Evolution of hostels

Can you imagine being woken up at a hostel at 7:30am to chop fire wood or complete your chores before breakfast?

Chore detail had fizzled-out before 2009 when I hostel hopped for several months; spending anywhere from three nights to two weeks at various places. Personally, I enjoyed seeking out the odd ones, like old prisons or sailing ships. But what I discovered recently was, that same year the concept of youth hostels had officially been around for a century!

First youth hostel, Rhine Valley Germany photo/castles.org

Apparently the idea came from Richard Schirrmann who led extended hikes across the German countryside and sought shelter for his group at farms along the way. But on one rainy night in the summer of 1909 Schirrmann and his companions were turned away by a farmer. Though they weren’t forced to resort to sleeping in the rain; it was a close enough call that he dreamed up the vision of widespread dorm-type accommodations. A year later the first youth hostel opened at Altena Castle in Rhine Valley which is still in operation to this day.

In the beginning beds were stuffed with straw, chores part of the payment and everyone was required to be out exploring during daylight hours. But now each one has its own social vibe and offers creature comforts. Hostels actually do more business than large hotel chains and are progressing with demands by offering smaller more private rooms.

How different would backpacking be without hostels? Have you ever done chores while staying at one?

Posted by | Comments (1)  | May 24, 2012
Category: Backpacking, Europe, General, Hostels/Hotels, Notes from the collective travel mind


One Response to “Evolution of hostels”

  1. Aaron Says:

    Chores as a required part of being at a hostel is practically dead, but I’ve done chores while hanging out like helping hang sheets, fixing leaky faucets, moving furniture or cooking meals with the staff. Sometimes, I miss doing things like that while traveling, so it’s fun and relaxing.

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