As short-term travellers, we all vary in how we like to spend our time horizontal and in what way we hang our hat. Hotels can be a good option if you’re travelling as a couple (or want to treat yourself), but hostels are definitely the best way of copping some shut-eye on a weekend away in Europe.
Not only are they always the cheaper option, they also overlay a social aspect onto your trip that a hotel can’t come close to – meeting absolute randoms from all over the world and getting into all kinds of incredible situations, usually powered by festive levels of alcohol.
Hit the ground running in Brussels
Iâ€™d barely put my bag down before I was pulled into a serious drinking game with some Italians, a Korean bloke and some Sydneysiders in the hostel kitchen. The table was littered with Belgian beer bottles â€“ Chimay, Kwak, Leffe, you name it, all purchased from the late night supermarket across the road.
After we were all sufficiently warmed up and the common area curfew kicked in, we decided the only way forward was to brave the snow outside and hit the town. Wandering around Brussels with only a slight inclination as to our bearings, we asked for directions to the famed Delirium Bar, where over 2000 varieties of beers were waiting for us. The couple from Sydney were the first to cave, whereas the Italians and I powered on through the night, topping it all off with a kebab at 3am.
Pub crawl in Lisbon
One of the virtues of staying at Rossio Hostel, was that they run a pub crawl through the bars and clubs of Bairro Alto every Saturday night. I’d already met up with the American girls staying in my room and the other token Aussies that afternoon over a few games of Wii Tennis, so the logical progression lead to traipsing around Lisbon with the local boys sampling Port wine and beering it up.
Everyone lasted till the end, and on the walk back to the hostel at about 5am, the American girls wouldnâ€™t leave me alone until theyâ€™d learned how to say â€œhowww yaaa goinâ€ in their best Aussie meets Southern American twang.
Champagne at dusk under the Eiffel Tower
It’s Summer, you’re in Paris because you got a cheap deal on an Air France flight and the sun goes down. It’s still a balmy 25 degrees, you’re wearing shorts and the city is abuzz with activity. Where do you go with a bunch of people from the hostel? Boom, the Eiffel Tower of course.
During the warmer months, the Champs de Mars (the large grassed area leading up to the Eiffel Tower) is littered with people out enjoying the evening with their friends and drinking wine. The icing on the cake is watching the tower explode with light just on dusk as you barter with the roving alco-merchants over the price of a bottle of nasty champagne.
Attempting contact with the locals in Milan
Orchestrated by the hostel manager, the Ring of Fire drinking game made up of many longnecks of Peroni came to a close. A Welshman, an Irishman and I (sounds like a â€œwalked into a barâ€ joke doesnâ€™t it?) progressed onto the local nightlife.
This lead to speaking to lots of local Milanese, some of whom spoke English better than others. They were all intrigued to learn where in Australia I was from and why I was in Europe. I used the opportunity to ask them more about Italy and their lives in Milan.
Partying with a Croatian hockey team in Austria
After returning from a long day exploring Graz, I arrived back to the hostel to find a pretty quiet situation. Except for the raucous and series of lights on on the 3rd floor. I ventured up, keen to find out what all the hub-bub was about and came across two dorm rooms of blokes playing practical jokes on each other and talking in a language I didn’t recognise one bit. Turns out theyâ€™d driven up in a van from Zagreb, and were in town to play hockey against Graz. They threw me some beers they brought with them and we spent the rest of the night talking football and comparing life in Australia and Croatia.
None of this would have happened had I not braved the common misconception and chose to bunk down in a hostel. Travelling is all about experiencing new things and getting out of your comfort zone.