It took a few days to get my groove in Prague. We flew in at night, in a snow storm, and had to figure out how to use the bus system (nothing in English, only Czech) to get to our first hostel. When we arrived, the hostel was dark and a bit drafty, the folks at the desk sort of similiar. The next day we headed out for walk, looking to get to know some of where we were. Things didn’t really improve much for me that day, although I feel a certain safety in being on foot. After our second night at that hostel we had to leave, since our room was booked out for the following night. What a blessing.
I didn’t know it then, and probably couldn’t have known it without a different perspective, but that location was killing my confidence (which was critical for being in my first non-English speaking country) and affecting my mood.
When we walked over to Hostel Downtown for our next two nights the change was immediately clear. The staff at the reception desk was outgoing and friendly. One of them walked us to our room, pointing out amenities along the way and showing us the activities calendar for the week. Our room was bright and airy, like the rest of the place – so much so that it made me laugh with delight and relief when I saw it. Our first hostel had been dark and dingy, the floors squeeked, the shared bathroom wasn’t what you’d call clean, and the kitchen was so dark that we had to use our backpacking lantern to cook by. In contrast, Hostel Downtown has an immaculate, large, well-appointed kitchen that is simply fun. It’s brightly colored with yellow, orange and blue walls, populated with woven paper art pieces and flunked up with graffiti style wall art. It’s a place of boldness and imagination. It inspires adventure in this city. This morning I’m sitting in the big, deep, sunny window seat that overlooks the main street below, drinking my coffee and writing while the kitchen staff cranks out a full buffet breakfast for dozens of people.
Our first day here at Hostel Downtown we decided to add two more nights to our Prague stay, we were so happy with this setting. On our second day, after a guided morning tour, we found ourselves out wandering off the beaten path. Comfortable surroundings equals confidence.
These two days at Hostel Downtown have taught me a very important lesson of travel: I need to feel comfortable and supported at our lodging in order to really enjoy the city. We’re traveling Europe on the cheap: carrying 20 pound packs that hold everything we need, including a tent, camp stove and sleeping bags (which I used at our last hostel to stay warm). We’re shopping at local grocery stores and cooking in the kitchen. Comfort won’t come to us in the form of hotel rooms and meals at restaurants, and that’s just fine with me. Even still, comfort can be found. Here it’s been in the friendly and caring staff, the clean spaces, the welcoming atmosphere and in guided tours.
We have ten more days in Europe and in two days we’ll be picking up a car to head into the Czech countryside, Budapest, and central Romania. None of it is scripted, noting is booked. We’ve only a partial idea of what we want to see along the way. Now that I understand the power of location, I’ll be looking for this same kind of home base as we head east into new adventures.