Over the years I’ve unintentionally turned into an anti-hostel snob. You know, the kind of person who sits around a dinner table sipping coffee and saying things like, “You don’t get to meet REAL locals when you stay in a hostel. I look for REAL travel experiences, like camping in a roadside ditch in India during a rainstorm while eating only cheese and crackers forever.” That kind of person.
I’m also a notoriously bad sleeper, meaning the whole dorm-style room typically doesn’t work for me. So for the past couple of years I’ve favoured Airbnb and Couchsurfing.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve spent lots of times in hostels, too. But mostly on my first trip abroad, to England, and then a few places in between since then. Certainly not for long-term trips.
But as a solo traveler on my first trip to Greece, a hostel seemed like a good idea. So I booked a private room at Athenstyle next to Monastiraki Square. I ended up with a suite, fully stocked with a small kitchen and a massive balcony overlooking the street. I also had a stellar view of the Acropolis.
Being the off-season, the hostel wasn’t particularly busy, but the insanely awesome rooftop bar still opens in the evenings. Considering pints of beer around Athens are at least 5EUR, the two-for-one Happy Hour with its 3EUR pints was pretty inviting.
Dining alone is one thing, but drinking alone? I awkwardly sidled up to the bar, said hello to the bartender, Anna, and ordered a pint. We started making small talk, and as others filed in, I started chatting with the guy next to me named Steve, Anna’s boyfriend. They’d been working at Athenstyle for awhile, and before I knew it, I had a circle of new friends to hang out with.
You’re all rolling your eyes and thinking, duh, that’s what hostels are all about. But this significance of “breaking the ice” was important to me. It hadn’t completely occurred to me how depressed I had been while living in St. John’s these past few months. Truthfully, I had felt trapped. I love my roommates and I love my friends back there, but most of them are settled with significant others and have big plans for the future. Even at my “going away” party I had to drag people out to the bar with me, and most of my crew politely declined. I suppose they’re growing up and I’m a little left behind.
The openness of meeting people, and the EASE of doing so, was a shock. I rarely get to meet new people in St. John’s these days. It’s just hard to do.
Over the next couple of days in Athens, I spent a fair amount of time with Anna, Steve, and the other hostel visitors. The lovely owner, Sofia, joined me for coffee one day to talk about how things are changing in the city. I watched Canada kick Finland’s butt in Olympics hockey in an Irish pub.
The hostel itself is lovely, with ample lounge space in the downstairs lobby and a 24-hour front desk. It’s also a member of the Famous Hostels group, a designated title for only the most special of special hostels.
If you’re in Athens, I definitely recommend Athenstyle. And Athenstyle friends, I’ll see you mid-April!