At first, I couldn’t find it. I took many detours. That street and this street, back and forth. Stradomska, Krakowska, Dietla, Miodowa. The signs were pretty clear. The hostel where I had booked my bed was supposed to be in Stradomska.
24, Stradomska, Krakow, Poland. The address looked pretty simple. But then why couldn’t I locate it? Surely, I was not that bad at directions.
I went past the shops, 20, 21, 22… The other side of the street read 30, 31, 32… That clearly meant my destination must be somewhere in between. But I had walked through the streets thrice and yet had failed to find No. 24.
“Hostel Hollywood,” I asked a Polish resident. A local might be of help.
“Too many hostels around this place. What is the address?” she enquired.
“24, Stradomska,” I replied eagerly.
“Well, Stradomska this is. And 24 must be in this line,” she indicated towards the row of houses I had already gone past.
“Thanks a ton!” I said.
She smiled and walked away.
Suddenly, I was reminded of 13, Grimmauld Place. This hostel wasn’t about to appear out of thin air, was it?
I was tempted to cross the road and check the other streets. But the signs were very clear. The hostel MUST be here. Exactly where I was standing. But where was it? I was clearly missing something.
“Hostel Hollywood.” A disembodied voice made me jump.
I turned and found a man in front of a big black gate. He was keying in some numbers on some keypad that was attached to the gate.
The contraption beeped and the door flew open of its own accord.
“Err…excuse me?” I hurried to ask the man, who was passing through the gate.
“Do you know where is Hostel Hollywood? Actually, I have a-”
“This is it.” He cut me mid-way. “Come on in.”
So, it was a door. Well, almost 13, Grimmauld Place, no?
I studied the keypad.
‘Press * and call for reception. Else, enter your code.’
I pressed asterix and the call button.
The intercom crackled like some high profile top secret hideout.
“I have a reservation for the night in Hostel Hollywood.”
“Hey, wazza?” A friendly voice cut me. “Come on in.” And the big black door with its large rails opened to let me in. Yeah, it was kind of spooky. I went on ahead and found another gate. Another dialer. This time, some gibberish…I mean…Polish appeared on the dialer.
“You gotta wait,” The guy who had entered before me translated. I cursed myself for not downloading the language pack from Google translate while I had the WiFi.
The gate creaked open. As soon as we stepped in, lights came on. Aah, sensors. As I finished climbing a staircase and moved on to another, the previous light switched off. Instead, the stairs I was mounting got lit up. Lit up by those amber-shaded bulbs that are so characteristic of the countless horror-themed movies I had watched before. Welcome to Hostel Hollywood. Should have been named Hostel Horror.
Once I went inside though, the atmosphere took an about turn. The walls were full of posters of movies and movie actors. Old movies. Veteran actors. Marilyn Monroe. Al Pacino. The US top 50 was playing at full blast. That soothed me. Music always does.
My dorm was called Moulin Rouge. And my password was the very same. Moulin Rouge.
There were other dorms called Casablanca, Dirty Dancing, Sin City, The Godfather…
I dropped on to a couch beside a life-size poster of Marilyn Monroe in her iconic flying skirt pose, and sipped my café latte. Time to plan another day’s travel and tell some stories to my dear diary…
*The girl in the brown boots*
The above account is a work of fiction based on real life characters and happenings in and around IIFT (or the globe, for that matter).