It seems I’m no longer ok with sleeping under cafe tables, at the back of crowded rooms, or wild camping in the snow. A few years ago, I’d sleep anywhere, so long as I felt relatively safe or hidden. The important thing was not to have to pay for the privilege.
Nowadays, I’m willing to spend a few euros if there are no couchsurfing hosts available, nowhere safe to curl up, or the weather is too bad for camping. I must be getting old.
Georgia is notoriously difficult for finding hosts. Many couchsurfing members have empty profiles, and frequently offer a (paid) room in their hostel in response to a couch request. I’ve surfed in the capital a few times before, but this time, nobody replies to my request. Tbilisi is a big city without much green space, and it’s pretty damn chilly at night. Fortunately, there are plenty of cheap hostels around.
I choose Hostel Romantik for two simple reasons: 1. It’s the cheapest, and 2. It has some of the worst reviews on the internet.
It was the worst hostel i have ever been, dirty, mold on walls, toilets were unusable. Only the atmosphere and other visitors let me spend there 1 night instead of 4.” – from this review.
I have a bit of a thing for hostels with shitty reviews. Call it a hobby, if you will. I once stayed in what was allegedly the worst hostel in Ukraine (Hostel Roxelana – check it out here) and have been waiting for an opportunity to repeat the experience.
The thing is, if you’re used to sleeping under cafe tables and camping in the snow, you’re probably not too fussy about where you sleep.
H and I are delighted by Hostel Romantik. Not only is it £5 a night for both of us to sleep in a little lockable cubicle with a double bed, the price also includes free wifi internet, a nightly meal of veggies and pasta or rice, and all of the vinegary wine we can swig.
We’re fortunate enough to arrive in time for Alex’s birthday party, which involves four of us downing vodka shots, while watching classic comedy series on a huge computer screen that dangles from the ceiling in front of the breakfast bar.
Alex works at Romantik. She told me that once a woman cried when she saw the hostel. “She cried?” I look around in bewilderment.
“Some people come and drink with us, or hang out, other people just go straight in the room, straight out the door, never speak to us at all,” Alex tells me.
Check out Romantik Hostel – The worst place we’ve stayed for some entertaining whinging by over-privileged tourists who don’t understand the difference between South-East Asia and the South Caucasus.
We’re not crying, we’re having a bloody good time. Arsi is pouring vodka at perfectly spaced intervals, so that whenever I feel I might like a shot, he’s already poured one for me without my even noticing.
The very best thing about hanging out with Alex and Arsi, is that we drink together solidly for several hours, without once anyone asking “where are you from?” It’s a refreshing experience.
There are a few other folks staying at the hostel. Two older men arrived two weeks earlier with a huge sum of money, which they quickly lost at the casinos. Now they’re trying to win back the money, but instead are spiralling ever deeper into debt.
There’s also a very lovely man, who we shall call Mohammed. Mohammed had some problems with a certain fundamentalist Islamic group in his home country, and he has torture wounds to prove it. He tried living in Italy, but life there was tough for a guy without any papers, and eventually he came here, to Georgia. He speaks very highly of the country and of the Georgian people, whose language he’s learning.
“People here live together with their parents,” Mohammed tells me while walking back to the hostel together one evening, “is better, not put them in home.” He stops suddenly by a small church and makes the sign of a cross. H and I admire the craftsmanship of the church and its engravings while Mohammed pops inside to make a short prayer, then comes out smiling. “Sorry,” he says shyly.
We feel very comfortable in our little cublicle, and hanging out with the interesting assortment of people who have made Hostel Romantik their temporary home, and so our stay extends into five days. It’s a difficult place to leave.
Hostel Romantik would make a fantastic soap opera.