The Perfect Strangers in Bratislava, Slovakia

Four people walking on the street

A few months into my solo travelling across Europe, I found myself in a rabbit hole. Meeting new people was quite a challenge on its own. You never know if you’ll meet someone you’re compatible with. It’s frustrating to keep meeting the wrong people. I was hitting a low where I just wanted to be by myself. Or I just had to learn to be alone to keep my sanity.

After talking a complete stranger out of her wedding, it felt like it was time to recharge myself. On a wimp, I took the bus to Bratislava, Slovakia. I never expected to meet anyone there. It was supposed to be a soul-cleansing week before I head to the Czech Republic to see a friend. I booked the cheapest hostel on my bus ride there. Without a plan, I was going just stay in the hostel for a few days.

As soon as I alighted the bus, I realised not planning ahead might sometimes not be the smartest, especially when you have no internet and you don’t know where the hostel is. From the corner of my eyes, I saw a man looking at his phone. We were on the same bus. He was a man in his 30s, handsomely bald, with a Vin Diesel type of body.

Seeing that he had internet, I asked if he could look up the location of my hostel. He looked at me with surprise and said he was staying in the same hostel. Like that, I got myself a buddy.

He was from Finland. That summer he was supposed to travel with his fiancée, who unexpectedly got pregnant. The only problem was, the baby’s daddy was his best friend. So, engagement’s off. With a broken heart and his head held high, he dropped all the work and decided to go for a summer trip.

We had a great time talking to each other that we decided to explore the city together. In the empty hostel, a guy heard our conversation and asked if he could join us today. He was from Costa Rica and was waiting for his friend to fly in from Brazil. They hadn’t met each other for 10 years and this was the great reunion everyone was waiting for.

We headed out to some bars and explored the city. From what I could recall, Bratislava was a very calm European capital with lovely little trams across the city. We played games and got to know each other. They were all fun-loving, adventurous people.

Beers in Bratislava were surprising cheap. Soon before we knew it, we were drinking more than we should’ve. We were having so much fun around town until his friend arrived. When they met, I could tell it was an emotional reunion, especially when you’re drunk.

They were both gay and met in a gay bar 10 years in Costa Rica. At the time, the Brazilian guy was struggling with his sexuality. He was very concerned about coming out. The Costa Rican guy, apparently, with his charm, talked him out of the closet. Now, 10 years later, one of them is married with two kids, one is happily dating his boyfriend in the UK. How life worked out well for them. And how proud I was to be part of this reunion.

After a drunken fiesta, we were surprised to find ourselves pumped with energy the next day. Together, the gang explored a castle just outside of Bratislava. We played games and drank some more. At night, we sat in a park and chatted about everything.

This is what they call “perfect strangers”. We didn’t know each other. It was all by chance that we met. Yet, we got along so well, as if we had known each other for years. After our departure, we created a chat group and continue to talk to each other from time to time.

It is hard to encounter a “perfect strangers” situation. Just when I was tired and done meeting people, I found the people that made me feel comfortable. To this day, I have yet to meet another perfect stranger, but I’m sure it will come.

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