Howdy all. Today I wanted to recount an experience of a place I stayed in back in 2004. It’s definitely not a review, because for starters this place I am sure does not exist anymore, and also it would be a pretty hard place to review. I can’t remember the name of the hostel either, which would probably help. Was it the best place I’ve ever stayed? Nope. Was it the most comfortable? Nope. In fact, I slept on a mattress on the floor. But that’s beside the point. What is the point? Oh good question! Well, folks, it was a unique and memorable stay.
The destination was Plovdiv, my first stop proper on the continent of Europe after making my way through the sub-continent, Iran and Turkey from Dhaka. And in 2004 I was just learning about how you could make a booking via this thing called the internet. Okay, so the internet wasn’t brand new, but in many cases it was still dial up which means you sat in front of a screen waiting for ages for your webpage to load, and if you paid for something online you probably didn’t feel very confident you had paid. Pages would time out all the time which didn’t help.
The website I was using – I had used it through Turkey – was called ‘Hostelz.com’. I think. That was one of them certainly and my go to. Most of the bookings were not with payment, that was at the property, usually in cash so credit cards weren’t used so much in conjunction with the internet. I presume the properties paid websites to list and use the booking portal, but it might have been an initiative that was free for purpose, at least initially.
Anyways, the next stop, the next destination as I moved on from the incredible Istanbul was to be the town of Plovdiv in Bulgaria, a charming city in a pretty cool country that at the time wasn’t seeing a lot of visitors. It was the start of summer, or not quite I think second half of May. I found a place that was pretty darned cheap. It was either 6 or a more expensive 8 Euros a night. I was almost suspicious of the price, but I went with it.
What I found was I was staying at an apartment this group of university students had rented out. They obviously have a bit of freedom with what you can do with a place you rent in Bulgaria, because they were converting it into a small hostel to help them save some money through the summer. Their plans after summer I don’t know. They may have just run it for one summer and that was it. They were off uni in the summer so obviously they had the opportunity to spend time on it.
I was there for four nights I think, and I had a room, and in fact the entire hostel to myself. It was a mattress on a wooden floor, but it was fine, and I was happy. There apparently had been people the week before, they had stayed in a room with a bunk bed and a single in it. They offered me a choice of rooms, that one, which up until I had arrived was the only one that they had used as these people were the first guests at the hostel. I chose the smaller room with a single mattress on the floor, because if others came into the hostel I would have still had a whole room to myself. As it turned out, I was the only guest for the whole four days I was there.
It was just before the summer holidays, and I did leave a five-star review. The guys, there were three or four of them, were really friendly and helpful, and there was a small kitchen for self-catering which I did a few nights I was there, and I think they even did breakfast for me. Toast, jam and tea I think but not bad when considering the total price. And instead of staying in a place full of foreign backpackers, I stayed in what was basically my own apartment, and met locals. And they invited me out to the outdoor cinema and we saw a couple of films there. In the evening I was the only one there. They would arrived at some point in the morning to paint and assemble bunk beds and the like for the coming season.
Sure, I don’t remember the names of the guys or the name of the hostel (this is where I wish I still had those old diaries!) BUT I do remember the warm yellow curtains, the bare floor boards and having a wonderful welcome, and all the information I needed to explore Plovdiv. And I also remember it cost peanuts too.
Sometimes, these kinds of stays are the best of all! Have you ever had a stay a bit like this? Having a hostel to yourself is the best! You might as well be in a hotel! Thanks for reading! Take care – and May the Journey Never End!