Feet up on the balcony railing at Freedom Hostel 2, we’re lounging with our beers shooting the breeze and being goons. We can faintly hear a high school band or something practicing the Journey song Don’t Stop Believing in a room above the closest of the three churches.
Some laughter wafts up from the interior staircase of the hostel and soon a twenties something guy and girl combo emerge onto the balcony with a pack of smokes.
“Oh allo!” Australian dude, “Hey there!” “Mind if we join you?” Hmmm hard to place the euro accent on the girl, “No, of course.” And we reorg some seats and tables to accommodate.
They introduce themselves as Yaron and Hilga from Melbourne and Antwerp. They met at the hostel here and are both just traveling around randomly like we are.
We tell them about our journeys earlier in the trip up by the Baltic Sea. Yaron gets interested in Poland so we chat about Wroclaw and our return to Krakow fail when we left Warsaw. With the flood gates now open on stupid travel mistakes everyone’s got one to share.
Hilga says she was also in North Macedonia and starts talking about Skopje and the over the top statues and shit. “Oh yeah!” Mackay jumps in on it, “The galleons were the best.” “Galleons? What do you mean?” “The ships in the river. Two giant galleons? No way you could have missed them.” “I don’t remember those…” “Check your pictures. They’re probably there.”
Yaron wants to put some music on. “You guys like heavy metal.” “Yesssh.” “And reggae?” “Like.. together?” “Ya. Here I’ll put some on.” He goes on to describe a band he likes called Twelve Foot Ninja and throws some on his phone for some background noise. If Incubus decided to mix faux reggae into their jams…
MacKay tells Yaron he used to live in Darwin and later in Brisbane. This dovetails into talking about the AFL.
This leaves me to chat up Hilga who is now looking at her phone giggling. “Ya. Look at that. Galleons in all these pictures.” “Haha yep. Hard to miss really.” “How did I not see those?” “Well.. the giant Alexander the Great statue was fairly distracting.” “Yes, yes!! So true!”
They’re asking what’s up next for us on the trip and we tell them our loose plan of eventually getting to either Rome or Athens. Yaron ticks an up vote on the Greek option, “The South of Albania is the shit, man!” He’s describing Berat, Gjirokastër, and Sarandë to us, names we keep hearing on the trip. “Well we could catch a ferry to Corfu… then on to Patras, it looks like.” “Ok, I like this plan.”
A new girl comes out and joins us. Asian American girl. Her name is Ashley. She’s from D.C.. She’s just gotten in from Kotor up North a bit. Says it’s amazing but goes on to tell us about how she got bed bugs at her hostel and then ended up also getting locked in her room for half of the day. Pounding on the door and sitting on the floor crying and itching her bites. “Sounds like you need a beer.” “Ya. I really do.” Nice girl and in good spirits despite all that shit.
Up next in our evolving cast is a tall red-headed guy who waltzes onto the patio with one of those massive 2 liter plastic bottles of shit beer. He plonks down and starts filling up a pint glass from the kitchen. “Always pour it in a glass. Fuck that plastic taste!” “I don’t think a glass is going to help that shit taste much better.” “Any little bit of help…” He’s from Holland. Bit of a live wire amongst these other mild mannered travelers. His name is Hildebrandt.
Got a good crew out here now.
“What’s with everyone’s badass names?! James and Jonathan sound pretty lame compared to Yaron, Hilga, and Hildebrandt.” “What about Ashley?” “Oh ya. Sorry Ashley, you’ll have to step it up.”
MacKay and I are out of beer already. Might be go time. “I’ll top you up!” Hildebrandt spills a bit trying to match up his giant beer bottle to my skinny necked one for a refill.
Ashley is trying to capture the lighting in the square below. She’s got a sick looking Canon dslr with her. A light goes out from the street level patio down there and softens things up. That’s a little better, I get another pic too. Medium.
Maybe I should think about getting a ‘real’ camera at some point. The lugging shit around part doesn’t sound too appealing though. Plus, it’s nice to have your hands free when you’re, say, running from Bulgarian authorities/gangsters (but that’s a story for another time).
Ashley is asking if anyone’s been on the walking tour here but no one has. Hildebrandt tells us he did a walking tour of his own home town and found out all these amazing things he never knew were there. This somehow leads into talking about crocodiles in a river in Australia. He went on a tour. Met friends up Northwest and got off grid for almost a week. When he finally got service in a small town he had a million messages from friends telling him to call his parents. Some shit went down back home and he missed it. This abruptly ends his verbal jaunt leaving us all with awkward questions. “Well that was a bit of a journey. Another top up?” “Haha ya, ya!”
We mention that we’re thinking about going down to that local bar and catching some live music, see what else we can get into. Yaron says he was there last night and it was kind of lame. “Old guys playing shite ballads.” But he does recommend popping in and checking it out. Everyone here is staying in tonight it seems though. Even Hildebrandt, who I’d have voted most likely to succeed (at partying), is calling it a night. Interesting. I guess the hungover sight seeing craze hasn’t swept this continent yet. Or maybe this is just a mix of normal and sensible people.
Alright, we’ve successfully filled out a bit of evening here on the FH2 balcony. Good crew and convo but we’re a thousand gins beyond where they’re willing to be. Time to get over to the Beer and Bike club. Probably time to switch back to cocktails too.