Friday, March 30, 2012

Hostels - Brasov, Romania - Rolling Stone

This is a great place to stay overall. We actually went to another hostel that was recommended in our guidebook, but that one was all booked up. We basically wandered a couple of blocks and just happened upon this gem.

As soon as we walked in and up the stairs we were welcomed by probably the nicest, most helpful English speaking hostess that we had on the entire trip. Her name was Sylvia and very casually she sat at a table with us and went over everything that they had to offer at the hostel as well as day trips. She gave us a map of the city and spent at least 10 minutes going over everything there was to do in the area and answered every question that we had about anything. She was very helpful but not at all pushy and the whole discussion was very pleasant.

We ended up staying in the upstairs loft for 43 lei (about $14 US at the time) each. The loft is a bit of a different experience. You need to be coordinated enough to climb up some "attic like" steep stairs and squeeze in without hitting your head on the small opening. Once you are in there, it is a long room where you walk down the middle and beds are on both sides. There were about 14 or so beds in the room, which has nice pergo floors and wood beams and slanted wood walls. It might feel a bit cramped to some people, but was no issue to us, especially since there were only 2 other people up there. When staying in this part of the hostel, you are assigned a locker in the main dorm room which is on the main level. The only problem with this is that you kind of have to step over people's stuff and go through a room of sleeping people if you are wanting to get to your locker for an early start (8AM). This is only a minor issue though. However, I would choose the main level if available over the loft. There is also another intermediate level which I might also choose over the loft in hindsight. We chose the loft because we basically had it to ourselves, so the loft suited our needs just fine and I would not hesitate to stay there again.

Rolling Stone is in a great location, right off of Piata Unirii in the old town and walking distance to most everything you want to see in Brasov. The train station is about 7-8 bus stops away or about a 10 lei cab ride for 2 people. We walked after dark down to Piata Sfatului, the main square area of bars and restaurants, and then back to the hostel late night and never had a concern. The entire area felt very safe.

They have a pretty basic breakfast of bread and spread and a couple of other items, but it is good enough to get you started for the day.

The day trip options were great. We signed up for one of these and it turned out great. There were only 5 of us in a BMW van and we had our own driver. We visited Bran Castle, Rasnov Fortress, and Sinai (Peles Castle and Monastery). The driver was great and we did about 2-3 days worth of sightseeing in one day. The trip was a bargain at 40 lei.

The biggest drawback to me was the upstairs bathrooms. The wall is slanted severely over the toilets, so if you are over 4 feet tall it is a problem whether you are standing or squatting, but especially the latter. The room is also very, very small and narrow. Add that to the fact that there were no toilet seats attached and you have a very uncomfortable experience. The downstairs bathrooms did not have the same problem. The downstairs bathrooms have the roomy toilets, but the shower is also in the same room, so they are usually occupied by shower takers. Once you get access though, you have a nice roomy place where you can lock the door, use the bathroom, and take a shower without feeling cramped. The only problem here is there is no shower curtain, so water is literally everywhere. If you are accustomed to hostels you will not think much of it because you will have shower flops and you will just be appreciating the privacy and the size of the room. If you are a hostel newbie, then you may not feel comfortable. I really only had a problem with the upstairs bathrooms, but was very happy with the shower bathrooms downstairs.

The hosts were very nice as were the people staying there, but in my experience, it wasn't an overly social hostel. We talked with plenty of people, especially those that went on our day trip, but though there is a communal area, it didn't seem to draw people to be in there and socialize. It was fine, but just based on experiences in some of the really social hostels I have stayed in, this one did not measure up in that department.

Pros: Friendly Staff, Free Breakfast, Cleanliness, Day Trip Options, Location, Free Internet, Free Wi-Fi, Safety, Value

Cons: Only 1 computer for Internet, Uncomfortable upstairs Bathrooms, Social Atmosphere

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