Hostelling is always a different experience of travelling. With more than 100 years of experience we really know what travelling is but often it is up to the traveller to discover and to get involved in what we call “the real experience”. We believe that travelling is an experience that happens in the moment.
An example of experiencing hostelling is what I found in Tønsberg, Norway’s eldest city (as it is generally regarded) when I met our hostel managers. Most of the hostel managers within the Hostelling International network are really a treasure, full of experience, motivation and have a real love about travelling and hospitality.
I met Margrethe Horne, Hostel manager of Tonsberg Hostel, first time in our office in London. She was so nice to me and the things we were talking about regarding her hostel were so interesting that when I went to Norway I decided to visit her. She picked me up at the train station and went straight to Tønsberg Vandrerhjem Facebook page.
Immediately I realised how special the hostel is. You have a great feeling just by meeting her and her passion and you fall in love with the hostel as soon as you cross its door. Every piece of the furniture in the hostel has been chosen by Margrethe who has more than 13 years of experience of running the hostel.
She’s found, restored and decorated every little corner and you feel her presence everywhere. She loves design, especially vintage, and collects as many pieces as she can find. She could proudly explain to me where she found every chair, cup, lamp, etc. Most of the pieces would come from YMCA or second hand charity shops or from people from her community that would know how much she would appreciate their stuff.
At the moment, she is focusing in redecorating the bedrooms by adding some personal and simple flavour but always listening to the customer’s suggestions who are only too happy to offer their advice.
She’s also very committed to the local community and participates actively within it. The living room would be a meeting room for the different events and clubs hosted in Tonsberg. If you visit the hostel on Tuesday you will find the sewing group enjoying a nice evening and Marghrete’s fantastic bakes! (If you visit the hostel, just ask for her Brownie, they are the best ever!). Wednesdays, maybe you’ll find the chess group!
She would also explain to you the best things to do around Tonsberg such as the town, harbour or the “end of the world”. She would encourage you to go to the city centre and visit the “New Oseberg Ship” a project developed by the New Oseberg Ship Foundation.
The shipbuilding is taking place in full public view where everybody who wants to follow the exciting work is made to feel welcome. The ship is constructed using the same methods and tools as the Vikings had. Volunteers are welcome to join the team of boat builders, wood carvers, smiths, carpenters, etc for as long as they like and if Margrethe has any room available she would offer it for free to them as she likes to participate in the project as well.
It was a fantastic day, a great experience and my recommendation is that if you like hostelling, just have a chat with their staff and managers to enrich your experience.
When I left and discovered that the hostel was elected the “World’s friendliest hostel and the best in Europe” in 2009, I was not surprised at all and just smiled and looked forward to being back again.
Please visit our Norway Hostels page is you would like to experience the beauty of Norway yourself.