The title could be very confusing: how come could you find Elephants in Bratislava? “The wild Elephants” is actually the name of a hostel where I volunteered for a month. It is situated in Bratislava old town, Slovakia and, to be honest, it is the best place I have been working in so far. But before developing about the Hostel, I will give you some reasons to stop at Bratislava.
To start with, Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, formerly known to belong to Czechoslovakia. It was also the former capital of Hungary. So in the city itself, the old centre is nice to visit with a lot of interesting things to learn and buildings to see, like St Elizabeth’s blue church. Also, Bratislava has a nice Castle that can be seen from quite far away. But the view you get from the top of the Castle is worth it especially at night when the city is enlightened. Mentioning view, I can recommend two other spots where to go to enjoy different perspectives of Bratislava. There is the abandoned hospital situated 20minutes drive from the old town. And also the Slavin war memorial which surrounds the whole city.
And speaking of buildings, one of the ugliest buildings of the world is situated in Bratislava, it is an inverted pyramid. So I don’t on what their judgement about ugliness has been based but I quite find it original. I let you judge by yourself:
But what I really enjoyed in Bratislava, as a traveller, was its centrality between the other European cities. For example, it is situated only 1 hours by bus from Vienna, Austria and Brno, Czech Republic; 2h30 from Budapest, Hungary and 6 hours from Krakow, Poland. And, the prices go from 5euros to 14euros.
The Wild Elephants Hostel
Despite all the beautiful cities I have visited, my best memories are coming from the Wild Elephants Hostel. I arrived there on a Friday night and as soon as I arrived I could feel a great atmosphere. The same I could feel in the streets of Bratislava. Maybe this feeling was reinforced by the fact I was flying from Johannesburg where the freedom of movement in the streets is not the same as in Europe. But it was a really good feeling.The walls of the reception have memories of previous guests who left a memory of them with their drawing, on the opposite; if they were not so much talented to draw they could leave a note on the walls of the hallway. The attic has been reorganised into two parts. One is dedicated only for staff, and the other part is a smoking area and a chilled room where we had some movie nights and jam sessions.
My personal experience
I spent a month volunteering there and I enjoyed every minute. Thanks, first, to all the volunteers I met there and to the three managers. But also to all the guests, who were always coming with a big smile, a lot of energy and a lot of adventures and stories to share; and dinner is the perfect moment to share it. Every day, one of the volunteers is cooking which makes it, even more, feel like home! And not to forget the “Pub Crawl” at night time when everyone can enjoy a cheap beer (1euro the pint) in the local pub of the city where it is still allowed to smoke inside!
I have to admit when I decided to go there I did not know anything about the Eastern European countries. And I found myself being amazed by the beauty of the European cities like Budapest, Cracow or even the small city of Brno. (Here is my Photo reportage) I am a solo traveller but there I found a home and a family. The best words to describe my feelings have been written by another volunteer and friend, Céline: “I was looking for happiness and I found the Wild Elephants”.