On a really hot July day, I started making phone calls to book a room in Cluj for my kiddo and me. I was to find out in much awe that almost everything was taken because of the Depeche Mode concert. To be honest, I kind of panicked! I already saw us sleeping under some bridge. And oh dear, how much I would have liked to go to the concert myself, for old times’ sake! But no, I was to live through the anxiety of an entrance examination. Not mine, of course. In my modern technological search, I stumbled over a place that immediately drew my attention. A hostel. I knew about the concept of hostels since the old days when I was a child in foreign countries, but I was amazed to find such a place here in Romania! I immediately fell in love with that place. I dialed the number. The kiddo was wagging her tail like a happy dog around me (she had seen the photos too. She had seen the doggies). A guy answered. His voice was emanating youth and also a casual yet warm politeness. Well, we could immediately see he was not from this part of the country. Oh well! The guy (whose name I was to find out was Bogdan) had a manner of speaking continuously (but not in that manner when you start rolling your eyes wondering when he is going to end his monologue, because he advertises), but in that manner when you start burning inside with curiosity to see that place. That something is telling you that you’ll surely feel at home (or even better, as you escape from the household chores for a little while :-P)
Now, let me explain why the guy was so talkative. In my narrow Romanian mentality (which, by the way, I didn’t believe I have, but it looks like it had taken me over as I aged, crawling in my head like a silent snake), I kind of panicked when hearing there are few bunk beds in each room. I already saw myself in one of those army dormitories! Well, in that moment, you can imagine I had all kinds of scenarios popping up in my mind in a fraction of a second: “Yo! But how’s that? Men and women in the same place? But where do I change? What if I snore? What if somebody snores? What am I doing there, an adult (whatever that means) a woman like me among teenagers? Students!!! Students party!!! What do they smoke?” Not to stretch it and list worries about certain natural airs… Well, it was as if the guy kind of sensed that. Or maybe some of my worries came out of my mouth? Could be, not sure.
He started to describe the place to me in a natural and simple way. And this is precisely what draws my attention, particularly when it’s about accommodation: honesty. Not that business-like coldness, with a mechanical voice and almost the same wooden language. No, he was talking in a slightly clumsy manner (maybe I created the situation too), but we eventually started talking as if we had known each other for about 100 years. And how the kiddo begged me to ask about the dogs in the photo and was eavesdropping, we were talking about the rabbit, cat, dogs, organic garden, about the option of sleeping in the tent. The doggy-kiddo was already imploring me to go there! She was already putting the begging dog look on!
After 12 hours of chooga-chooga on the train, which I had no idea about what it looked like anymore (I had made plans I’d sleep on the train, in the passenger coach, but…. such a thing no longer exists) during the night, where we were first suffocated in the Sardinian heat of a railway coach where the AC system had broken down (of course, only in our railway coach, d’ooooh!), we shivered afterwards from 9 PM because they had started to overuse the AC system… As for the restlessness in the train, I won’t even speak of it. But I was happy. It was only my kid and me. Our time. The baby whose wings have grown (when so fast???) and wanted to start using them. The baby still needs her mamma. Oh, but let’s go back, as this isn’t an article with nostalgias and handkerchiefs.
Well, around 6 AM we finally arrived at Youthink Hostel. It was sooooooo quiet, we were afraid to even walk. “It’s a good sign!” – I said to myself because probably that snake of Romanian mentality was biting in my mind’s thoughts that I’d find young bodies fallen in the line of duty after a “Depeche-Modean” war with alcohol and tobacco and empty bottles stuck to red cheeks. None of that! Everyone was sleeping as peacefully as a log! We left the luggage and off we went to the university, just as quietly (so we say).
When we came back in the afternoon, we were introduced to the people staying there. Many nations. How beautiful! Extraordinary! All young, all smiling! Oh, pardon me! There was also an older Australian gentleman. Everyone was walking quietly, showing respect to one another. We exchanged smiles and a “Hello!”. Oh, my! How much did this place remind me of a school so dear to my heart! And the yard… I’m speechless! Fruit trees, tables, chairs, hammocks, an organic layered garden and a huge beautiful walnut tree immediately caught my attention in the corner of the yard. As I said, an atmosphere like home. Everyone was preparing their meal and washed the dishes afterward. The sense of responsibility! The sense of respect!
We spent our days in the yard, talking to people. Everyone was fascinating. To speak about your country, about your customs. Bogdan and Claudia (well, rather Claudia, sorry Bogdan!) took care to pamper us with fine music and scents of burnt wood and incenses. How not to be in a ZEN mood in such a place? Bogdan, you know, the guy on the phone. A simple guy, with an extraordinary sense of humour, who was constantly on the move (really, with his whole body) so that all would be well. And not to mention Claudia, actually the two Claudias! Very friendly and warm! Claudia S (I’ll call her this way because she’s from Sibiu) amazed me in how many topics she could talk about. And in very good English! I feel I could have talked to this girl day and night and surely we’d find more to talk about. With a fine taste for art, for beauty, with some geographic knowledge that made me feel small, so small!
Oh, and I had the chance to speak in English again. The best times were in the evening when more of us would gather and exchange stories. We were involved in geographic, political or cultural discussions, each wanting to know more about the specifics of the other’s country. These are moments when we realise we have an extremely beautiful country, for there are so many places we can recommend to foreign tourists to visit. We also gathered for a card game with a few boys from Germany. It really seemed as if time stopped. There, one loses labels of young, old, Romanian, Brazilian, etc. There, you feel human and that’s it. Ageless. Nation-less. Without the label stuck on your forehead that you are from a particular area of Romania. And the more you speak, the more you seem to realise how little you know and how amazing we are as humans, how wonderful this place called Earth is and how small it becomes when you encounter people from the other side of the world. There are young people who take a year off, put their backpack on and off they go on an adventure into the world, to learn, to know, to find out more and, why not, to discover themselves. A place where I didn’t recognise even my own kid: laughing wholeheartedly and out of her shell, daring to speak in English, attend discussions and I could read the joy in her eyes that she was fully disconnected from the place we came from, where the mentality seems to have remained largely stuck somewhere in the 19th Century. Or the 18th?
On our first night there, we slept in the tent. It seemed as if my thoughts had run out into the Universe and silently returned precisely into Bogdan’s mind. I wanted to sleep with my kid exactly under the walnut tree in the corner of the yard. And that’s exactly where Bogdan asked us if we want to sleep. It rained that night, but the sound of the raindrops hitting the tent cloth and the light of lightning made it a night with a deep, relaxing and restful sleep. It was only on our last evening there that I managed to enjoy a hammock myself too. That was when I had some spare time to pamper myself. I sank into it, staring at the sky, admiring the immense blue between the rocking branches of a tree, breathing deeply the fresh air, as if I wanted to accumulate reserves of air for the whole year I was going to come back to my suffocated city. I couldn’t believe I was in the middle of a big city like Cluj, a silence disconnected from the reality of a large and crowded city.
Oh, I forgot to tell you that even the building has a story of its own. An interesting love story from old times, but I’ll let you discover it yourselves when you pass the threshold of this hostel.
And, before ending, let’s not forget the animals: Roua (Dew), an adorable mioritic shepherd diva, extremely friendly and smart, Mooggie-Booggie who is a “crazy” dog dependent on the company of the mioritic shepherd diva, Petrică (also called Petre) the hopping rabbit with long and grey ears and Iliuță the tomcat who did what a tomcat can do best, creeping in and sometimes spying with an air of superiority from the bathroom window, exactly above those gathering around the table outside.
As I said, unseparated
Iliuță, doing what he knows best
Let’s not forget Schoni either, a very simple man from all points of view, but with a look filled with the joy for the small things, which leads to a warm heart, a man who, in all his simplicity, amazed me by his ambition to “pinch” a word in other languages too, as well as his knowledge.
Therefore, if your biological age is not exactly in its youth, but your soul is lively and young, go to Youthink Hostel. If you’re open-minded and you want the company of some beautiful people and some quietness, this place is for you. If you’re young and want to travel, stop here too. If your soul is hardened and your mentality is narrow, this place is surely for you too! Because it’s a place for everyone: with and for people. Without labels. Without age. Without nationality. A place where youth is frozen in time.
Allow me to specify that this is not a paid ad, but an article written on my own initiative about a special place, with beautiful people. Thank you, my dears and I hope to see you again!