Courtney’s take on Meininger hostel:
First day, freshman year of college. You drape your favorite fabrics on and those new tennies you’ve been eyeing for weeks. Feeling fresh, a newness drapes over you as you embark on this new journey ahead. Walking into the freshman dormitories, you meet your roommates for the first time.
This day stands out to almost everyone. A mix of excitement and nerves flood the body as anticipation soars like never before. Checking into a new hostel while touring Europe can fuel similar emotions.
Hostels, over the years, have earned various stigmas. Some travelers rave about the low costs, friendly environment and wide variety, while others rue the lack of privacy, shower gamble and well, the horror stories.
Regardless of each personal experience found over the wide web, hostels serve an important purpose. Think of them as a buffet. These lavish feasts have loads to offer, but the expectation may not always become the reality. Sometimes the quality might not equal the quantity offered, and you may walk away unsatisfied and queasy. Or, it could be the fanciest feast your mouth has ever tasted.
Nine times out of 10, the feast is fancy and friendly. Hostels bring travelers together and make minds alike. Walking into the Meininger Hostel in Munich immediately brought a new dormitory feel to me. At the outdoor bar site, flocks of men sang Katy Perry’s hits to the city.
The receptionist relaxes in red clothes, the theme of the hostel, and greets with a smile, an American touch. Spiral stairs led to isles of doors down deep hallways. Each door leads to eight beds with eight new faces –– all on an adventure.
Right before I entered my new room, I paused. Soon, space was shared by unfamiliar and foreign faces, something I dreamed about, yet triggered some nerves. I creeped through the door to a room frenzied with young travelers with large backpacks. Bianca, a solo traveler from Arizona, sat on her bed exhausted from the day. She greeted me with a warm smile, and we began to exchange stories. Her travels across Europe began after she finished her Physicians Assistant program, ready to explore all things outside of textbooks. Before long, three nationalities conversed at dinner, laughing over sausage and beer.
Next time you plan a trip, consider the hostel experience. Young and old, millions of people around the world have connected through these wonderful adult dormitories. Read the reviews, and take the leap. A fancy feast awaits you.
Olivia’s take on Meininger hostel:
I can’t hide my emotions. They’re all over my face all the time. Which made the receptionist’s question at the Meininger hostel in Munich, “How was your stay?” harder to answer than it should’ve been.
I couldn’t lie but I also couldn’t go into a 15-minute story on what happened in the past 10 hours. Not wanting to be rude, I said “It was good.” But I chuckled. And the poor receptionist asked me, “Was it good …?”
Well, the story I couldn’t explain in the lobby
After a 6 a.m. flight and 9.1 miles of walking, all I wanted was to brush my teeth. I entered the Meininger lobby with high hopes fueled by my optimism and the hostel’s good reviews. With my friend Marin by my side, we hustled up three flights of stairs and I said a quick prayer.
Sweet Jesus don’t let it be sketchy.
I gingerly pushed the door open and the first thing I heard was an engaging, “Hello!” from a 30-something-year-old man in a kilt with long hair and fishnet gloves wrapping his hands. He asked me a question but I couldn’t hear it over the alarms going off in my head.
“There’s an open bed right there,” as he pointed to a top bunk across from him. “There are two Korean gentleman as well but they are at the club.”
Lesson number one: Check in to the hostel early to pick a bed.
Lesson number two: Double check if it’s mixed or single gender.
So I checked the other room. There was a college-aged shirtless guy on the bottom bunk and his two female companions, one who rocked the same Warby Parkers glasses I own. Apparently, my friend Caleb already claimed a bed in this room so my lot fell with kilt guy.
The first piece of advice my brother-in-law David gave me was about hostels. “If it feels sketchy, don’t stay. Go with your gut.” Walking back down to the lobby to think, I waffled between feeling like a wimp and taking his advice or feeling low-maintenance and toughing it out.
So I decided to stay and begged Caleb to switch beds with me. Like a true gentleman, he joined the men and I settled in with the college kids from the University of Southern California.
Then Caleb and Courtney left, walking Marin to her train stop. Which left me to fend for myself. Barely able to take another step, I sought out a bathroom.
Expecting a community-style bathroom/shower combo, I searched every floor for somewhere I could wash my face. Out of luck, I reasoned the lobby bathroom would work.
I walked in, locked the door and took a breath. Finally.
So I began my bathroom routine. And I heard a knock on the door. Feeling awkward, I didn’t say anything. The locked door should’ve spoken for me. It didn’t.
About a minute later, they pounded on the door. I put on a clean shirt and opened it to find two scowling women with undetectable accents.
“Hello I just need a minute.”
“Are you gonna be in there long? You’re taking forever.”
Flustered, I said again, “I just need a little bit.”
Pridefully I thought, I’ve been in her five minutes max and this is a public bathroom.
30 seconds later, they pounded on the door again. I open the door to find no one. So I go back to my business.
30 seconds later, they pounded on the door again. I could’ve finished by now if they would leave me in peace.
I opened the door. No one. So I walked a little down the hallway and overheard the same two women yelling at a hostel staff lady, “… she’s just taking forever and …”
I’m in trouble. My heart pounding, and afraid they were getting a master key to forcibly remove me, I hid behind a column. I waited a breath and peaked out behind it like a spy and I saw walking authoritatively to the bathroom.
Like a healthy response to conflict, I ran away. I speed-walked to the pool/lounge area and the same hostel staff person started to follow me but I ducked out of her way and plopped down on a couch and pretended to be glued to my phone so no one would question me.
I laid low for a while, then worked up the courage to sprint to my room. Not sure where the right staircase was, I waited for the elevator. Bad choice. The elevator didn’t have half the urgency I did.
I tapped the button a few times and whispered “come on come on come on,” looking over my shoulder for the two women.
The elevator was not coming anytime soon. So my heart rate rose and sure enough, my worst fear happened. Woman number two, gave me a stank face that set off every red alarm I’ve ever had in my body. I took one glance at her — long enough to recognize her and start creating a will — and bolted.
And she followed me.
At least to the staircase and after that I have no idea because I sprinted, taking two stairs at a time, and ran, quite literally for my life, all the way to the third floor, down the long hallway, heart racing, and into the safety of my room.
Where I found out there was a private bathroom.
Lesson number three: Check out the hostel’s layout.
All of this could’ve been avoided if I wasn’t freaked out by the living situation in the first place and took a second to step into the room.
For a $47 room, with no A/C and no towels (typical for hostels, I’ve learned), I would rather cram some friends in a hotel room.
But not all hostels are hostile. In fact, the Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald, Switzerland quickly became my favorite spot on earth. Do the prep work, know what you’re walking into and don’t you dare take longer than six minutes in the bathroom.