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  IV. A Tale of Four Travelers: Hostel Hanna

Hanna, meanwhile, is staying at the youth hostel. She is awakened at 7:30 a.m. by the radio being played over the hostel's public address system. Bodies being to groan and stumble to life around her, but being a late riser she lets the first wave pass. She has taken a shower the night before because she knows the lines will be long in the morning. Breakfast ends at 8:30, so at 8:15 she gets dressed and goes down for her morning ration of hot chocolate, bread rolls and jam. (There is a definite pattern to the budget traveler's breakfast in Europe; bread, jam, cheese, honey, etc.) Sometimes for variety she buys a small box of cereal, which lasts a few days.

At 8:50 she runs back to her dorm room and gets what she needs for the day, since the hostel will be closed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. She puts her backpack in the locker and pays her fee for that night as she leaves. Occasionally, she will have to do a chore like sweep the floor or empty a trash can, but that habit seems to be fading out on the Continent.

Since she is close to the center of town she and a couple of fellow North American hostel-mates immediately become engrossed in sightseeing. For lunch they have managed to swipe some extra bread rolls and cheese from the hostel. They get a beverage in a shop and sit in a park and watch the world go by. If they are in a university town they sometimes go to the student mensa (cafeteria) and mingle in for a hot, cheap meal. Rarely does anyone question them.

Since she is traveling alone, Hanna usually pays more attention to such things as where she sits on the bus and where she wanders if alone at night. If she boards a train for a long trip she usually finds other travelers to sit with, or perhaps some matronly local women with whom to practice a few words of local language. Since there are so many people coming and going it is not difficult to find someone--traveler or local--to hang out with for extra security.

Today, as is often the case, the travelers with whom she shared the day will wind up traveling together for the next five days. On this day, they decide to prepare dinner together, so they stop in a shop on the way back to the hostel and get a few items. Since the hostel provides cooking burners and pots and pans, they can get rather fancy. After their feast they sit around the hostel lounge and swap road tales with other travelers. At 11 p.m., everyone comes dashing in from the town before the hostel curfew, and the lights go out soon afterwards. During the night a newcomer in the dorm snores horrendously, but everyone pelts her with socks and pillows until they manage somehow to fall asleep.

Hanna debated spending a lot of money on a Eurail Youthpass to get around the continent, which averaged out to be about $15 a day for the two month pass (But who spends each day on a train?). She was about to buy point-to-point tickets at student rates, which might have worked in her favor. But then she realized she was going to be moving a lot, changing her plans on the spur of the moment, and traveling in high season. That meant if she had trouble finding a bed in the city, she'd have to stay in the outskirts and commute in by rail. The rail pass allowed her the flexibility to do that, and to change her itinerary on a whim. Sometimes she sleeps on the train just to save the cost of a hostel, and is usually comfortable because the seats fold down to form a small bed. If the train is crowded it is more difficult but she avoids night trains on weekends and holidays. If she were better organized and only making a few stops, she probably would have opted for the cheaper point to point tickets.

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