Every year, roughly 80,000 travelers from at least ninety countries pass through the doors of HI New York City, the largest hostel in the Americas. Each week, Narratively’s Daniel Krieger will spend a few hours in the landmarked building on New York’s Upper West Side, listening to their stories for our Hostel People series.
Who: Francesco Grothe, 22, Berlin, Germany
What do you do in Germany? I’m a proofreader for one of the most important daily newspapers in Berlin – Der Tagesspiegel. I’m also an instructor of breakdance and hip-hop dance.
Why did you come to New York? I’ve always enjoyed playing board games and card games, and I’m a big fan of the TV series “Game of Thrones.” When they announced there would be a card game of the series from my favorite game publisher, I knew I would play. This past August I went to the German national championships and won all my matches. I destroyed every opponent I played. (I’m a very competitive person.) The prize was that they paid for my trip to the world championships in Roseville, Minnesota, which is where the publisher has its headquarters. I didn’t win. The guy who won was from New York.
What was your first impression of New York? I felt really intimidated by the city. I couldn’t connect with anyone anywhere. I messaged all my friends just to get a feeling of home. Then I decided to see at least a little of the city on my first evening. I went to Times Square because it was the most famous place I knew of. There was a mass of people swimming like fish swarms around me. I got an extreme feeling of being so unimportant in this huge city. I’ve never had that feeling in another place.
Have things improved? Yeah, the next day I needed to go to a safe spot so I looked up that Game of Thrones card game I play, and I found there was a tournament going on the very next day here in New York, at a game cafe in Greenwich Village called The Uncommons. About ten people showed up. The world champion was there. I beat him in the semifinals and won the tournament. It was funny. He asked for a rematch, so I met him later in the week at Rattle N Hum, a bar in Midtown. We played for seven hours – about twelve games, each winning some. But if you want to be mathematical about it, I guess I won more.
What was your New York Moment? Do you know the rapper Nas? He’s from New York. He’s one of my favorite rappers. My favorite song of his is “New York State of Mind.” I always had the idea in my mind that when I made it to New York I would listen to that song while walking through the city. I did exactly that in Washington Square Park. It was a great feeling. I got this huge smile. I just looked up at the sky and felt glad to be alive.
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Come back to Narratively next Wednesday for more Hostel People.
This interview has been edited and condensed. HI NYC management has granted permission for this project, but plays no role in shaping the stories and has no affiliation with Narratively.