excited about my trip to Budapest, as it was featured in one of my favorite movies: Before Sunrise, and as usual, I chose the highest rated, centrally located hostel. In fact, this hostel won the “Best Hostel in the World” award a couple of years prior.
Unfortunately for me, it was a party hostel, which attracts me less and less in my late 20’s. A mixed dorm is what I booked, to my chagrin. Snorers and late night partiers abounded. I now longed for a lower-rated, far out, petite hostel, which didn’t win some “Best of the Year” award. I know this now.
At any rate, on one of the several nights that I tried to catch some Z’s (especially since I would be spelunking thru some challenging caves the next day), I was awakened in the wee hours of the morning by four Aussie gals and guys, stumbling into the room after a night of partying. Light sleeper that I am, I waited out their routine so that I can drift back to sleep. Unfortunately, sleep was not to happen that night. Whilst one gal and one guy did go to sleep separately, the other couple decided that a room full of strangers was the perfect place to get it on. I’ve heard of such stories. I just never thought that people could be so bold. Surely, they would use the showers or a closet or something?!? I was turned facing them only a few feet away from the ” action”, and for fear of them realizing that I was wide-awake, I didn’t move a muscle until they “finished,” forcing me to become an unintended voyeur.
The next day, I realized it was a one-night stand, judging from the awkward looks and conversation betwixt them.
Well, as it turned out, the Aussie “one-night-stand” gal was a cool chick, and I invited her and her more conservative friend to go spelunking with me, her being none the wiser to what I witnessed the night before.
Moral of the story is, hostels are cool, memorable, not usually scary, and a must-do at least once in your life!
How about you? Do you have a strange hostel experience that you’d like to share? Comment below!