1st Youth hostel opened in the old castle of Altena,Germany
The First Youth Hosteller Mr.Richard Schirrmann
From hiking trips to the hostelling movement
Richard Schirrmann (1874-1961) was a German school teacher and the first youth hosteller.
He was a believer in learning by direct observation and often took his classes on excursions and hiking trips. The hiking trips could last several days, and Schirrmann and his pupils would find accommodation in farm buildings. On one of these excursions, on 26 August 1909, the group was caught in a thunderstorm. They finally found shelter in a school building in the Bröl Valley. The headmaster let them use a classroom and a farmer gave them some straw to sleep on and some milk for their evening meal. The storm raged the whole night. While the boys slept, Schirrmann lay awake. That was when he had an idea... "The schools in Germany could very well be used to provide accommodation during the holidays. Villages could have a friendly youth hostel, situated a day's walk from each other, to welcome young hikers." That stormy night was when the worldwide youth hostel movement was founded. In 1910 Schirrmann wrote an essay setting out his ideas for "Volksschülerherbergen" (hostels for pupils of ordinary state schools). "Two classrooms will suffice, one for boys and one for girls. Some desks can be stacked away thus freeing space to put down 15 beds. Each bed will consist of a tightly stuffed straw sack and pillow, two sheets and a blanket... Each child will be required to keep his own sleeping place clean and tidy."
First Youth Hostel
In 1912 the first real youth hostel opened in the old castle of Altena.
The castle was restored and equipped according to Schirrmann's design, with two dormitories with massive triple-tier wooden bunks beds, a kitchen, washrooms and a shower bath. The youth hostel movement grew rapidly.There is still a hostel within the castle grounds today and it is possible to visit the original rooms which were used by the very first youth hostellers. More and more hostels appeared and by 1919, Schirrmann had founded the nationwide German Youth Hostel Association. By 1913, already 83 youth hostels and 21 000 overnights were recorded. By 1921 the number of overnights stays had already reached 500 000. By the summer of 1931 there were 12 youth hostel associations in existence in Europe, operating a total of 2 600 hostels, but there was very little contact between the associations.
A worldwide YOUTH HOSTELLING Movement
The outbreak of WWI and his involvement greatly impacted his outlook on world affairs. Mr. Schirrmann served four years with the German army and the Christmas truce between the French and German troops in 1915 left him pondering whether ?Thoughtful young people of all countries could be provided with suitable meeting places where they could get to know each other?
"When the Christmas bells sounded in the villages of the Vosges behind the lines .. something fantastically unmilitary occurred. German and French troops spontaneously made peace and ceased hostilities; they visited each other through disused trench tunnels, and exchanged wine, cognac and cigarettes for Westphalian black bread, biscuits and ham. This suited them so well that they remained good friends even after Christmas was over.
Schirrmann served in a regiment holding a position on the Bernhardstein, one of the mountains of the Vosges - separated from the French troops by a narrow no-man’s-land, which his account describes as "strewn with shattered trees, the ground ploughed up by shellfire, a wilderness of earth, tree-roots and tattered uniforms". Military discipline was soon restored, but Schirrmann pondered over the incident.Having a clear vision, he was tenacious in the pursuit of the establishment of youth hostels. The first youth hostel was in Altena Castle and in 1919 he founded, in Germany, a nationwide youth hostel association. He eventually left his teaching career to focus on hostelling. Having the capacity for transmitting to others the enthusiasm which inspired him, an International Youth Hostelling Association formed. From 1933-1936 Richard Schirrmann held the chair position until forced to resign by the Nazi government. After WWII, he worked on the rebuilding of the German association which earned him the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Federal Cross of Merit) in 1952. This all changed on 20 October 1932 when the first international conference was held at a hotel in Amsterdam. It was attended by representatives from 11 hostel associations: Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England and Wales, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Switzerland.
Statue of at Altena castle
International Youth Hostel Federation
We have more than 4,000 hostels worldwide!
Youth hostels then were very different to as they are now. The idea of doing chores around the hostel during your stay was much the norm, so that hostellers helped out with reception duties, cleaning, cooking and general maintenance within the hostel for the welfare of everyone. That way, the hostel was maintained perfectly with a great community spirit.Today, Hostelling International is the parent hostelling organisation and registered charity for more than 90 Youth Hostel Associations in over 90 countries around the world. We are and always have been a non-profit membership organisation so all our money is ploughed back into the company making the hostelling experience better for everyone. We also work closely with UNESCO with our Youth Hostelling for Peace and International Understanding campaign by helping to promote collaboration between nations and travellers through education, culture and communication.
To promote the education of all young people of all nations, but especially young people of limited means, by encouraging in them a greater knowledge, love and care of the countryside and an appreciation of the cultural values of towns and cities in all parts of the world, and as ancillary thereto, provide hostels or other accommodation in which there shall be no distinctions of race, nationality, colour, religion, sex, class or political opinions and thereby develop a better understanding of their fellow men at home and abroad.
In India, YHAI has a network of more than 95 Youth Hostels, starting from Leh Ladakh, to the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
It includes both, partnered accommodations under the Licensee Youth Hostels scheme, and hostels under the direct administration of YHAI. A property/ hotel can enter to an agreement with YHAI and can become a Licensee Youth Hostel (LYH), after meeting the basic hygiene and safety standards mentioned by YHAI including price, as this is an organization focused to provide budgeted and convenient accommodation to the travelers with limited means.YHAI regularly monitors and reviews the performance of all its hostels to maintain their standards and confirm viability. The hostels majorly provide rooms and dormitories that suit individual, group and family stay.
The National Office is the headquarter of the association and is located in the National Capital of India- Delhi.
It also has 23 State Branches, and more than 300 District Units to provide appropriate and convenient services to all the members, who belong to different regions and part of the country. This also ensures smooth operation of the association.
There are various adventure activities, camps and events in a calendar year that include activities organized by the National Office and the State Branches. The information regarding the programs can be accessed by the website well in advance.
YHAI has a member network of more than 2,00,000 people in the country and has exceeded 1,00, 000 Lifetime members.
YHAI ACHIEVEMENTS The members are the only people who take care of the organization’s operations at different level, as it is an association of volunteers who support the global Hostelling Movement.
Sh. Mohammad Shafi Pandit , I.A.S. (Retd)
(Former Chairman Public Service Commission J&K)
National President ,YHAI
Sh. S. Venkat Narayanan