Tag Archives: poland

My Favorite Hostels in Eastern Europe

I’ve spent quite a bit of time traveling in Eastern Europe, but no matter how far I’ve traveled or for how long, certain hostels remain ingrained in my memories.  The six Eastern European hostels below stand out for different reasons: staff who go above and beyond, amazing locations, creative décor or even- in one case- an unforgettable fragrance!  When you’re planning your Eastern European backpacking or budget travel trip, try to include at least one of these best Eastern European hostels on your itinerary!

Nikita’s Homestay, Olkhon Island, Russia

Nikita's Homestay Olkhon Island Russia

Nikita’s Homestay is a sprawling complex that has grown beyond its original incarnation as a family homestay on Russia‘s Olkhon Island (in Lake Baikal) to something much more interesting.  It has a wide range of rooms (some with the comforts of the modern world, other with squat toilets in the garden) that they book as private dwellings or hostel-style, depending on the needs of their guests.  I shared a three-bed room with two other girls, and we shared two toilets and one shower with one other room.  Meals are included in your package, and you can choose from the basic canteen (with basic dishes like cabbage salad and pasta in tomato sauce) or pay a bit extra for a small, but interesting buffet with a good assortment of vegetarian foods.  Nikita’s is special because of its garden setting, the magical quality of its decorations, and its location next to the most beautiful sights in the town of Khuzhir on Olkhon Island.

Rooms with shared toilets and showers, including breakfast and dinner, start at 1400 rubles.

The Naughty Squirrel, Riga, Latvia

Naughty Squirrel Hostel Riga Latvia

The Naughty Squirrel Hostel in Riga, Latvia, stands out to me because it offered the perfect combination of social activities and independence.  On my first evening there I walked into a magic show in the social room.  To me, that’s the perfect kind of low-key way to meet other people after a long day of travel that’s left me too tired to want to go on a crazy pub crawl or something.  The Australian owner is lovely and personally led a group of us to one of his favorite bars to sample a very “interesting” drink.  Of course, if you like crazy pub crawls the option is there too, as is the chance to shoot AK-47s and other firearms on one of their organized outings.

Dorm rooms start at EUR 12.

The Hairy Lemon, Sarande, Albania

sarande albania

Every morning the staff at The Hairy Lemon hostel whip up a batch of cinnamon-spiked pancake batter, so you can make fresh hot cakes when you rise and shine.  Ask nicely and they might share the recipe for their homemade Irish Cream too.  Combine that with late-night barbecues on the nearby beach and the best views the town has to offer, and it’s likely the best hostel in all of Albania.

Dorms from EUR 10 per night.

Mama’s and Papa’s, Gdansk, Poland

Road to Mamas and Papas Hostel Gdansk Poland

It’s the mama and the papa that make Mamas and Papas Hostel one of the most special hostels in Eastern Europe.  The couple that runs this place is full on heart and passionate about making sure every guest has a good stay in Gdansk.  If you’re missing your own mom and dad, they will take you under their wing and give you a little parental TLC.  For example, when they found out that I was a vegetarian they brought a special mushroom pastry back from the market for me to try. The hostel is found just outside the city center, near an expansive park, on a street dotted with hundreds of tiny frogs!  Too cute!

Dorms start at 40 zloty.  Private rooms are 140 zloty.

Haris Hostel, Sarajevo, Romania

Haris Hostel Sarajevo Tour Bosnia

That’s Haris, and Haris Hostel is the hostel his family opened after the Balkan War to share their love of Sarajevo with travelers from around the world.  Located on the top of a rather large hill, Haris Hostel hosts panoramic barbecue dinners, offers city tours rooted in the family history, and gives guests a feel for the day-to-day life in Sarajevo today. The family also operates a tour company from their office in the historic city center, so if you have any questions you can get a quick response without the climb!

Dorms from EUR 10, private rooms from EUR 25.

Cobwobs Hostel, Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania

Sighetu Marmatiei Romania

This one is an odd addition to my list.  Owned by a man from the UK and the Romanian family he married into, at first glance Cobwobs Hostel is nothing special.  It’s located in Sighetu Marmatiei, a Maramures town that rarely makes it onto any Romania trip itineraries, and it’s in a pretty nondescript second house built behind the family home (bigger and newer than those in the photo of the neighborhood streets above). However, I appreciated the little touches (even when there were only one or two other guests) like a daily weather forecast, expansive list of things to do, and the gorgeous scent of the wood-burning stove used to heat the water for your shower.

Contact the hostel for current prices.

If you think I missed one of the best hostels in Eastern Europe, share it below in the comments!

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Mealtime Monday – Polish Pancake Brunch

Manekin Restaurant Torun Poland

In the heart of Torun, Poland, there is a little restaurant that dishes up almost fifty different kinds of crepes (including ten that are vegetarian).  I was feeling quite unwell during my days in Torun (I think I mentioned my quest to find fresh fruit, which ended with a waffle…), but that didn’t stop me from rolling out of bed and dragging myself to their streetside patio, where I chose this cheese-filled crepe with a big scoop of creamy mushroom sauce on top.  I also ate a lot of Russian pancakes (better known as blini) this summer, with my favorite filling being fresh, homemade farmer’s cheese.  What is your favorite crepe filling?

WPC – Connected at the Electric Bird House

bird house krakow poland

This week’s photo challenge asks us to think about how two things are connected.  I spotted this electric bird house in Nowa Huta, a suburb of Krakow, Poland.  I loved wandering around the neighborhoods of this little suburb and seeing how people lived far beyond the crowds of Krakow’s historic center.  Being a bird lover, though, I think I’m better off not knowing what is connected at the other end of that wire!  Share a link to your connected photo in the comments!

Mealtime Monday – Are My Eyes Deceiving Me?

Bagel Cafe in Gdansk Poland / Vegetarian Lunch

Wandering around Gdansk, Poland in the rain, still feeling the sniffles, I started to worry that I was also experiencing hallucinations.  You see, in front of me there was a sign advertising bagels.  When I’m home sick in Canada I will often drive myself through the Tim Horton’s drive through and order “one wheat and honey bagel, toasted with herb and garlic cream cheese, please.”  And here I was, halfway around the world, slightly buzzed on cold medication, with bagels right in front of me!  Of course I had to go inside the restaurant (I think it was called the Amsterdam Bar) and order a lunch combo, with a bagel, cream cheese (I think they mixed in some sun-dried tomatoes?) and a little Greek salad.  Sure, it wasn’t an artisan bagel, but it was just what I needed to feel a little less miserable.  (The ice cream I ate for dessert helped a bit, too!)

WPC – ROYGBIV Around the World

The Solidarity Museum in Gdansk, Poland

Sunset in Roatan Honduras

Torre del Caballito, Mexico City

View from the CFF Viseu de Sus Train, Maramures, Romania

The Blue Church, Bratislava, Slovakia

Instituto de la Artesania Jalisciense, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

I skipped the “i” because I’m not convinced that indigo is different than blue.

This week’s photo challenge is about all the colors of the rainbow.  Obviously I had to pull from my library of travel photography, as everything seems more colorful when you’re on holidays!

Red is from the Solidarity Museum in Gdansk, Poland.

Orange is from Roatan, Honduras.

Yellow is a sculpture in Mexico City.

Green is the landscape seen from the CFF Viseu de Sus wood-powered train in Romania.

Blue is the Blue Church in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Violet is a purple sign outside an artisan studio in Guadalajara, Mexico.