“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”- famous words by Mark Twain on the soul-stretching experience of travelling.
And, indeed, travelling is the best known and widely celebrated way to expand our horizons as well as to look where we stand not only geographically, but in the metaphysical sense of the phrase.
Travelling is an education of the spirit, heart and mind. A traveller is full of stories and is like a fountain of inspiration and certain calm in the same time, for the more one sees, the more one becomes grateful for what has here and now and the restlessness and anxiety diminish or get replaced by new perspectives.
With the hipster boom and beatnik aesthetics revival, road trip inspired looks are back in vogue and particularly fashionable these days in the Western world. But to travel around the good old Europe, hostels will always be the preferable option for a low cost accommodation and socialising.
The history of hostel is a long one, considering its precedent – the inn – as an establishment along the way, providing shelter and socialising.
The etymology of the word hostel takes us back to the Old French word ostel, which means “house, inn, lodging, shelter”, that was introduced from the Latin hospitale with the same significance of a place of sojourn.
In the English language, both the words hostel and hospital or hospice, to name a house for the reception and entertainment of travellers, appeared firstly in print during the 14th century.
With one of the most famous references coming from 1380s, from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The House of Fame: “Saint Julian, lo, a fine hostel! See here the House of Fame.”
The youth hostel movement began in only 1909, when the German teacher Richard Schirrmann saw the need for overnight accommodation that would give students the chance to travel and experience other parts of the country safely and cheaply.
During an excursions, a sudden rainstorm forced his group to seek shelter in an empty school and Schirmann was stormed by the idea to use schools that were empty during holidays as guest houses for travelling groups of students.
As a result the first Jugendherberge (youth hostel) was opened in 1912, in the beautiful Altena Castle, located in Western Germany.
Characteristically, the hostel was managed by the visitors, as they were doing chores in exchange for accommodation.
By the 1930s, there were more than two thousand hostels in Germany and the idea was spreading across Europe and exported to the US and other countries and the International Youth Hostel Federation was born.
Though the term youth hostel appeared firstly in print in only 1931, in a January issue of The Times, the record shows how the youth hostel movement spread out in the course of just 20 years: “The Youth Hostels Association… It is hoped that this summer there will be 50 hostels where..a night’s lodging may be obtained.”