My first Hostel experience in years was in Florence in 2012. Money becomes quite a bit scarcer once you pay for things yourself and I was now traveling on my own dime. The last hostel that I stayed in years before this was a very nice and new hostel. It was big, clean, SAFE, and full of people that follow rules! As such, I expected all hostels to be like this. I was wrong, very wrong…
The first time that I set foot into this hostel in Florence, I had a mini panic-attack. First, was this even a hostel? It seemed to be some sort of apartment within a building and no one answered the bell when I was ringing to get in. On my reservation, I stated the exact time that I would arrive, but I still could not enter the building. I had to wait 10 minutes for someone to come out and then grab the door before it closed – great start.
Now I get up to the ‘hostel’ and the manager or owner or just permanent resident of this apartment, I mean hostel, answers the door. He has no idea who I am or why I am there; he has no idea that I reserved a night. In fact, he makes me login to the hostel reservation website just to show him that I made a reservation. At this point, I had walked through the apartment hostel and am thoroughly freaked-out. This looks like a communist era gulag with some paint, or so I assume.
While looking for the reservation online, I don’t see any other guests, only ‘workers’ of some sort covered in paint, stucco, and prison tattoos (as I later discovered) all while smoking and drinking. Where the hell am I? It is at this point that I feel as though, in short order, I will be cut-up into tiny pieces and put into the walls that are being constructed. I begin adding up how much money I have in my pocket and think about just how much I would pay for a hotel room and if I could even find one for that price.
The situation is not good. I am tired, scared, hungry, and the hostel ‘leader,’ or whatever the hell he is, has just told me that his name is Mike Tyson. So, does that mean that he is going to bite off my ears? And just then, as the crescendo of my angst is reaching its plateau, I see a beautiful blonde girl walk by the door inside the hostel.
I immediately feel at ease, and not because I want to ask her out for a beer, but because I now realize that Mr. Mike Tyson has a target that is significantly easier to cut-up and put into the walls than am I. For the moment, I feel a little bit safer.
Here are photos of the actual hostel:
Mike Tyson’s laundry – he really does live here!
Mike Tyson’s kitchen – he’s really come down in the world.
The fan that is used to cut hostel guests into little pieces in preparation for either dinner or being put into the walls.
Entrance to hell.
Hallway to hell.
Bathroom to hell – sometimes it’s good to be constipated!
Solid steel door used to lock victims inside the hostel.
Where previous prisoners attempted to tunnel out of the hostel.
No sheets on the bed covers or pillows – I slept fully dressed (that also helped if you needed to escape quickly)!
Only one exit – easier to lock us in that way!
Needless to say, I survived – barely…
I will be writing more about this experience and what happened in the ensuing days, as those experiences were the determining factor in me deciding to become a traveler; just be patient ;).