At lunch the other day, a friend was recounting her tale of horror at the Airbnb place they had booked at Halle in Germany.
She and some friends were touring Europe and stopped over in Halle specifically to see Roger Federer play (Wilma is a huge tennis, and Roger, fan).
The place was nowhere near as spacious as it looked on the net – and the group found out that there were something like 10 people sharing one bathroom. And the shower handle came off, scalding the person in it with hot water which could not be turned off.
And, when she complained to the home owner, the “host” replied – in German. To which Wilma responded in Afrikaans.
Eventually, the group just decided to treat the Airbnb place as a bed for the next few days and set off to kuier in true Afrikaans style … a great idea, considering the amazing food and drink, as well as entertainment, on offer around the town.
The story reminded me of some of the less than wonderful places I’ve ended up spending the night – and I don’t count 24 hours on a bench in Lusaka airport after I was refused entry to Zambia for being a journalist, back in the suspicious ’80s. Or the concrete floor of a police station (long story…).
One of the worst holiday rooms was a B&B in the Namibian border town of Gobabis. We had driven the whole day overland through Botswana from South Africa, but Windhoek was a further 300km away so this was supposed to break the journey.
I remember purple painted walls in the single room. If that wasn’t enough to give everyone nightmares (the kids were with us), then my snoring most certainly did. I was banished to sleep in the bathroom … a hideous turquoise colour, I think.
The family abandoned a tent in KZN’s Spionkop park because it was inhabited by shrews, which can burrow into most things.
The morning we left the camp we encountered an angry white rhino which was headbutting the structure where animal carcasses were hung (the reserve was also used for permit hunting). It seemed as though it could smell the blood of other murdered creatures. Eventually, we were able to make our way to the car – and I was stung by wasps on the way…
Then there was the room we took in the grimy industrial city of Stoke-on-Trent in the UK years ago. Although the hotel was almost empty, they put us in a room at the back, which overlooked a railway shunting and cattle collecting yard. I can still smell the dung, the aroma of which penetrated even the double-glazed windows.
And in Kirkcudbright in Scotland, on a Friday night shortly before Hogmanay, they placed us in a room next to the women’s loo on the first floor. Apart from the noise these …. let’s just call them slags, (because that’s what they would be called by locals), were making, I learned descriptions of the human anatomy I had seldom heard from the “fairer” sex.
When we complained, the desk clerk looked surprised – as if it was nothing out of the ordinary to have that sort of racket – and then moved us.
In Wales, visiting my wife’s relatives in the teeth of winter, we snuggled into a tiny room upstairs, which had been provided with a proper down duvet. Not familiar with the intricacies of central heating, we wondered why – at about 2 in the morning – the place was like a sauna.
Bashing into suitcases on the floor (did I say the place was tiny?) I made my way to the windows and flung them open. Once we cooled off, we discovered that window open, duvet up was rather pleasant.
In the end, you laugh about experiences like these (and plenty of others), because they give a bit of balance to the memories of lovely rooms I’ve been fortunate to stay in all over the world.