Though they were born of the same general concept at the University of New Hampshire years ago, Interhostel and Elderhostel today are separate entities. But both cater to the mature traveler looking for more intellectual and cultural satisfaction than is provided on most ordinary tours.
Elderhostel, now headquartered in Boston, is the larger of the two in size and scope and offers domestic as well as international trips and programs. But that will be dealt with in a future column.
This is about Interhostel, now in its seventh year as a Division of Continuing Education of the University of New Hampshire at Durham. The reason: Time is of the essence just to get in on one of the 19 programs it is sponsoring this year.
Though announced only a month ago, already five of the 10 spring and early summer trips are sold out. Reasons are twofold: One, they are usually limited to 30 participants, and two, because of Interhostel's catalogue mailing system, prior participants get first crack. Needless to say, there are many repeaters.
On the Mailing List
So why bother now? For one thing, the remaining tours are still great. And, if nothing else, you get on the mailing list to get an earlier choice of the nine late summer and fall trips when the catalogue comes out in March.
The remaining Interhostel trips: Athens, May 14-28; Jonkoping and Stockholm, Sweden, May 29-June 12; Cork, Ireland, June 23-July 7; Bristol, England, July 1-15; Innsbruck, Austria, July 15-29.
All Interhostel trips are for two weeks and each costs $950 plus air fare. That includes room and board, ground transportation where required, and an extensive program of lectures, excursions and social activities designed to entertain and inform participants about the history, culture and life style of the area.
That these trips are not for everyone is obvious and Interhostel is the first to say so, taking time in its catalogue to explain. Some excerpts from the catalogue:
"Interhostel trips are for the intellectually alert and physically active adults (age 50 or older) who believe that education is a lifelong process . . . . Featured in each country are instructional programs in English, sightseeing, field trips, lecture topics that include history, politics as well as literature, arts and music.
"Accommodations are clean and comfortable, not necessarily fancy . . . meals are typically served cafeteria-style and feature the food of the region.
"Because of the extensive program of activities, free time is limited, precluding extended shopping sprees, optional sightseeing or visiting friends and relatives."
That may seem too regimental, too educational for some. No problem since there are dozens of other European tours offered by other sources to suit such tastes. An Interhostel trip requires a different outlook.
"Don't make it sound too harsh," requested Dr. Edward Durnall of New Hampshire University and an escort on a number of Interhostel trips. "There are no tests or exams. People can sleep in, miss a lecture, do what they want. We just make it so fascinating they don't want to miss a thing."
Space precludes a rundown on all trips so take a look at the one to Cork, Ireland, which was developed for Interhostel by the University of Cork and operated by the staff, although with an Interhostel escort.
Participants will explore Irish history and culture through morning lectures and afternoon excursions, featuring an in-depth look at early and modern Ireland and such Irish writers as Joyce, Yeats, Beckett and O'Casey. Field trips and sightseeing will include Cork and the immediate area, side trips to Kinsale and Cobh from where many an Irish emigrant left for America, Blarney Castle, Killarney, historic Cashel and others.
Limited Number of Singles
Accommodations are in a small hotel close to the campus and even include a limited number of single rooms at no additional charge and either private or semi-private baths.
As of this writing, space was still available to Cork as well as the other destinations mentioned. Unfortunately, like other tours to Greece this year, Interhostel's trip to Athens--a fast sellout in other years--is the only one that may not fill up.
Interhostel's late summer and fall offerings, which will not be on sale until after the March catalogue comes out, include: Leeds and York, England, Aug. 4-18; Stirling, Scotland, Aug. 11-15; Bangor, Wales, Aug. 21-Sept. 4; London, Sept. 3-17; Trier, Germany, Sept. 4-18; Galway, Ireland, Sept. 8-22; Valencia, Spain, Sept. 10-24; Athens, Oct. 1-15; Melbourne, Australia, in November.
All are two weeks, $950 plus air fare, with the exception of the Australian trip which may be slightly higher. Rates and program are still to be firmed for the Australia trip which will leave from the West Coast.
Interhostel, a nonprofit organization, is not available through travel agents, but by mail and phone (no toll-free line, either). For more information, write: University of New Hampshire, Dept. of Continuing Education, Interhostel Program, Brook House, Durham, N.H. 03824. Phone (603) 862-1147 between 1:30 and 4:30 Eastern Time on weekdays.
For whose who wish information on Elderhostel and their catalogue of trips, write: Elderhostel, 80 Boylston St., Suite 200, Boston, Mass. 02116. Phone (617) 426-8056.