We parkour the on again / off again sidewalks of Timisoara following directions to Freeborn Hostel. The city center looks colorful and beautiful. It’s laid out in a circular pattern following the curve of the Bega River to the South. Looks like a series of large open squares, similar to Wroclaw. Can’t wait to check it out.
The road that the hostel is on is under construction and we have to dodge a bobcat and hop a decent sized gap to get over to it.
We ring the buzzer next to a swinging metal gate and an older lady comes to open it. She greets us with a nice smile, “Welcome, welcome. Come in, please.” Her English is very good. She leads us back to a colorful patio section with Freeborn written in painted boards nailed to a wooden fence under some grape vines. A large open table, some hammocks, this is great.
The interior is just a small place with several rooms that they’ve converted into a hostel. Thin hallways between rooms, a common area and a kitchen. “There are bathrooms with showers here and here, and two more bathrooms with showers outside”, “Perfect”, “You have a shared room here with two beds”, “This is great, thank-you.”
We drop our bags and come back out to give her our passport info and pay up. “What time are you checking out?”, “Not sure. We’re trying to get to Belgrade tomorrow actually”, “Ok, there are drivers that will take you. Door to door service. Here to Belgrade. It is 15 euro per person”, “Wow! That sounds great”, MacKay and I shoot a glance that says ‘holy shit, that was unexpected’.
She takes us back outside to sit on the patio, “Yes I will make you reservation. Here you can smoke, drink coffee and welcome to eat our grapes up here. They are very sweet.” She reaches up and picks some grapes and shares them with us. “Yeah, sweet. Really good, thank-you”, “Ok, please enjoy your stay. Let me know if you have questions”, “We will, thank you so much”, “Raul should be back soon as well”, “Ok, great.” Super nice lady. I think she’s probably the owner, Raul’s, mother.
“Pfffffft well that was easy”, “Ya, that’s awesome. Sounds like we’re all set for Serbia. Didn’t even get brain suds yet”, “Ya well, we’re still doing that”, “Doy”
Freeborn hostel. Boom. Crushed it.
We sit on the patio with a map pulled up to get our bearings and find some things to do in town. Right on queue Raul comes through the gate. He’s tall and skinny, goatee’d and gusto in his stride. “Ah hello guys. You must be Jonathan, how are you?”, we get up to shake his hand, “Great great, thanks. I like your place here”, “Oh thank-you. Yes. Always a work in progress. You see, we’ve built all of this. And this and this”, “Oh nice. Ya, it looks great”, “Sorry about the construction out front”, “Oh it’s no problem at all”, “Did you get your room?”, “Yep, we’re all set. Got shown around and everything”, “Ok perfect. Do you want some coffee?”, “Sure. If you’re making some”, “Yes, of course. Let’s have coffee.”
Raul takes us in to the kitchen and shows us how the coffee works and where to get it. He grabs a map and pen at the ‘front desk’ and brings us back outside to the table. He’s got a great energy about him. Excellent English and very personable.
“Do you have any plans?”, “We were just gonna go on walkabout and check out the city”, “Would you like me to recommend some things here in Timisoara”, “Yes, by all means”, “Ok. We are here…” and Raul starts a tentative walking tour from the hostel, up through the squares of the city, over to the ruins of a wall from the Ottoman Empire, through a park, along the river, and to a brewery.
He fills in little tidbits along the way, “Did you know we were the second city with electric street lights in the world? <little fist pump> Yay! Haha”, “And here, a rose garden with 300 roses…”, and “…brewery with lines straight through here to the tavern. Freshest beer you can get”, “Wow man. That all sounds about perfect”, “Yes. It will be fun, I guarantee. The castle is under renovation so that’s too bad. Romanians work very slowly you see. It will probably be years”, “Next time”, “Yes, next time! Alright, if you guys are ok I have some things I need to get to”, “For sure, we’ve got a good looking day set up here. Thanks”, “Great!”
Raul shakes our hands again and heads off into the house. Great fella. Takes after his mom. MacKay and I fold up the map and head out through the front gate. Dodge a bobcat and hop the gap. “Sooooo….”, “Brain Suds?”, “Yep.”
Alright, Timisoara then. Already super happy we found this place. Seems like we may have stumbled on a bit of a hidden gem here.