TRAVEL THURSDAY: Baltimore's Habor, Hot Guys, & Hostels
This past weekend, I went to Baltimore and had an eventful time.
I visited the Charm City to be a panelist and program participant of BaltiCon, a 51-year-old Sci Fi convention.
I was invited to be a part of this year’s convention because they wanted more of an LGBTQ presence, and I quickly said yes.
My weekend was full of fun events, from exploring BaltiCon, to staying at a hostel, to visiting the city’s big leather bar, to triumphs and fails with public transport, and more.
Friday - Bus Rides & Hostel
As soon as I got off the Greyhound from Philly, I had to figure out how to get myself from the station to my hostel (yes, hostel) just short of the harbor. Either I could use Uber, or I could get myself a ride on the bus. For some reason, I chose the bus.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Hostel Devin? A hostel?”
But, it was a REALLY nice one. The place looked like a trendy/hipster paradise. The main living room had a grand piano, giant windows, a fire place, comfortable couches, chandeliers, a flat screen tv, and indie music playing in the background.
Now, I got the place because it was cheap at $30 nights and it offered free breakfast, but I didn’t realize that I had lucked out.
I quickly check in and got to my room. The rooms are separated as 12 men, 12 women, and 8 co-ed. I stayed in the 12 men room the first night.
As soon as I walked in, the room was empty except for one guy. It was cute dude about my age (22) with a Twunk build (muscular but still a little slim). He wore a tank top that just made me want to stare at him longer.
We exchanged greetings and pleasantries and we asked where each other was from. He said he was from Korea. I could tell that he wasn’t great at English, but he carried the conversation well enough.
I looked around at the room, 6 bunk beds and one bathroom, and saw it was pretty clean. I was l was also happy to see that everyone left their stuff on their beds or on the floor.
If you’re looking for more of an up class stay, this isn’t the place for you. But if you’re looking for something cheap, clean, and trendy, go to the HI Baltimore. It’s a great choice.
I then dropped by duffle bag on my bed, said goodbye to the hot guy from Korea, and headed to the Renaissance Hotel where the convention was happening.
Friday – Balticon and Public Transport
Along the way to the hotel, I stopped by the Charles metro station to get a Charm Card. Being familiar with Philly’s public transport, I understood it to be a lot like the Septa Key. You buy the pass and then you can load up funds or day passes on it.
I then walked over to the Rennissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, which was right on the harbor by one street, and walked into Balticon.
My first panel was "Intro to Anime" and it went smoothly. Then, I quickly left the hotel again.
I had some family who lived in the area, so I decided to go visit them. I walked back over to the Metro station, used my Charm card, and got on the subway.
If you have ever taken a public transit train or bus, you can figure your way around Baltimore’s transit routes. They’re fairly simple and similar to other transits I’ve taken.
Friday - Family Time & Empty Streets
It was during my ride back after hours of family time and cookout food, that I saw my first problem with Baltimore.
I told my cousins that I was just gonna take the train back and they wouldn’t hear it. They were like, “It’s not safe! If I hear you on the news!”
I scoffed at that (I’m from Philly after all), but accepted a ride back anyway. On the way, I saw that Baltimore is EMPTY at night. Maybe they’re all really on to something...
From there, I got back to my hostel and got in bed. The rest of the guys sharing the room were there for a music festival. They dressed like typical heavy metal fans with long hair, slim or muscular bodies, and dark/ripped clothing. And most of them were in their twenties.
Because they were at a festival, they got in around the same time I did and it honestly felt like a dorm room. A bunch of young guys joking around and having fun. I loved it.
(Also, the Korean dude slept in his underwear. So that was a little bonus).
Saturday – Balticon Again
Saturday morning, I got up to go eat and was greeted with a simple but efficient continental breakfast (though, I woke up too late for pancakes).
Then, I did a little work in the living room, packed my stuff up, said goodbye to the hot Korean guy (who wore one of those tanks that cuts deep on the sides), checked out, and headed back to the convention.
I only had one panel and then I went around and explored everything I could.
I took part in a life drawing workshop even though I hadn't drawn in years, I watched anime in the anime room, I listened to panels like how to create a podcast and thoughts on the cultural impact of Doctor Who. I had a good time.
But, as time got around 7 pm, I started to get a little tired. I’d been moving around for a while, and needed a break. I decided to head up to my motel for the night.
Saturday - A Leather Bar
Sadly, the hostel was booked for Saturday night, so I couldn’t stay there. But, a motel that was a little more expensive (about $60 something bucks), was available.
I took a bus up there. (By the way, there are a few free bus rides in Baltimore. They’re called the purple and orange routes. Look them up if you are ever in Baltimore and want to travel in the city for cheap).
I then got to my motel, checked in, and relaxed.
Later, I found out that there was a leather bar just a round the corner from the motel. Only a 5 minute walk. I decided to investigate.
But, this post is already pretty long, and that story deserves a long post of its own. If you want to read about my adventures in the Baltimore Eagle, check out my post at Gay Pop Buzz.
At the start of Sunday, I “tried” to take a bus down in order to get to my 9 am panel, but Google Maps decided ot play a trick on me and making me miss my bus. I then had to wait 20-40 minutes for the next bus and was 10 mins late to my panel.
I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon hanging out at the convention. I took part in panels like, “What Diversity Is Good For,” “LGBTQ Themes in Anime,” “Queer Science Fiction,” and more.
I also sat on art auctions, film festivals, more anime screenings, and erotic story competitions.
Then around 4, I walked back to the hostel and checked into a co-ed room.
When I got there a man with an european accent greeted me. We got to talking and shared that we were both there for conventions. Me for Balticon, and him for a tech convention he was speaking at. He then headed off to his convention while I figured out where I wanted to eat.
I asked the guy at the front desk about cheap places nearby and he told me about Tabor, an Ethiopian restaurant.
I went and ordered a plate where they put vegetable sides (collard greens, spicy red lentils, sweet potatoes, etc) on a large plate of sour bread called injera. All of which, you eat with your hands.
It was a new cultural experience, a new culinary experience, and only 10 dollars!
After that, I headed back to the convention to be in more panels, watch more panels, and end up playing the game Werewolf until 2 am.
My only problem with that day, and Baltimore as a whole, was that on the walk back I realized that Baltimore still empty at night. In a 10-15 minute walk, I passed 2 people.
No city should be that empty.
Lastly, there was Monday.
Monday morning, I woke up early to ensure I got pancakes. (They were delicious).
I then met up with the tech guy again and talked to him a little more. He seemed like a really nice guy, and we got along wel..
Just when I thought that was that, I went ot the living room to do some work and out he comes. He sat down at the piano and suddenly started playing a song.
After that beautiful performance, he left to go give another lecture and I checked out of the hostel for the last time.
I enjoyed a few final hours at Balticon and then took and Uber (after another failed attempt at using public transit) to the Greyhound station.
I had a jam-packed weekend in Baltimore.
In fact, I ended up skimming parts because I didn’t want this post to get any longer.
The charm city has a lot going on. From multiple conventions and festivals, to convenient (but often late) transportation, to a trendy and comforting hostel, and great dives to go eat/dance.
While I don’t think I’m ready to pack up and live there, I’d certainly go visit again (and stay at that hostel).