Chicago hostel has a birthday
and I went to the party
06/23/2010 9:31 PM
Ten years ago, 40 people chomping at the bit stood outside the Chicago hostel at Congress and Wabash, waiting to see if it would get its certificate of occupancy that very day. It did. And the rest has been hot hostel history in our fair city. The hostel serves hundreds of visitors at any given time--and has provided 80,000 visitor overnights during its lifetime. It has literally brought the world to Chicago.
Tonight the hostel celebrated its anniversary with a lively open house, tours of the meeting rooms and the sleeping rooms and the bunk beds. There was a lot of food courtesy of nearby places like Dairy Queen and Pauly's Pizza, tarot card readings, Japanese Origami, international music--and drumming, raffle prizes, door prizes, a silent auction and much more.
During the festivities, everyone was ordered to stay away from the huge picture windows lining the south walls, because Chicago had turned on its tornado warning sirens (twice in fact) as the rain came down in thick sheets for a long time. It was disconcerting. I wasn’t able to peer into the passing CTA trains--which would have been a novelty because when I am on the trains I usually peer into the hostel.
I was at the party much longer than I had planned because of the weather--but I wasn’t bored because I had time to learn a lot about this nifty spot right in the neighborhood. I was disappointed, however, that I didn’t win a couple of passes to the Willis Tower glass ledge that I had my heart set on when I bought the raffle tickets.
I did, though, have plenty of time to study all the brochures the hostel harbors for its guests, detailing all the sights and sounds in Chicago. I had plenty of time to compare the brochures from the Willis Tower perch and the John Hancock skywalk--and I learned they are in stiff competition. The Hancock has the chutzpah to claim it is located on the “chic side of Chicago.” And Willis dares you “to walk on air.”
It only costs $33 a night to stay at the hostel--one of the few of its kind in the country--although you are in a room with a bunch of strangers (unless you reserve with a group of friends or relatives who want to stick together). And you share bathrooms and kitchens and bedroom air with up to 10 people. And what if someone you don’t even know snores or talks in their sleep or does something else embarrassing or sickening or unhealthful? All kinds of scenarios went through my mind as I toured the slightly seedy facilities.
Another thing I learned is that hostel visitors are provided a simple breakfast each morning and are also given the opportunity to store--and cook--their own food on the premises, as long as the food has a name on it. According to the staff, there are never any problems. Everyone respects everyone else’s food.
This is not exactly something that would appeal to me. But I suppose young people around the world like this sort of inexpensive adventure, as do adventurous older people.
I like to vacation in my own city--visiting places like the hostel while celebrating its anniversary during a tornado watch--and then return home to my very own amenities.