The history of Youth Hostels dates back to 1909, when a German teacher Richard Schirrmann recognized a need for night shelter for groups of school children in order to explore the countryside. It was him, who opened the first hostel in the building of the school he worked in, in the town of Altena. It was a perfect object to spend a night in during the summer break when there were no classes and many young people wanted to explore the land. In 1912 it was moved to the nearby castle of Altena, where it still welcomes travellers today, with its excellence and rich history. A few years later, in 1919, Richard Schirrmann founded the first German association of Youth Hostels.
Independent of the German efforts, a Holiday society “Ferijalno društvo Sava” was founded in Slovenia in 1892 and offered budget trips to its members throughout the entire country and sometimes even abroad. Members were making deals with individual farmers to spend the night in the barn, or in a spare room, if there were any. 120 years ago, it was possible for members of the travelling society of the day in Slovenia to receive a budget friendly, or even free of charge.
The movement started developing all over the world and in 1932 in Amsterdam the International Union of Hostels was founded by the name of »International Youth Hostel Federation« with members from Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Poland, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Great Britain, Ireland, France and Belgium. They elected Richard Schirrmann their first president.
The international federation with their chair in the small town of Welwyn Garden City in England has 80 members of national organizations. Apart from them, the Hostelling International includes organizations of associated members and in some cases, it even has its own hostels in countries, where the national organization hasn’t been established yet.
Hostelling International offers over 4.000 hostels in most tourist countries in the world.
And lastly, here are a few words, which were written in 1932 in the founding declaration and are still the main goal of Hostelling International:
»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, to provide hostels or other accommodation in which there shall be no distinctions of race, nationality, colour, religion, sex, class or political opinions and thereby to develop a better understanding of their fellow men, both at home and abroad.«