24-Hour Room Service: Jumbo Hostel, Stockholm-Arlanda, Sweden
Saturday 17 January 2009
I regret going to the Jumbo Hostel alone. Not because travelling solo detracts in any way from the glorious absurdity of sleeping in a jumbo jet parked on the end of a runway at Stockholm's busiest airport. Not because of loneliness: the staff, in their retro airline outfits, couldn't be friendlier. And certainly not because of any desire to get married out on the wing, although that option is available to guests who are so inclined. No, my regret lies in wasting the opportunity to cosy up in the romantic penthouse cockpit, thereby missing out not only on the private bathroom, but on an all-too-rare opportunity to get a pilot's-eye view of the world (alright, an airport) from the front of an aeroplane.
It is kitsch-appeal that elevates this from poky hostel to desirable destination. Yes, it is useful to stay so close to an early morning departure, and certainly a much more interesting option than the standard soulless airport hotel – the poor Radisson opposite now looks distinctly dowdy by comparison. But it is the style and Scandinavian attention to detail, not the short commute, that really makes the place.
Plane-spotters will be in heaven, if not actually in the sky. Built in 1976, this 747 was once in the PanAm fleet. Rescued from rusting obscurity by the energetic Oscar Dios, who owns several other hostels in the region, it has been converted with a keen sensitivity to the glamour of its heyday. The cream, blue and orange decor smacks of the livery so beloved of airlines in the 1970s. Refurbished seats in the downstairs café and private top-deck lounge hark back to a time of greater legroom. Meals are microwaved; mood music tinkles in the background.
Perhaps because I'm conditioned to the limited space of today's air travel, it doesn't feel cramped. Rather, hanging out in the public areas is like being transported into first class – without having to haggle for the upgrade. And you don't have to tie the knot to venture out on the wing, although the weather was too bad during my visit. On sunny days, it's possible to take a coffee and cinnamon bun outdoors and watch as the first jets roar into life, soaring up and away into the Swedish-blue sky.
Jumbo Hostel, Jumbovagen 4, Stockholm-Arlanda Airport, Sweden (00 46 8 593 604 00; jumbohostel.com).
Time from international airport: Let's put it this way: were it not for spoilsport international airport regulations, one could stride regally across the runway from one's bedroom to one's departing flight. Not nearly as impressive but just as easy, the free airport bus will have you at departures in minutes. From here, it's 20 minutes into the centre of Stockholm on the Arlanda Express train (arlandaexpress.com) for Skr240-420 (£20-35) return, depending on length of stay; or 40 minutes on the bus (flygbussarna.se) for Skr199 (£16.60) return.
Each of the 25 rooms seems more spacious than the six-square-metre footprint advertised, thanks to their height; with no need for oxygen masks, the ceilings have been reconstructed high up in the hull. Most rooms have a comfy double bed and single bunk – although three adults would find the space a little tight, this does make them suitable for couples or friends. A couple of four-bed dorms are available for single travellers not wishing to book a room, while two additional rooms have disabled access. All but the cockpit share six shower pods and a communal sink area in the tail; the fact that this is also an echo chamber goes some way to making up for any queues. Furniture in the rooms is calmingly sparse and streamlined. The overhead lockers have been saved and repositioned as cupboards, while flatscreen TVs in every room also function as live departure boards.
Freebies: Soap and shower- gel dispensers are the full extent of the freebies on offer; this is a hostel, after all.
Keeping in touch: This being the retro-future, wireless internet access is free.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Triple rooms are Skr1,350 (£112); dorm beds Skr350 (£29). The cockpit double is Skr3,300 (£275), bathroom and breakfast included.
I'm not paying that: this isn't the only structure round here that's been converted into a hostel: bed down in a refurbished 19th-century prison on Langholmen island in the centre of Stockholm. A dorm bed in a cell without private bath costs Skr230 (£19). Langholmen Hostel (00 46 8 720 85 00; langholmen.com).
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