Hostel Nostalgia at Sturmfrei
If you are a bollywood buff and have seen Kangana Ranaut’s movie Queen then you have a fair idea of the backpacker life and hostels in Europe for those who travel on budgets and like to make friends on their holidays. And now the concept of hostels in India has been increasing since the last six or seven years and Goa is leading the scene with a number of backpackers hostels springing up.
Recently I happened to visit one such place. SturmFrei, near Vagator is the brainchild of four good friends, from different fields who after years of the rat race decided to pursue thier own dream instead. Setting up a decently sized but comfortable hostel, they now meet people from all over the world and learn about other countries without stepping out of the doorstep so to speak! In a short time Sturmfrei has become an extremely popular and in-demand hostel accomodation and needless to say i was very excited to be heading there to check it out though I wasnt sure how different from a hotel a hostel would be. I was unsure about what all I could pack with me. Anyway I reached the place at around 11am in the morning along with my friend and though it is not very difficult to find the place, it IS a bit on the interior side…but have we really worried about finding places since Google maps entered our lives?
The place does not look like a hostel at all…it felt like a home we were visiting. A friend or a relative’s maybe. And the hospitality was exactly like that as well! I was happy as there was enough space to park my car, as one of the biggest headaches of today, I’m sure you will agree with me, is finding a spot to park. A warm welcome by the owners was made extra special as they happen to be from my hometown. The hostel was set up in an old Goan house with a large open area and some greenery surrounding the borders. Like i said before, the feeling of being inside a home prevailed – a seating area which looks so much like home with wooden furnitures and curtains to match, a cupboard full of books for the bookworms, a television where the channels get changed frequently as guests vied for the remote to watch an array of different programmes! A board of carrom was set up at the center of the room from which a healthy amount of boisterous noise would waft forth at regular intervals. The walls were done up pretty nicely with stickers with interesting quotes that were sure to find resonance with the steady stream of globe trotters who stayed here. One wall had a collage of pictures of guests who had passed through the hostel and another collage of all the countries from where they travelled to Goa. In just six months of its opening, the board already had 40 countries on it. Impressive indeed!
Inside there were three more air conditioned rooms which had bunk beds set up so each room had 6 beds. I occupied a room which had a small wooden staircase inside to climb up to small loft kind of a space with two more beds. The rooms were clean with nicely done beds, the bathrooms were well equipped with the basic soaps, shampoos and clean towels. So all that stuff that I carried was not really required! A small luggage room is provided in case you have too much of baggage with you. Complimentary breakfast is also provided. Also, the food menu called the “Sturmfrei Hunger Solver” offers both veg and non-veg options a la carte and in case you prefer something else you are free to cook in the kitchen helped by a very sweet lady who cooks there. You must, of course, clean up and do the dishes yourself if using the kitchen.
I started exploring the surroundings with a cup of tea and did not feel at all that I am in a hostel. There were a few guests who had been staying for a couple of weeks and some who were regular visitors. The conversations started over a game of carrom and I almost forgot that we were strangers just a few minutes ago! The camaraderie of hostel life is unmatchable ! Outside there were three more rooms made with cane which apparently is favoured by foreign guests over the air con ones. Many of them have volunteered to decorate and do up the place and have made it really beautiful with different paintings, artefacts, quotes and have left a part of them behind for others to enjoy. The front yard is a big open area where you can play some sport or workout. It has a small but cute set up specially in the winters where you can soak up the sun or sit for evening tea or play a game of cards. We sat in the backyard which had nicely laid mattresses and a delightful bar called Sau Bar (“sau” means “hundred”) because every drink was for just a 100 bucks! Some sound boxes and speakers in case you are in a mood to groove after a drink and a hammock at the corner added some more fun to the place.
I absolutely loved the way the entire space was decorated with the simplest of things yet making it so interesting. I continued with my shoot and discovered more about the place as I went along. Strumfrei is the brainchild of four friends – Pratyush Neog Manikial, Kaushik Baishya, Dipjyoti Brahma and Bhavik Vaghela. The name Strumfrei comes from the German words “Sturm” and “Frei” which mean “storm” and “free” respectively. So basically Sturmfrei here refers to a place which is free from all mental storms in your minds. Oh…there is another fun meaning to this word…but why not visit the place and find out for yourself? Let me know in the comments section of this blog if you do!
So the idea behind Sturmfrei is to become a new age hospitality company which caters to the needs of millennials and centennial travellers and looking to build a network of trendy and cool hostels in India as well as South Asia. They told us stories about how this place has been a hub of varied socially and culturally different people coming and staying together and sharing their experiences and ideas. It opens up for different activities initiated by the visitors, be it a workout challenge or a cleanliness drive at the beach or a lunch or dinner out together or a happening party.
Before I realized it, lunch time was upon us. We all sat together and not for a moment I felt that I was not at my own home. The food was fresh and delicious and I may be a bit biased here to appreciate these guys who made me feel so much at home since we came from the same State. Hence all our inside jokes that only we understood, our childhood memories, finding common friends, our common habits and lifestyle made it all so nostalgic. After lunch, I took a short nap as the room was really comfy and I was too exhausted. I woke up and had another cup of evening tea and spent some time with Jerry who is an adorably playful four legged member of the house. It was time for me to say goodbye to all the lovely people that I met though I wished I could stay overnight but I had to get back. It was a great change for me as I travel a lot but most of my stays are in impersonal star hotels and resorts spread over vast acres of manicured lawns. Cosy close knit hostels like Sturmfrei are indeed a perfect place for people who are always on the go or who love to meet interesting people from around the globe.
I would love to come back again when I have more time in hand so that I can fully participate in the exciting and activity filled life of a backpacking hostel . Meanwhile I wish Sturmfrei all the success and hope to see it grow bigger and find a Sturmfrei in every city I visit