Τρίτη, 26 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

Bucharest, Romania - The Podstel Experience

There comes a time when you meet your tribe.
The travellers.
People who are not scared to step out of their comfort zone.
People who go to places where others say it's dangerous, creepy, unfriendly, stereotyped...

The Podstel experience was a tribe gathering. A man and his peers who dared to travel around the world and then invited all the people he met where he was at a time: Bucharest, Romania.

I'll start by telling you my story involving these guys.
When I was living in Greece, I used Couchsurfing to meet travellers. I offered them a bed, a shower and a day trip to the hot srings of Thermopylae. They offered me their amazing stories, they made me dream and they cooked for me.
Dan, Sam Angela and another guy, stayed with me for a couple of nights. They were a bit too many for my tiny appartment but we made it.

Dan had a vision. He wanted to create Podstel. I sensed he was not exactly sure what Podstel would look like. Would it be a Hostel? Would it be a website? What would be it's form? Would it really exist? Would it make sense?

My newly made crazy British friends left. They continued their journey on foot, hitchhiking or cycling through Europe. To find the perfect spot to create Podstel.
One year ago they landed in Bucharest Romania.
A wonderful 1910's building, with an Austrian chandelier in the entrance and a big garden.
A hostel.
To make an idea work you have to start somewhere. This is the start. Grounding a bigger idea.
They touched it up, painted walls, got through the Balkan bureaucracy and created a cosy space for travellers.
Facebook works miracles (when it does not eat you up)
Daniel invited us - people he met on the way - in Bucharest Romania for the 1st Podstel Annual Gathering.

Exhited me, looked for tickets - found tickets - booked tickets - talked to friends about it - got a French friend on board - and counted the days to leave for this scary and heavily stereotyped city called Bucharest.

To get there, we had directions so perfect that could make any travel guide blush. Going through the city on a bus to get from the airport to Podstel gave us the first smells and images of the city. A typical Balkan city which was rich and then became poor, with warm people ready to help you if you need something.

When we arrived, we entered the gadren and there it was. Podstel. Greeted by Jason - the polyglot, multitalented young man. He gave us a warm welcome hug and and asked me an unexpected question:
"Give me the title of your favorite song"
Laughing inside as well as outside I said:
""Respect" by Aretha Franklin"
He put the song on while we gave him our papers and we were officially ready to meet our tribe.
The Travelling Tribe.

We spent three days walking around, eating what the locals ate, visiting churches and sites and choosing our gifts for back home. Bucharest became familiar. Wonderful buildings abandoned and falling apart, waiting for progress to transform them into shiny malls. Electric cables everywhere. Chaotic driving. Endless orthodox churches full of locals. No gypsies, no beggars (well just a few of them), no packs of stray dogs. All of our stereotypes crashed and fell into oblivion.

A loud, colourful city market, a huge Solomonian spa on the other side of the city, the old town with the tourist restaurants and kitch souvenir shops, the enormous megalomaniac Ceaousescu parliament building... It reminded me of Athens and its chaos. A typical Balkan city with many many contrasts.


Last but not least was the Podstel experience. 60 people from 20 countries. All smiling, all ready to speak and to listen, to share their experience of meeting Dan, Sam and Jason somewhere in the world. Such warm hearts, so much love, so many hugs and trusting gestures... Eating together, drinking together, dancing, singing, enjoying the moments.

Podstel is evolving. It is not just a hostel. In Dan's words it is a learning and sharing experience for locals and for travellers. It is a platform of ideas where everyone is welcome and accepted. It was so beautiful to see a boy become a girl the next day. It was so wonderful to see young people speak two, three, four different languages. So much talent and so much love...

Thank you guys for sharing your vision.
See you next year somewhere in the world.
In this big small world we all share.

info: Podstel, Bucharest Romania










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