I return to the hostel, to my dorm room shared with 5 others, after walking about 10K, exhausted!
The large neon lights are on, flooding the airy room with plenty of light and the room is deserted.
“Hmmm”, I grumble to myself about my roommates not locking the door when they leave. I’m so looking forward to going to bed, a bed I’m grateful to have nabbed that morning, a prized bottom bunk, with a socket!
Going about my business, I open the windows to air out some of the stale, foot smell and get my PJs from the cupboard, where I stored my wheelie bag. Deep in thought, as I prepare to change. Suddenly a smilie, sleepy dark face appears on the top bunk I’d slept on the night before.
I jump and give out a little yelp, gasping my chest, as my heart stops for a moment, then races as if I’d just run the 100m sprint.
The Smilie Guy’s face turns from smile to concern. When I’m tired my face is extra expressive: Poor chap is woken by this woman, who then looks horrified at him when he sits up to greet his roommate cheerfully. He stays cheerful despite being woken up by this stranger. I’m just in shock to find someone in the room.
I calm down, we introduce ourselves. I totally don’t get his name…I’m even more tired now.
Our short conversation is about the trade show we’re both attending and Smilie Guy asks me to wake him in the morning and take him with me to the showground.
Suddenly there’s snoring from top bunk by the door and duvet moves as the a guy turns on his side I jump a little again…that’ll be the chap who I’ve only seen asleep and always fully dressed, in denims, in bed! Yeap, I look and there is a denim clad bottom peering out from under his duvet and pressing against the bed railings.
So much for the room being deserted!
Smilie Guy goes back to sleep.
I duck in between the open cupboard doors, for privacy, and quickly pop on my PJs.
Just as I finish, in walks Friendly Chap from the other top bunk, the one above where I’m sleeping. Obviously happy to see me, he gives me a big hug, as if we’d known each other forever and not just communicated a few grunts in the morning, as it was pre-coffee and I’d been too sleepy for anything else. We hadn’t even introduced ourselves yet!
We exchange some whispered niceties about our day, then both climb into our beds.
As he goes to lie down on the bed above, I question whether swapping to a bottom bunk was indeed a good idea. “Is it going to hold his weight? He’s awfully tall and athletic. What if he turns in the middle of the night and comes crashing down on me?“, I ponder.
Just as we’ve all settled for the night, in walks Wispy-whiskered Fella. He’s a young one; sleeping on the bottom bunk under the Smilie Guy. He quickly settles, we exchange a couple of whispered words- I find out he is doing a 3 month tour of Europe, staying a couple of days in each city, he’s in Berlin till the weekend- and each turn to read a little.
Suddenly, a choir of snoring starts from all 3 top bunks. Loud and guttural!
We look at each other with Whispy-whiskered Fella and he exclaims: “It’s going to be a loooong night!”
I rummage in my bag, producing a pair of soft, yellow bullet-shaped ear plugs.
“Not for me!“- I say half apologetically, half smugly, as I compress the earbuds to insert in my ears. I do feel sorry for Whispy- whiskered Fella!
As I’m falling asleep, I reflect on previous, my first, night, when I had a top bunk: Having to climb up to grab something I’d forgotten in the corner of the bed, twisting my dodgy knee in the process and hissing in pain: “ I’m too old for this shit!“… I may have used some swear words neatly intertwined in that too.
Now, I have a bottom bunk, this isn’t that bad after all! I fall asleep into a deep, restful slumber.
My whole stay at the Happy go lucky hostel in Berlin was really an experiment. You see, I’d only ever stayed in a hostel on school trips and once in London with friends. I really wanted to know what it was like. Could I hack it?
Coming back to this facade after a tiring day is bound to put a smile on your face, right?
Booking accommodation in Berlin, I had left till lastminute, as we had other things going on, which meant I wasn’t sure I was going. Previously, attending the same trade show, I’d stayed in town in an AirBnB- that was a first as well- and really enjoyed it. Last year I had stayed at a campsite in Campyvan, which was also great! This year it was time to try something different again. Hotels were fully booked or had extortionate rate hikes due to this travel trade show. A hostel it was then!
I booked based on location and reviews of cleanliness mainly, and what was available last-minute. Happy go lucky only had a couple of beds left in mixed dorms. I pondered whether to go for that, but at 15 euros for a night I thought I’d try it for a night.
Checking in: On arrival I had to wait a little while, but the staff were so friendly and the internet decent, so I didn’t mind. I took a seat at one of the tables and used the time to recharge my phone and catch up on news and emails. Once checked in, I was handed my bedding and towel and room key (for which I paid a 50 Euro deposit). I also asked to borrow a locker (15 Euro deposit) went up to my room, 110. The room was open.
On opening the room I found myself in a slightly dated, but clean room with 3 bunk beds. One metal bunk bed to the right of the door, and two to the left of the door parallel to each other in the corner of the room. The room had big windows, which I opened immediately as there was a bit of a stale pong in the air. It also had a large 3 door pine wardrobe, a table and 4 chairs and a sink and a mirror on the wall beside the window. My room was spacious and bright.
All the bottom bunk beds were taken. On one of the bottom bunks sat Wispy-whiskered Fella listening to loud salsa music on his laptop. He acknowledged me as I came in … didn’t turn down the music though.
It was mid afternoon. I was tired, as I’d hardly slept the previous night and planned an afternoon nap before an opening party.
I chose the bed above the Whispy-whiskered Fella. Of the 3 that felt the most cosy: in a corner, with the wardrobe at the foot end. It had access to the top of the wardrobe for keeping things on too. No nightlight or socket as that was a privilege of the bottom bunks. I made my bed to the soundtrack of salsa, getting slightly annoyed; found the bathroom (nice and clean as the reviews had said) to slip out of my travel clothes and climbed up the ladder of the bunk to have a nap.
As I turned in, the music finally stopped. I think my roommate left the room. I cradled my daypack with wallet, ipad, phone and drifted off to sleep.
When I awoke the room was bustling, albeit quietly, with people. All beds were full and it was 5 men and little old me.
That first night my sleep was interrupted when one of the guys came in at 2-3 am and decided to brush his teeth in the room. I was very close to telling him where he can shove his toothbrush as the bathroom was just next door. I resisted and then slept on.
In the morning I had the dilemma- do I book for longer, or do I find somewhere else to stay. The hassle didn’t appeal, the room was ok. Interrupted sleep is not unusual, the kids do it all the time.
Still undecided, I went for breakfast, as a coffee would surely help… and help it did! Great coffee, a really surprising spread for breakfast, for just 6 Euros. The hostel had a good selection of meats, some fresh vegetables, boiled eggs, cereals, muesli. There was a range of yoghurt, some cake and 4 different breads. Breakfast included a good range of teas.
After a good meal, I was happy to stay, be in for the adventure…
… especially after I saw one roommate, from the bottom bunk leaving. I claimed the spot quickly and felt like I’d just scored a business class upgrade on a long-haul!
A good breakfast, with decent coffee will make any gloomy day seem a lot better!
Most nights I got in late and left early; As one of the first ones, after enjoying a superb breakfast, often in one or two roommate’s company. 3 of the 6 of us were there for the tradeshow. In fact, half the hostel was filled with guests going to the tradeshow. Just 2 S bahn stops away and the S-bahn stop literally a stone’s throw from the hostel it is a good choice to stay for Berlin Messe visitors.
The bathrooms were generally clean. There was always soap, paper towels and toilet paper. The shower heads were awful, spraying water everywhere; but hot water plentiful. I was glad I’d bought my own large towel though as the hostels was a large hand towel sized.
At reception I could borrow a hair drier, to make up for the erratic shower drenching my hair each morning. I’d forgotten a showercap.
On my first morning I met a lovely Indian lady in the showers, and then bumped into her each morning. We exchanged a couple of words each time, laughing about hostel life, She ended up winning a prestigious prize for sustainable tourism development! And I shared the bathroom with her most mornings…my claim to fame.
I didn’t use the locker much, which was on the ground floor, outside the common room. I think I stored my leather boots there the day I didn’t wear them. All my clothes and bag I left in the dorm, in the wardrobe and kept my daypack, with valuables with me most times, except for going to the bathroom. As I got to know my roommates, this felt ok.
My concerns for cleanliness, my safety and security of my belongings were all put to rest.
All in all, I enjoy the stay at the Happy Go Lucky hostel. Their breakfast was really gave a good start to each day. Decent coffee. The staff were fun and friendly. The vibe of the place is as fun as the graffiti inside and outside the hostel. It’s an old building with creaky floorboards, old metal bed (with new mattresses) and lots of character.
So, is a hostel stay for a 40 plus lone female? In a shared dorm?
… as long as you are agile and don’t mind getting the top bunk.
… as long as you sleep in PJs and don’t mind changing in the bathrooms.
… as long as you don’t forget your earplugs.
… as long as you can sleep with the lights on.
… as long as you don’t mind meeting interesting (and less interesting) people and chatting when you’d rather be an antisocial.
The biggest thing that comes from staying in a mixed dorm in a hostel is learning about yourself…Stepping out of your comfort zone, especially if this isn’t your usual style.
However, if you rather not, still keep hostels in mind as an accommodation option: More and more have private rooms, some even en suite!
Check out reviews and follow sites like Budget traveller for some upmarket recommendations. I got lucky with Happy go Lucky Hotel and Hostel in Berlin, but Kash has some other hostel suggestions for Berlin too.
What are your thoughts about staying in a hostel as an older person?
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