Sleeping around in Europe.

No, not in that way. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Remember when I said I would be reviewing all hostels I stayed across Europe? Well then, here we are.

Private residence – Sofia, Bulgaria.

Canape Connection was the first and original hostel I booked for my Europe trip, as I would be heading to Sofia, Bulgaria for the 22nd Summer Deaflympics. I booked in October 2012 – a couple of weeks prior to booking my flights, as I thought this would give me an initiative to get the ball rolling to finally stop myself from dreaming about gallivanting around Europe, instead of fartarsing around and coming up with excuses why I couldn’t go.

Alas, not long after my booking was confirmed and sent through, I got an email from Ivo, the hostel manager. Turns out I had booked AT THE FRICKING SAME TIME as a large group of Germans who would also be attending the Deaflympics. I’ll be honest here – I was disappointed because the hostel looked amazing in the photos and I was excited. Ivo said that a colleague offered for me to stay at her place during the Deaflympics at the same price as the hostel, as her place was listed on AirBnB at a higher price. Well…what the fuck, I decided to grab it – seeing that it’d be during the summer season which means it would be charged at high peak prices. 10 euros per night…surely I would be stupid enough not to grab it…right?

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that my friend pulled out, so I was left with the task of finding someone to take her place. I was able to find someone JUST a month before the Deaflympics began. Hi Dylan! He asked me to keep it shush because he wanted to surprise his sister, Kylie – who’s one of my close friends. I’m still surprised I managed to keep it a secret from her for a whole month, considering that I usually tell her everything…!!! The surprise was almost slipped when Natasha and I were talking in code – ie; Megan an American – as you can imagine this scene: Ixone and Kylie looked at us weirdly.

Kylie: Who the fuck is your American friend?

Me: Oh. Um. Yeah, she’s taken the second bed.

Kylie: Oh cool – glad you found someone. What’s the name?

Me: ….Megan. (I hesitated for a second…!!!!).

Cue me hurriedly texting Dylan letting him know of his new identity.

The room I was given could accommodate up to 4 people, and through Ixone, I found two Spanish girls who were looking for somewhere to stay. So… I was staying in the same room as 3 other people. 2 Australians and 2 Spanishs – you’re thinking up of a joke? Please do share.

The owner of the apartment I would be staying at emailed me a week before I was due to fly to Sofia – she explained how I would get to her place from the airport, and of course, I also advised her of 2 extra people. She was too happy for us to stay there.

Fast forward to 25th July 2013. Upon landing at Sofia, I was bewildered at how I would get there by using public transport. There wasn’t enough information as to where the bus station was and all that jazz. All I could see was a taxi rank. So many yellow taxis. And it was fucking hot – a lot hotter than London. I decided to take the risk and get a taxi to my accommodation. The address I was given confused the shits out of me, so I typed it on my iPad and showed it to the next available taxi driver. He had this confused look. Surely he would understand the bloody street name…??? Turns out Bulgarian is quite similar to Russian. Well, how the shit would I know that? He asked a couple of other taxi drivers, and one came up to me and asked to see the address, so I showed him, then he said that he would be able to take me. I put my bags in the boot and happily (and wearily) jumped into the taxi. Off we went…cruising through the streets of Sofia. Cue music from Grand Theft Auto – well it certainly did feel like I was in a scene out of GTA 3, 4 or 5…or even 390458439584390.

The taxi finally pulled up to a building – where I would be staying. Not too flashy, but nice enough by Bulgarian standards. I thought I would be paying approximately 8 Bulgarian levs. Nope. The bloody taxi driver knew that I was a tourist and that I had no fucking idea what I was doing in Sofia, so he took the liberty of charging me 20 levs. Well, I’ll be damned. I coughed up 20 levs and got out of the taxi. The owner asked me to prank call her when I arrived, so I did…and waited for some 3 minutes. She came down and welcomed me, then we went up…to the 3rd floor. I was beyond grateful that the building didn’t have 20 floors, otherwise I’d have lost 20 kilos before I went on my merry way to Serbia after the Deaflympics.

I was given the grand tour of the apartment. It was cute and cosy. The room I slept in was spacious – and I could see that it could accommodate a maximum of 6 people. The mattresses were quite thin (almost like prison thin, you know?) but that didn’t worry me too much as I could sleep anywhere. The pillow was probably the only thing that shit me, as it wasn’t comfortable and I had to put my travel pillow on top of it. The rest of the apartment was good, but we didn’t use much of it – just the room and the bathroom, as we were out most of the time.

As I settled into the room, the owner sat down and we talked by using the old school method of pen and paper. Her English was surprisingly good. One problem and she wasn’t happy…and there was this small threat of me and others being kicked out and having to find somewhere else to stay if I didn’t cough up the dough for the second bed, as it was already booked, and Angela would not be arriving for another 3 days. Cough up 440 levs or find somewhere else to stay. I couldn’t be arsed finding somewhere else to stay and I really wanted to nap, so I told her that I’d pay her in a couple of hours. She accepted…and I was relieved. I didn’t want my room mates having to find somewhere else to stay. She explained how to get around Sofia, and that it wasn’t that far of a walk from the main mall – Vitosha Boulevard, I think it was. 12 minutes stroll at the most. Closest ATM would be about less than 5 minutes away by foot. Okay Sofia, I’m going to conquer you.

There was a main road approximately 2 minutes stroll away, and I was able to grab a taxi from there to go to various Deaflympics venues around the city. The most scariest thing was walking back to my accommodation after partying at around 1am. Mind you, I was scared shitless, and I decided to use my common sense and stuck to the main roads where there would be lights. I was lucky enough to get back safely and in one piece, as during the Deaflympics I was told about a couple of people being assaulted if they were found to be on their own thus becoming vulnerable. Scary. I had also taken a taxi back at an ungodly hour too – and I was on my own once again, armed with my common sense and Google maps. From that point on, I made sure to go back with one of my room mates – even if I had to wait all night for them to finish partying their arses off.

My experience in Sofia was certainly an interesting one to say the least – and the question remains: would I go back? Of course! I would love to explore more of Bulgaria – it’s supposed to have amazing mountains and caves. As for accommodation – I’ll be sure to book  proper accommodation CLOSE to Vitosha Blvd – with a proper mattress and pillow.

Now onto Belgrade, Serbia

As I mentioned a while ago that I sprained my ankle (it was confirmed by my GP a week after I came back to Australia) by gracefully stepping off the bus approximately an hour before Belgrade, I decided to cut my stay one day short and head straight to Budapest.

I stayed at The Big Hostel, which only cost me 13 euros. A lot less than a KFC meal at home! The hostel itself was lovely and quiet, and it was located on a beautiful street. I can highly recommend it if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Belgrade. They have free WiFi all throughout the hostel, which was a bonus as I was temporarily immobile. Their service is quite good – and their staff speak a good amount of English, so you won’t have to worry too much about learning Serbian or anything like that. I was able to get their receptionist to call the minibus company to confirm my place for the trip to Budapest, as apparently they weren’t too good with emails, and the receptionist came to get me when the bus had arrived, which was lovely. I was lucky to get the whole dorm to myself – hence it being quiet. The downside was that it only had stairs which wasn’t too good for my ankle, so I had to take it easy. I would definitely stay there again when I go back to Belgrade – just disappointed that I didn’t get to spend much time there, as it looked breathtakingly beautiful. Next time, Belgrade!

I used GEA Tours to get my arse from Belgrade to Budapest. Fantastic service – they pick up from your accommodation in Belgrade and drop you off at your accommodation in Budapest. Only 25 euros. I was in a minibus with a group of boys from America, and a couple from I don’t know where. My stomach was rumbling the whole way – awkward, at least it didn’t wake up the boy I was sitting next to. However, I encountered a communication problem with the bus driver, and we had a bit of argument in the restaurant where everyone was watching us. How’s that for entertainment, people? Luckily for me, he knew where to drop me off in Budapest. I’d definitely use this company again – it’s a Serbian company that takes you to Budapest, Zagreb, Skopje, Thessaloniki and a couple of other cities around Eastern Europe. I’d advise you to book a seat a couple of weeks in advance, as I was lucky to get the last seat on the 8AM service to Budapest, but they weren’t too quick-smart with emails to confirm it thus my getting the receptionist to call them.

Rainbow Hostel – Budapest, Hungary

This hostel is fantastic. I loved it there. I originally had booked for two nights, but since coming to Budapest a day earlier than planned, they were able to put me up for an extra night – luckily my bed was available straight away. I shared a room with a couple from Sweden – Sebastian and Charlotte. Lovely people, although we didn’t get to talk much – they slept through the day and went out at night, whereas I went out during the day and slept through the night. The manager lady – HOT and very nice. Easy to communicate with and waved every time I went out or came back in. The hostel also has its own beauty salon – you could get a haircut or your eyebrows done there! I paid 30 euros for my stay there – quite cheap.

The hostel is a short stroll (about 200 metres) from the nearest Metro station, and it’s also behind a cute little laneway which is filled with restaurants and shops. The nearest ATM isn’t too far off either – in the said laneway, and as well there’s a supermarket which sells all kinds of things. The awkward moment I had at the said supermarket was when I realised I forgot the PIN for my main bank card. Cue the grumpy supermarket cashier lady yelling at me to hurry up in Hungarian. Sorry lady, I’ll pay with this one instead. Turns out I had an epiphany and remembered my PIN a week after arriving home AND changing the PIN. Bloody hell.

If you’re thinking of visiting Budapest, then I would recommend this hostel. It’s on the main road – I forget the name, but the link I’ve provided will tell you. It’s also a short stroll to the Hungarian National Museum (worth visiting if you’re into that kind of stuff – I was and enjoyed my visit), and a couple of other places and shops.

A tip for visiting Budapest in summer: it’s hot as hell, and can hit as high as 39 degrees so be sure to drink heaps of water since you will be sweating like a pig in heaven. And you won’t be needing to use blankets and sheets to cover yourself when you sleep. Too hot for that shit.

A&T Hostel – Vienna, Austria.

Recently opened in February 2013, and yet another fantastic hostel. Great customer service, and they offer a buffet breakfast every morning for less than 4 euros. I arrived 2 hours early, and couldn’t check into my room until at least 2pm. They only accept cash when you pay for your stay – not a big hassle as the ATM is only a 5 minutes stroll. Although, be warned – the traffic lights in Vienna are scary as fuck – well, in the area where the hostel was located, as there was no little green men telling you that it’s safe to cross the road. You had to rely on the traffic lights – when the light turned red, you could go across. I made a stupid mistake of crossing the road when the light turned orange – and of course, I did look if there were no cars approaching – but behold, a speeding car appearing out of nowhere and scaring the fuck out of me, causing me to shriek like a little girl and run to safety. The customers at the cafe saw the whole thing – and I can say I’ve avoided that particular area since then.

I shared a room with 3 nerdy girls from Germany. We were all socially awkward, so no conversations were made. They were in Vienna for some geek-fest shopping – heck, there was Samsung bags everywhere. Although, they did seem lovely. The room was really nice, and I quite liked the view – not exactly picturesque but I liked it nevertheless. I can’t remember how much I paid for my stay – I think it was about 40 euros.

It’s approximately 10 minutes walk to Reumannplatz metro station  – I would recommend you to get a 24/48/etc hour ticket for Vienna – it’s much cheaper that way. I lost my original 48 hour ticket, so I had to cough up 12 euros for another one. Wasn’t too expensive though. There’s a good variety of restaurants and shops close by – all within a walking distance. Billa – a supermarket – is only a block away (2 minutes stroll) – cheap, although you need to bring your own shopping bag.

Highly recommended for those who are thinking of checking out Vienna.

The Tent – Munich, Germany

MY FAVOURITE HOSTEL!!!!

I’ll be honest here. I was a bit skeptical when I booked, as it was a last minute booking as my original plan to couch-surf had fallen through…but it was cheap and located on the outskirts of Munich, so why not?

I fell in love upon arrival. It was beautiful. I was surrounded by nature. There were people from every walk in life roaming around the place – kids, solo travellers, gypsies, old people – you name it, they can be found there. The staff there were amazing and very accommodating – they were too happy to converse with me via the old school method of pen and paper, although the dude who checked me in thought I would at least know some German until he read that I was from Australien (German for Australia). I was then moved onto the next window, where I was given a bed tag (bitches that bed is mine), a couple of blankets…and the other dude wrote an essay about the place – bathrooms, what can be done here and all that jazz. I walked into a giant white tent where there were bunk beds for 100 people. Amazing atmosphere. Lockers were provided for security, although you had to use your own padlock – mine JUST fit after some fiddling and tweaking. There’s another tent for those who are budget-minded and not too fussed about sleeping on the floor – they do provide you with foam mattresses. There’s also some space for those who bring their own tent.

They have their own cute little canteen where you can purchase meals at fucking cheap prices. Dinner with beer was no less than 4 euros. Breakfast with juice – no less than 3 euros. DELICIOUS, I tells ya. They had a guest kitchen where you were welcome to whip up your own meals. So many activities provided – beach volleyball, basketball, table tennis, cycling, etc. The WiFi there wasn’t too shabby – you just had to find the right spot to connect properly, although it does take a while when you’re connecting for the first time.

It’s only a 10 minute stroll to the nearest tram stop – Botanischer Garten, which is a 15 minute ride to Marienplatz – the city centre…and they don’t have a curfew! Accessible 24/7 via public transport.

It was like the hippie commune I had dreamt of, and if I go back to Munich, I’m staying there again. It’s open during Summer so it won’t be open during other times of the year – apart from the Oktoberfest…oh and it’s cheap as chips too. Only 18 euros for 2 nights.

You go Munich. You stay at The Tent. No regrets. Good times all around.

I stayed at a friend’s place in Berlin – I met them in Sofia, and they were like SHERRIE COME AND STAY WITH US. CANCEL YOUR HOSTEL. Okay then, hostel cancelled and friend’s place confirmed. Thanks Tomie and Martin for your wonderful hospitality – oh and thank you to Jola for showing me around Berlin! I fucking love that city. I want to go back and embrace it.

Amsterdam was where I CouchSurfed for the first time. Marco was my host and he was really lovely. At the same time I stayed at his place, he was invited to go camping at a music festival and he was too happy for me to stay there while he was gone. Kudos to him for being patient with me, especially with a broken ankle. I can definitely recommend couchsurfing – it’ll save you shitloads of money on accommodation costs. Marco’s place was just 2 minutes walk to the nearest tram stop, and only 20 mins ride to the city centre.

Transit in Brussels enroute to Paris from Amsterdam, and I stayed at The Meininger Hotel. Awesome hostel, and only new. I think it only opened this year. I loved the artwork that was done all over the place, and they had those awesome carpets. The hostel is the biggest one I’ve stayed in thus far – and that includes Australian hostels. The room I was allocated was really lovely, and I liked how it was designed and the bathroom is amazing. It’s a short walk to the nearest Metro station – Comte de Flandre/Graaf Van Vlaanderen – about 10 minutes away. I didn’t get the chance to explore the area around it, as I had to catch my bus to Paris the following afternoon, but I’ll definitely be staying there again when I go back to Brussels.

Tingis Hotel – Paris, France

I had planned to couchsurf with a friend in Paris, but it fell through – and I wasn’t too worried as I had enough money left to pay for accommodation. After sleeping in various hostels across Europe, I thought I would spoil myself and get myself a proper hotel room with my own bathroom. I wasn’t rich enough for the Hilton (at least I didn’t run into Paris), so I settled on Tingis Hotel. It looked reasonable, and I was able to get a room for 3 nights – totalling 125 euros. Cheap by Parisian standards, right?

The day before I was due to get into Paris, I read that their check-in closes at 7pm…and my bus gets into Paris at the same time, and I wouldn’t be able to get to the hotel until at least 8pm – provided I didn’t get lost on public transport. So I looked everywhere for their email address…

WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?! That was my thought when I discovered they did not have an email address, let alone a website. The dudes at Booking.com were not helpful. Tingis only had a bloody phone number…and I am stone deaf. Too deaf to pick up a phone and talk. AND there were reviews of the manager being a sooty Frenchman, only speaking French and just being all mean and stuff. In comes the wonderful tool of Facebook – thank God for social media, otherwise I might have lost my booking and ending up begging Paris for a discount at the Hilton. A friend found a friend who lives in France and was too happy to call the hotel for me. All solved. Thank you friend and Facebook. Thank you lovely French lady. I’m still astounded there’s no thing such as the National Relay Service available in Europe.

I will tell you that I was mega worried about how the hotel would fare, especially the apparently sooty French manager. Upon arrival – it was not too difficult to get to via the Metro – I discovered there was no one at the desk. Shit. Thinking cap on. Bag down. Walk around and notice a restaurant connected to the hotel and went up to it – the dude working there asked if he could help, and I mimed something like this: ME SLEEP THERE NO ONE THERE… the dude understood me and told me to go back there and stay put while he called the manager. Okay then. 10 minutes pass…then a dude turns up. He didn’t look like a sooty French man – no he wasn’t wearing a beret, a striped shirt and didn’t have a breadstick in hand. I did notice that he had very limited English, so there was a lot of pointing and basic French. All good. He was nice enough to show me to my room. WiFi password received, and I let the world know that I was all safe in Paris.

My room was very cute, with a cute view of a cute tree. The bathroom was reasonably sized – just right, not too small. Plenty of shops and restaurants up the road, and I felt quite safe as well. On my first night, when I was walking up the street to get some dinner, I felt someone was following me…behold there was the manager chasing after me with a map of Paris. He then proceeded to tell me of the nearest Metro station, and everything else I would find nearby. I was surprised that he would actually leave his desk to chase me up the street just to give me a map.

Despite all the reviews being left by others, I was very satisfied with my stay at the hotel. On my last day in Paris, I asked the manager if I could store my luggage as I had a 11pm bus back to London – no problems, and I had to pay 5 euros. The storage room was scary, I tells ya. I would recommend this hotel if you are after a cheap hotel without having to share with a million other people.

I stayed at friends and grandparents when I was in the UK – I can’t really provide them a review because well… they’re friends and family and they know me BUT they were wonderful hosts, so THANK YOU!!!! You know who you are…and I hope you’re reading this.

So…this is the end. Next up: reviews on attractions I visited.

Over and out,

S x

 

 

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