The Tale of Transylvania Hostel
Every great story begins with a shoe.
As everyone knows, a well fitting shoe is essential for a comfortable life and nearly all productive activities. At one time, not so long ago, Transylvania was home to one particular shoe factory that produced a very high quality of footwear. So renowned were these shoes that they were sometimes referred to as “The Pride of Transylvania.”
The building that houses Transylvania Hostel was bought as a retirement home for my family following the sale of that very same shoe factory, which they happened to own. As age crept in, running a factory was simply too strenuous and owning residential property was far more practical. At a time before pension funds and 401K plans existed, owning a large house with tenants who paid a monthly rent not only provided a steady source of income for retirement, but also ensured that my family would always be surrounded by wonderful people. What a glorious start to a longstanding tradition! That beautiful building is still enjoying a similar type of community through Transylvania Hostel and all of the wonderful people from around the world who gather here today!
During the 2nd World War part of Transylvania fell under the rule of the Hungarian Empire. Cluj-Napoca was a part of this area, but the neighboring city of Sibiu was not. My family therefore left their home to flee to Sibiu for safety.
After the war ended Transylvania was returned to Romania, and likewise, my family returned to Cluj and reclaimed their home.
Sadly this didn’t last for long. When the Communist regime took over Romania in 1947 the State appropriated the building and forced my family out of their home. The legal owner of the building was evicted, and the building had to be surrendered in order to avoid the imprisonment of his entire family. Only one family member remained in the building until her final days, while the rest of the family was left homeless.
From 1947 until 1989 the Communist regime used the building to house a steady flow of families and individuals that they saw fit to occupy the apartments. Unfortunately the building was poorly maintained during this time, and fell largely into disrepair.
After the fall of Communism, the new government decided to give the tenants placed into buildings like ours the opportunity to buy them for shockingly low prices, ignoring the true owners who suffered from the theft of their property by the State. Many tenants did buy the apartments and houses, leaving the rightful owners with only the poorest of compensation if they received any at all. Because of this law it took decades of lawsuits before my family managed to secure a small portion of the original property that had not been purchased by the tenants. Unfortunately for us, those tenants stubbornly remained in the building for three years until the eviction process finally ran its course. Only at that time, in 2007, could we finally begin to contemplate what we wanted to do with our reclaimed property.
As it happened, my brother had just traveled to Sibiu, which was the European Cultural Capital in 2007. He had stayed in a fantastic hostel there with a great community of international travelers. When he came home he suggested that we should do something similar with our building in Cluj.
With extensive research online and with the help of a friend who had worked as a receptionist for a summer in a hostel in Rome, I rapidly began to learn about the intricacies of operating a hostel.
Back in my high school days I participated in an exchange year in Germany. The intention of the program was to understand each other’s cultures by meeting and living together. The philosophy of the hostel was born out of this early experience so long ago with the intention to bring about peace through the sharing of cultures. Eventually the hostel would become a place where people from different cultures would meet and come together in a very positive way.
When we regained ownership of the building in 2007 I had just started working towards my Master’s Degree in Hotel Management. My brother’s idea of starting a hostel was quite intriguing, and seeds of creativity began to grow. With a team of five fellow students we decided to write a project for a hostel that ended up winning a Junior Achievement business plan competition and inspired us to take the project further. Later, at an AIESEC student conference, we listened to inspiring speeches from successful young entrepreneurs about the power of preparation and believing in your dreams in order to make your goals a reality. Our motivation soared, and before my studies were even finished the project came to fruition and the hostel opened its doors in May of 2008. Many of my colleagues who had participated in writing the original project joined me all the way through to its completion, helping to renovate the building and welcome the first guests! My brother, the original inspiration for the project, jumped in headfirst, building furniture, painting walls, taking shifts at the reception, and everything else that came along.
At one such event I met a hostel consultant who agreed to come and help me with projects to improve the hostel. As one project led into another he began to be captivated by Cluj and eventually decided stay on as a permanent member of the management team.
Through the years we continued our work to consistently develop and improve the hostel and provide an ever increasing level of service for our guests from around the world. We sought out and recruited the best and the brightest of the students from the local universities to join our hostel family, and together we turned my family’s building into a home for travelers where Community is the defining quality in everything we do.
The entire team has invested a considerable amount of effort and dedication throughout the years, pouring our hearts and souls into the hostel. And all of the work has been rewarded tenfold. We have been honored with kind reviews from countless happy guests as well as receiving several industry awards.
Now we enjoy the privilege of welcoming new friends into our lives every day and sharing the city that we call home. We are excited to welcome you as well.
Welcome to Transylvania Hostel!
We’ve been expecting you.
We’ve been expecting you.