Ah the beloved hostel – travel is nothing without the timeless unpredictability of sleeping in a room full of strangers and having a panic attack that someone is going to steal all your stuff because you can’t afford a lock. People make or break a hostel experience – a top-notch hostel can be shit if people are assholes, while you can lovingly remember the dirtiest, loudest and most disgusting hostel in the world so long as you have some good company.
My most noteworthy hostel experience occurred when my friend and I were staying in Munich, Germany, during Oktoberfest. Unprepared and poor as we were, we had booked whatever we could get. Turns out whatever we could get was out in the middle of nowhere, with reception just chilling on the 1pm – 2pm time bracket. We were placed in a room with eight young Brits, who subsequently left as soon as we arrived. They were replaced by a Chinese guy with the profound ability to completely flood the bathroom after every shower, and an old Californian man.
Old California had a whimsical grey beard and ponytail, wore acid wash jeans and a black shirt, and carried around a suspicious brown bottle with a foreign label. He kept it beside his bed at night and took it with him in the mornings.
California walked in late one night, and I awoke abruptly to the light being turned on, but most importantly to the smell. It rose all the way to my top bunk upon his arrival. He looked up and caught my eye, before switching the light off and going straight into the bathroom. I heard him grunt a few times and – from what I could tell – make some adjustments to the piping.
The smell lingered heavily for way too long. I asked my friend down on the bottom bunk if she had farted. She said no. I asked her if California had farted. She said it smelt like shit.
The next morning, I went to take a shower and looked around for a bath mat to throw on floor our Chinese roomie had flooded. It was scrunched up in the corner of the bathroom. Suspicious, I picked it up with my index finger and thumb. The towel was smeared with shit. It was like 60% shit, 40% towel. I placed it back on the floor. The toilet seat had an orange stain on it.
California had shat himself.
After sterilising myself in the shower, I came out of the bathroom to find him awake and ready for his day out IN THE SAME FUCKING CLOTHES.
Sharing the room with the Water Boy, California and us were three deaf guys who were really loud because they couldn’t hear how noisy they were being. I didn’t really know where they were from because they mainly used sign, but they were nice people and funny drunks. I enjoyed trying to converse with them. It was like extreme charades, where neither of us really understood each other, but we kept at it to be polite.
When I was graced with food poisoning, I appreciated their inability to hear on a whole new level. It sounds heartless, but when you’re lying on the bathroom floor wrapped in a brown hostel blanket, retching at the sight of an orange stain on the toilet seat and getting ready to hover your tap bum right over it, you hope to god no one can hear what’s happening.
Except if you’re California. He’s one badass motherfucker.