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Richard Schirrmann: The man who invented youth hostels

Richard Schirrmann: The man who invented youth hostels

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Hostels span the globe. They are found in cities, in the countryside and by the sea, on all continents. Official or not, hostels, backpacker lodges, dormitories, whatever you want to call them, they have conquered the world. If you've never stayed there, hostels offer something special, best described as a relaxed and informal community atmosphere. They are geared towards young people, but everyone is welcome and people from all backgrounds can mix freely.

Youth hostels owe their existence to one man. It was Richard Schirrmann, a teacher in Germany, who invented them. Caught in a storm while walking with his students in 1909, they took refuge in a school. While his students slept, Richard Schirrmann stayed awake, listening to the storm. He dreamed of a network of simple accommodation, stretching across the countryside, where young people could stay. By moving between these hostels, the children would be in the fresh air. They would walk, exercise and stretch their limbs. Hiking and being close to nature would make them better people.

This story is part of the mythology of youth hostels. When I first worked in a hostel, I heard or read this story somewhere. This fragment made me want to know more. I wanted to know more about this man who invented youth hostels.

Duncan M. Simpson

Format: 11.5x18cm, 76 pages, illustrated

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