Hostel Movie - Bratislava
I am worth $1,571,490 according to humansforsale.com, a website linked from the official "Hostel: True Facts" website. (Don't argue: it says, "True facts.") With that and my experience of having lived in Bratislava, Slovakia for three years, I am a worthy judge of the Hostel, a horror film that takes place just outside Bratislava, and the concerns of Slovaks and tourists alike.
In the film, upon arriving in Slovakia, the main characters find themselves involved with beautiful but conniving women who quickly sleep with them, drug them, and then sell them to be killed by other tourists who pay thousands of dollars for them.
Whether justified or not, many Slovaks quickly took offense to the movie. MP Tomas Galbavy, a member of the parliamentary culture committee, called Hostel a "monstrosity that does not at all reflect reality" and it would "damage the good reputation of Slovakia". Those concerned should remember that a fictional film does not damage how intelligent people view a person or place. Eli Roth, the writer and director of Hostel, notes, "Don't worry – there have been seven Texas Chainsaw Massacres and people still go to Texas. It's only a movie!". This may not be completely fair because while hundreds of movies take place in Texas and it generate much positive publicity, Slovakia is hardly known beyond Hostel, Hostel 2, EuroTrip, and their hockey and soccer players.
Some comments on websites ridiculously suggest that the government should have sued the filmmakers. Others wonder why Slovakia was chosen as the country. Roth responded that "he selected Slovakia as a setting for the picture to show Americans' lack of knowledge". Roth is probably stretching it here. It would probably be closer to the truth for Roth to say that some people might actually believe the film because of their lack of knowledge. People are usually more intrigued by a movie that they think is true.
Because of the events in the film, some people have vowed to never visit Slovakia. A comment on an article about "Hostel" reads, "After hostel (sic) I put Bratislava on the list of places i (sic) will never go". Nevertheless, intelligent people tell the difference between a fictional film and reality: they research the claims made in films. Though Slovakia is depicted as a terrible place in the film, those who research it find that the events are completely untrue. But during this research, they also might discover that Slovakia could be a country they would like to visit on vacation. Which is greater – the number of people who have vowed to never visit Slovakia who would have never visited it in the first place, or the number of people who have seen the film who are now intrigued and might visit?
'But the Trailer Says the Film Is "Inspired By True Events"'
In the trailer, the film is tagged as being, "inspired by true events." Baseless assumptions are made when viewers do not take the time to research the background. It should be remembered that "inspired by true events" differs significantly from its distant cousin "based on a true story." The latter suggests that large portions of the film are factual but some parts are fictionalized to create a more interesting film. The former can be excessively vague and suggests that an event happened that inspired the filmmakers to create a fictional story.
Potential tourists considering Slovakia as a destination can rest assured that the events in the film are not inspired by true events that happened in Slovakia. Roth says that he was inspired to create the film after hearing that in Thailand "really, really poor people were selling members of their family to organised crime, then American and European businessmen would pay $10,000 to walk in a room and shoot them in the head". In most parts of the world, some people kill for free, but they usually get caught.
'Is Bratislava Safe?'
From the comments section of an article: "I was planning to visit Slovakia with my family, but after having watched this movie I am never going to set my foot in Slovakia... I have also told all my friends in Chicago to stay away from Slovakia and Bratislava. OK, it is a movie, but I am sure that it is not completely fictional. Why take the risk?".
Do not be afraid: Bratislava is just as safe, if not safer, for tourists than other major European cities. Surely, people are sometimes robbed or pick-pocketed, but Bratislava does not have the connotation of a city where people must watch their wallet. Gangs do exist in Bratislava, but tourists are usually not targets of these groups. Crime happens in every city and Bratislava is no exception. Nevertheless, tourists who are aware of their surroundings generally have no problems.
'How Similar Are Slovak Women?'
The Slovak newspaper SME writes that the film depicts Slovakia as "a backward country, where our beautiful young girls are the lowest whores". The main characters in the film, two Americans and an Icelander, are told they "can pay to do anything" and when the girls "hear your accent, they **** you." I heard this just before I was moving to Bratislava and soon learned that this was fictionalized – go figure. Most Slovak women do not excessively drool over American men. Some might, but I didn't meet any of those, and if I did, the drool never left their mouths. About the accent, in my experience, if you try to speak Slovak but do so with an American accent, they will just most likely not understand you. Nevertheless, you can pay to do quite a lot in Slovakia: they accept money for food, drinks, and accommodation. However, they do not accept dollars. Exchange your money first into Euros.
'How Much Bubble Gum Should I Bring to Pay Off Mobs of Kids?'
"Here are some things I learned about backpacking in Europe from Eli Roth's latest film, Hostel:…If you encounter gangs of children demanding candy, give it to them. Or they'll bash your head in with a rock".
Except in Roma villages where the rumor is that the children will throw rocks at cars unless they are given something, children do not rule the streets of Slovakia. Like in most places, children go to school, do their homework, maybe go to the mall, and like American children, they are taught not to accept candy from strangers. So just bring as much as you need for yourself.
'Does Bratislava Look Like the City in the Film?'
The film never says that it takes place in Bratislava. The tourists in the film are recommended to go to a town outside of Bratislava. Viewers, however, have connected the two when discussing the film. The town in the film looks small and quiet. Bratislava is a large city with both horrendous and beautiful looking buildings and can be noisy in the day, but at night, besides groups of drunken tourists, it is generally quiet.
The Old Town of Bratislava does have cobblestone roads, which are much nicer than those in the film. The city also has a river running through it, but the river in the film is much smaller than the Danube and a bit more picturesque. Hostels certainly are not as large as in the film.
Unlike in the film, television is in color, but usually the shows are in Slovak or Czech – those are in fact the languages that the people speak. Also, many of the trains in Slovakia are more modern than those in the film.
'Please Tell Me the Girls are Topless in the Spas'
Some girls might take off the tops in the spa. It depends what spa it is, how crowded the spa is, and how well you know the girls. In some saunas, people do not wear anything. Typically, people do not go to spas to show others how they look naked; they usually go to relax. So go to relax. Europe has developed a connotation of having nude beaches and nude spas, but tourists should remember that nude does not always mean great.