Friday, June 24, 2011

More on Hosteling

The last time I stayed in a hostel, it was 1977 and I was 22. Well, actually, that’s not quite true. There was that time we stayed at The Pink Palace on Corfu when we backpacked with the children in 1999, but more on that later... Hostels are not a uniquely European idea, although they did begin in the early 1900s in Germany as a means to get young people out of the cities and into the countryside. These clean, simple accommodations that appeal primarily to travelers and backpackers on a budget are now all over the world, including the US. The rooms are generally dorm-style, often with bunk beds, and bathrooms, showers and eating areas are shared. Some hostels now have private (or “family”) rooms for couples and families traveling together. Most that are affiliated with the international hostel association have curfews and strict lights-out policies -— both of which are welcomed after long days of wandering. Hostels may not ooze local charm (Joe commented that if you add armed guards they could be mistaken for prisons), but they’re sanitary (sterile?), safe and cheap. And staying at hostels for a few nights a month will free up the needed funds for treating ourselves to some magical castle hotels along the way. If past experience holds, I often got my best travel tips from fellow hostellers. Where to get the best fondue or prix fixe meal, how to get to a secret, secluded beach and when to visit a museum for free were often common topics over breakfast (almost always included in the price of the bed) at communal tables. And the opportunity at hostels to meet and speak with folks from all over the world can’t be beat. You automatically have traveling in common and I never encountered anyone at a hostel who wasn’t eager to share his or her experiences, both good and bad. I’m looking forward to some hosteling stays to see if much has changed in all these years.

So, just a quick couple closing comments on our stay 12 years ago at the infamous Pink Palace. It technically is a youth hostel (and they let us in at the age of 43 with two adolescents because we had cash and they had empty beds) but no international membership card was needed since it was outside the “official” network. Let’s just say that our children were introduced at early ages to the notion of global partying – not by us – but by the bronzed pink palace youth. When we arrived on the ferry from Brindisi at 6:30am with the sun barely over the horizon, most of the hostel residents were just coming in off the beach for breakfast. I’m afraid we may have permanently scarred Chris (15) and Caroline (12) by exposing them to the young man in a toga passed out, face down, on the beach. He appeared to have run out of steam just short of the stairs to the breakfast room. I recall one of the kids asking, “is that guy dead?” Of course, we replied that he was just sleeping after a night of being over-served, but I’m sure our perceptive children figured out the real story. We stayed two nights at the Pink Palace and at $12 a head including a full, hot breakfast, it was a bargain. We’re not planning for similar hostel experiences this time, but you never know...

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