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  • Jul 2017

    A new addition to our X Pub: T-Bar a chill tea house with rare and special tea hard to find in any other tea house in the country. A vast selection of vinyls anyone can play, comic books and of course tea it is the best chill-out area of the hostel for people wanting to energize naturally. Healthy, cozy, chill. 10 quotes about tea to convince you to come: 1. Tea is liquid wisdom. – Anonymous 2. You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me. – C. S. Lewi0 3. Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors. – Alice Walker 4. As much as you can eat healthy, it’s also important to remember to drink healthy too. Tea is very healing. – Kristin Chenoweth 5. There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. – Henry James 6. Tea, though ridiculed by those who are naturally coarse in their nervous sensibilities will always be the favorite beverage of the intellectual. – Thomas de Quincey 7. I would rather have a cup of tea than sex. – Boy George 8. There are those who love to get dirty and fix things. They drink coffee at dawn, beer after work. And those who stay clean, just appreciate things. At breakfast they have milk and juice at night. There are those who do both, they drink tea. – Gary Snyder 9. Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things. – Chaim Potok 10. I can drink tea until the cows come home and I love the atmosphere in tea-shops. – Zola Budd 11. Where there’s tea, there’s hope. – Arthur Wing Pinero 12. Tea is nought but this: first you heat the water, then you make the tea. Then you drink it properly. That is all you need to know. – Sen Rikyu 13. There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea. – Ralph Waldo Emerson 14. Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage. - Catherine Douzel 15. If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty. – Japanese Proverb 16. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes. – George Orwell 17. A cup of tea would restore my normality. - Douglas Adams 18. Surely a pretty woman never looks prettier than when making tea. - Mary Elizabeth Braddon 19. There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life. - Lin Yutang 20. I am in no way interested in immortality, but only in the taste of tea. - Lu T’ung

  • Apr 2017

      Oh the question I love to hate.  A question I answer daily during the busy Summer Season here at X Hostel Varna in Varna, Bulgaria.  Although redundant I’m always happy when people ask.  Because after checking-in one of the worst mistakes people make is grabbing their favorite beach towel and scurrying out the door without any sense of where they’re going.  Albeit, there are those who somehow follow their nose and find the beach without any problem at all.  For the most part people who cruise out the front door without a map or a simple asking of the question about which this blog is based……..Get terribly lost, some even wind up in jail. Located in a posh residential neighborhood just north of Varna’s center is X Hostel Varna.  It’s walking distance to several beaches in St. Constantine and Elena.  It’s also walking distance to the Bulgarian President’s summer beach residence which is patrolled by armed guards.  There have been instances of adventurous backpackers climbing over fences or walls and being detained.  In this case ignorance isn’t bliss.   So now to the fun part.  Let’s talk about the nearby beaches and what they offer.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  The beach you like, might not be what some else likes.  St. Constantine’s beaches are nice.  They have decent size free spaces and all have bars and restaurants.  First is the Officer’s Beach or South Beach, known as the officer’s beach because there is a lodge there where police officer’s and their families get free accommodation.  They come from all over Bulgaria for a week or two that they book in advance.  Safe to say this is a very safe beach.  You can calmly leave your bag and phone on your towel and go for swim without worry, which isn’t the case at most Bulgarian Beaches.  There is also an excellent restaurant located just above the beach on a small ledge with great views called the Fisherman’s Nook.  The grilled sardine’s, salads and fish soup are fantastic as well as the frosted beer mugs they keep in the freezer for draught beer.  However, if you’re looking for young people, music and party….you won’t find it here.  The water tends to be very clean and there is very few rocks.   Second, “The Bay”.  Located just north of the officer’s beach, maybe a five minute walk.  This is a small beach like an inlet or cove.  Above and on it built into the hillside is a restaurant know by the same name (The Bay).  They have great food and very comfy furniture.  For a group of friend you could set up shop at a table on the sand to leave all your stuff and then go swimming.  When you come in have a cocktail or an ice coffee.  Near the shore here under the water is lots of rocks.  But, if you swim out a bit there is a big sandbar, there is also a pier you can walk out on and jump off………….often times under the watchful eye of the un-approvingly straight faced locals.  I recommend this beach the most for couples or groups of friends. Great for lunch. There is light pop music and lots of eye candy of all types.  But be careful who you make a move on as this place is well known for the mafia guys who own and hang out there. Third, Sirius Beach aka. North Beach. This is the largest beach in St. Constantine.  There is a nice mix of foreigners, mostly Russian and German.  There are three bars, two of which have restaurants.  There is a large free space but it fills up quickly.  This beach has lots of water sports: Jet Ski, wake-boarding, parasailing and the infamous banana boat.       (Free Space = Place where you don’t have to pay for a beach chair or umbrella. You just throw down your towel and enjoy.  Most Europeans expect to pay for two lounge chairs and an umbrella when they go to the beach.  Men in speedos, women topless.  It’s true.) Around the corner from Sirius beach is a free hot spring.  It’s a hole dug out of the ground where a bunch of old men sit all day.  There is a large pipe that comes out of the ground that you can stand under and let the steaming hot sulfur smelling water beat on you.  It is awesome! Also, inside of hotel Sirius there are two hot springs.  Entrance costs 10 leva, it’s available to guests and to the public.  One is inside, which has a Jacuzzi and one is outside, right on the beach. (Hot Spring = Varna is full of underwater hot springs you can find them all along the nearby beaches, some are free some cost money.)       So, those are the beaches you can walk to from X Hostel Varna. Make sure to grab a walking map from the bar before you head off.  Towels for hire are also available. See you soon! For the other close by beaches which can be easily reached by local bus or taxi. These have a lot more “action” for the young at heart.   See my soon to be blog: HOW DO I GET TO THE BEACH? Part II (by Chris Ellis)

  • Apr 2017

    AXE THROWING IS ONLY FOR A FEW WEEKS A YEAR!!!    Here at X we always had some world records when it comes to hostels: The hostel with the largest number of people getting tattooed with its name The first hostel with Escape Rooms And now the first hostel with an Axe Throwing Arena!      And here is what a news channel reported about us: And our small teaser as promo: https://youtu.be/8ObZ5JTg3n0   Axe Throwing is fun, it`s a sport and a great way to spend some hours with friends. In many states this activity is used a lot for team buildings and it is a favorite for stag does and bachelorette parties. At the beginning no axe stays in the target but by the end of an hour everyone will get a bunch of bulls-eyes. It takes just a little practice. You dont have to be strong and you dont need any previous experience, just come and play. You will love this new experience not only throwing around axes, ninja stars and knifes but also the challenge and primordial pleasure of handling a weapon. Its a game for all, boys and girls, young and older, fit or comfortable. It is very safe and you will be supervised at all times. We also can organize little leagues and we help keeping the score and by giving you tips on how to achieve the perfect throw. Come to X Hostel Bucharest & Central Guesthouse to try out Axe Throwing - Dacian Rules www.axesbucharest.com

  • Mar 2017

    All starts on a long backpacking journey that brought me to Australia, New Zealand and then South East Asia when I was 21 years old. I then got myself to Beijing and taking the Transmongolian  train for a week I got to Moscow. From there to Riga, Ireland and finally back home to Italy. I had mainly stayed in hostels and camp grounds and even if it wasn't my first time in such kind of accommodation I knew that was what I wanted to do once I got back to Europe. I simply felt I had to try it. Most travelers in their early 20`s talk about opening a hostel or a bar abroad, its a nice dream. I like to put ideas into actions so with little money and little experience I ventured out to Bulgaria. Why Bulgaria? I had been to Bulgaria several times before and noticed the lack of hostels in Varna where I went scouting the market with a friend. After looking at many buildings I settled with a run down restaurant called Waikiki that was very popular years before. It was a hard gamble: starting with the language that I never learned, to being alone in a foreign land, to set up a business I had only experienced as a customer and all of this in a very hard to find villa in the hills of Evsinograd, some kilometers out of the city. I am still amazed on how people find the hostel! In the cold winter of 2007 I bought a banger of a van and headed to Ikea in Bucharest which was the closest to buy bunk beds, linen and all I would need. I began with only 24 beds... Opening day, 1st of May 2008... The landlords, 2 Minnesota hitchhikers, 1 volunteer and 2 friends.   The first month was hard... hostel was empty, no bookings, the little money I had left was diminishing by the day. I could barely sleep at night for the stress and thinking about what I would do when it failed. Some friends came to visit and some isolated booking. But in mid June word of mouth kicked in with the season and I was full! I was safe and happy. I worked very hard: ironed the linen, put out the breakfast, cleaned, checked people in and out, entertained everyone day and night, took people out and slept deep and relaxed in my tent so I could rent my room out and make the most out of that first season. It was an amazing feeling to have succeeded and I have the fondest memories of that hard beginning. Every year after that we added dormitories and made deals with neighbors who where renting their villas out so that at the end we had nights with over 70 people: tents in the garden, parking and terrace, guests and staff sleeping on all sofas and on mattresses in the common area and I even had nights so full that friends of mine slept on the tables! In the first years X Hostel Varna guests would only go to Varna city and to the beach and hot springs close to us but then we started going to Golden Sands so the epic parties started with loads of free alcohol included: Foam party, Beach Party, Club Crawls, Singles Parties, boat parties and so on. And one day 4 guests came to me and said we loved this place so much that we decided to make an X Tattoo , I was almost in tears at this huge sign of appreciation. So the Tattoo went strong, so much that now over 140 people have one!   Chris was the first to join the X Hostel family: first as a guest while being a peace corps volunteer, then as volunteer, manager and finally as business partner who would take X Hostel Varna a step ahead each year! In 2011  I met up with Alfie and Nahir, and after visiting Alicante in 2012 we opened X Hostel Alicante that also has Phil as business partner, who I met as a guest of X Varna in its first years. Alicante`s vibe is unique: a quiet provincial town and at the same time with a roaring nightlife. Great tapas, weather, sea and atmosphere overall. The hostel runs like a family with evenings on the roof terrace and days on the beach. In 2012 we also had the opening party for X Hostel Bucharest with a NYE party people are still talking about. Then after more months of refurbishing we managed to open all the dorms and private rooms. At first we had sauna, Jacuzzi, free welcome beer in our pub but guests still complained so we keep changing our offers and services: now we have a newly refurbished pub with a huge screen, new sound system, furniture, games, bitcoin atm and much more. Still: big city guests and weekenders are not as guests you find in Varna and Alicante. This year we also opened a new business in the neighbors building we bought in Bucharest. We have Central Guesthouse: only private rooms facing a garden connected to the entrance of the hostel.   The 3 hostels after that sadly no longer exist: X Hostel Tallinn - was a 1 big dorm operation right in the heart of the city bought from a dodgy American scammer; hostel was so cozy that all guests would always do things together. I got very involved with expats and locals in Estonia and spend some wonderful months setting up and running the place. Many great friends and a special new year party need to be mentioned! Unfortunately the landlord was a cheat jealous of this business so after repeatedly cutting gas and water and us calling the police we made a deal, he would refund me the investment and I left with a great experience and a first business that closed. X Hostel Budapest - We bought the former stoners hostel called California from another dodgy individual. Business went really well... maybe too well or people had too much fun. The neighbors petitioned and manage to close us down after 3 years. Other issues ensued: a manager stealing a lot of money and other problems. On a good note: we bought the 270 sqm building that is in a nice location and we will probably open a non hospitality business there soon. X Hostel Malaga - Opening and first month were Paradise: a wonderful and fun city to live in. Then we left a new partner in charge that cheated the others going on his power trip so it ended in a lawsuit with the dissolution of the firm. Anything better that being still connected to Mr. M. Some year ago I also started looking at new projects and at the same time started 2 Escape Rooms in the Bucharest hostel and Camp X in the mountains near Curtea de Arges. Camp X was a week long `military experience: you would pay a flat fee and get yourself to camp. Here you would receive uniform, equipment and training. It was full on with camouflage trainings, group assault, airsoft battles, ambushing, anti-sniper tactics. Sleeping in huge tents, morning push ups, shooting and survival training, some hand to hand combat and so on. Would of been EPIC. Unfortunatlly business partners for that venture had many issues so that it made it impossible to go past the fun and tought testing period.   Escape Games became a huge hit. We made great business in Bucharest, tens of thousands of people played, all major firms did team-buildings,  3 music videos where shot in our thematic rooms. We expanded to Sofia, Brasov and Golden Sands with our own games. Then we decided it would be easier to manage and more profitable to just sell games to people who wanted to open this kind of business. We now own the most popular firm of Escape Room Design worldwide with over 450 games in 62 countries. Our last project is Axe Throwing arenas. We opened our first one here in the hostel in Bucharest and we will let you know how it goes.. .   The story will go on!          

  • Mar 2017

    So you’ve traveled all the way to Bucharest and even if your experience has been amazing you still feel the need for a change of scenery we have a secret for you: leaving will be hard... not because of that beauty you met in the club or the friends you left at X Hostel... it`s more about the land transport infrastructure. So get ready for an adventure! TIP: Most trips take loooooooong. Buy some food, bring water and a lot of patience. Buses but especially trains are a great opportunity to see the countryside and to meet other interesting travelers. Never plan too far ahead nor believe the arrival time, just enjoy  the journey; bring a good book or enjoy some music if you are not a people`s person. Romanian railroad system offers trains to the main capitals of the neighboring countries as well as a few of the cities with seasonal activities. SECRET: Bucharest does not have one bus station... many are scattered throughout the city. Good luck finding the right one... Bulgaria has two main destinations. Its capital city Sofia and the seaside resort Varna where our other X Hostel is. For Sofia there is one train available daily that leaves from the North Train Station (Gara de Nord) daily at 12.45. The fee for this trip is 100 RON (22.22EUR).  There is also a bus available daily from the Filaret Bus station located centrally in Bucharest daily from 6:30 , 13:00 . 16:00 and 22:30. The ticketing system on the bus works on a first come first served basis and can be acquired after boarding from the driver for 120RON (26.6EUR). When it comes to Varna there is a daily train leaving North Train stations daily from 12.45 with a rate of 100 RON (22.22EUR) but we recommend the early morning buses that leave a few times a week at  7am from Piata Constitutiei (in front of the Parliament): it takes about 5 hours.   TIP: To be walking distance to X Hostel Varna get off at the St Konstantin i Elena stop just before Varna city. For all bus timetables use this site. Other popular destinations from Bucharest include the capital of Hungary: Budapest . The availability of trains for this route is ampler and includes a sleeping variant upon request. There are two options when it comes to securing a ticket – buying it on the spot or making a telephone booking. With the booking option the price becomes lower. Available trains are daily from 5:45 14:00 17:45 21:25. With a booking their prices is 135RON (30EUR) for a seat or 180RON(40) for a sleeping car.  Without a booking the price becomes 210RON(46.66EUR) and 290RON(64.44EUR) respectively.   SECRET: if you book non refundable and non changeable tickets with a few weeks in advance you can save about 40% of the ticket! In order to reach the Serbian capital, Belgrade, there is a train at 21:25 daily. Its price is 130RON(28.88EUR). For the capital of Moldova, Chisinau, there are daily buses from 8 in the morning hourly and a daily train from the North Train Station at 19:15 for the price of 133RON(29.55 EUR). When it comes to trains that do not travel internationally there is a wide array of options to reach every major city in the country.   Brasov – there are trains running almost every hour of the day and a few more during the night. Depending on the duration of the trip their prices are either 24RON(5.21EUR) or 48.5RON(10.5EUR). Cluj Napoca - At the moment there are five daily trains to the capital of Transylvanian - 06:00 12:15 16:25 18:45 and 22:00. The price ranges from 90 to 100RON(20EUR to 22.22EUR). Constanta - In order to get to the main seaside hub you'll need to take one of the 8 daily available trains. They start early in the morning with the last one leaving North Train Station at 20:20. Price wise the trip is close to 60RON(13.33EUR). TIP: for most train schedules click here . Romanian train schedules: http://www.cfrcalatori.ro/