Tag Archives: romania

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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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.

WPC – The Intricate Art of the Merry Cemetery

The Merry Cemetery in Romania

Stan Ioan Pătraş was a Romanian woodcarver who lived in the Maramures region of the country, close to the Ukrainian border.  For more than forty years Pătraş carved and painted intricate tombstones to commemorate the lives- and deaths- of the people in his community.  Each tombstone features an image of the person buried beneath (often showing how they met their demise), as well as a short, poetic tale of their time on earth.  In total, Pătraş erected more than 700 of these tombstones in what is known today as Romania‘s “Merry Cemetery”.  If you’d like to visit, head to the nearest major city (Sighetu Marmației) and hitch a ride down the road to the village of Săpânța (it’s sort of pronounced “suh-poont-suh”).  On my visit, the male driver picked up me and a group of nuns, and we drove out together listening to Akon songs!

WPC – The Graffiti of Cluj-Napoca, Romania

wall in cluj napoca romania

In the spirit of my recent posts about new year’s resolutions, I had to post this follow-up to go along with this week’s photo challenge on the topic of walls.  When I was traveling through Romania, one of my favorite cities turned out to be Cluj-Napoca.  One of my favorite things about Cluj-Napoca was the never-ending graffiti that seemed to appear on every block.  This particular piece of street art resonated with me, a young(ish) woman getting more into health and fitness.  I wasn’t sure if it was poking fun at women worrying about how their body looks, or if the artist actually thought that women shouldn’t wear long tops, but either way it remains one of my favorite street surprises ever.  (And no, I didn’t stop wearing long tops with leggings!)

Mealtime Monday – Mexi-Romanian Taco Night

Vegetarian Tacos at Casa Lavric Iasi

Because I spent some time living in Mexico, I often like to sample Mexican food when I’m in other countries.  I had a horrifying Mexican dining experience in Poland, and rather odd one here in Iasi, Romania at a restaurant called Casa Lavric (owned by the famous Romanian singer Laura Lavric).  I ordered the vegetarian tacos, which basically came with Romanian-style stewed vegetables atop plain flour tortillas.  On the side there were Romanian-style beans with a sprinkle of cheese.  Even though it’s been several years since this meal I will never forget when I ordered a margarita off of the menu, and the server asked me how to make one!  You can see the end result in the martini glass!

Some places get multicultural cuisine just right.  Ooloonthoo, on Roatan in Honduras, does the best Indian food outside of India.  Peru is famous for its chifa, or Chinese-Peruvian fusion.  Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found that special place outside of Mexico where Mexican food (especially Mexican vegetarian food!) is done right…