Though it got off to a slow start, World Youth Day organizers found enough places for visitors to sleep. Most are staying in schools and people's homes, but a mosque, a farm and IKEA have all welcomed pilgrims.
All of these people will need a place to stay when they reach Cologne
The World Youth Day's requirements were none too stringent -- only a toilet, a place to wash and enough space to spread out a ground mat -- but putting up 375,000 young visitors from more than 120 different countries could be an managerial nightmare, even for an organization the size of the Catholic Church.
Pilgrims staying in mosques
A World Youth Day spokeswoman told the Süddeutsche Zeitung this week that organizers had reached a "comforting buffer" of places for the pilgrims to sleep, but the situation didn't look so rosy when the campaign got under way in July 2004. Organizers lacked beds and there was only a thin stream of people volunteering to house the influx of pilgrims.
World Youth Day organizers did demand more space than Paraguayan youths had at the Virgin Day Celebration in 2003
"It was relatively difficult to find places for people to stay at the beginning," said Stefan Kirschbaum, who was responsible for finding accommodation for 160 pilgrims in Solingen. "But the closer we got to the actual event, the easier it became and in the end we have what we hoped for."
Though most of the visiting pilgrims are being housed in 1,034 schools and 604 gymnasiums with another 90,000 being welcomed into people's homes WYD organizers also accepted offers of accommodation from a mosque, which was willing to house 59 male pilgrims and organize a barbecue for the group's men and women, who are sleeping in a nearby gym.
IKEA joins in housing visitors
The Swedish furniture giant IKEA also offered its beds to the 350 youths from France, Italy England and Germany for the extent of the World Youth Day's events. The visitors, however, will have to assemble the beds themselves.
IKEA craftsman hope all the parts were included
Though they won't have to struggle with IKEA's instructions and tiny allen wrenches, 55 pilgrims from Lithuania may wish for a soft mattress when they take to the stable that normally protect farmer Hagen's cows from the elements. But no one at IKEA will be able to enjoy Mrs. Hagen's homemade marmalade or a welcoming camp fire, Mr. Hagen told the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit.
Most of the pilgrims will be arriving Aug. 15, and while they were informed that they would have to leave their hosts after the World Youth Day, how individual hosts choose to deal with people guests who would like to turn their pilgrimage into a vacation is up to them, Kirschbaum said.
Disclaimer: Deutsche Welle is a media partner of World Youth Day 2005