Our conference was hosted entirely by the [http://heidelberg.jugendherberge.de/en/Portrait Jugendherberge Heidelberg International] youth hostel, where most of our attendees also slept and ate.
Before we start talking about the building and surroundings of this conference location, which we found to be ideal, the staff of the youth hostel deserve a special mention. Starting with the planning and negotiation process, we found we were dealing with a reliable and experienced partner whose primary interest seemed to be the successful running of our conference. Throughout the conference, we were supported by helpful and friendly staff, and the venue management didn't complain once about sundry ad-hoc requests or needs. Even before we fitted the staff with conference t-shirts did they were already occasionally speaking of "us" when they meant "you" and took genuine interest in what we were doing. A lot of the success of our conference is to be attributed to them, thank you!
The modern building provides eleven conference rooms, all of which we used: the largest two were the main talk rooms, the third was good for larger discussion rounds, and the other rooms were available for ad-hoc meetings and workshops. We should say straight away that these smaller meeting rooms, which are designed to hold 16–20 people, were often rather too small for the numbers of people attracted to some of the workshops we put in them.
Hacking was done all over the venue in the many available, open and well-lit spaces. This was made possible by the reliable wireless LAN that we were able to install covering almost all of the venue, including the outside areas: a courtyard, a beergarden installed specifically for us, as well as an "outside hacklab" in the space beneath the largest talk room. Due to the number of kids running around, we declared two conference rooms and the TV room to be quiet hacklabs.
Speaking of kids, this venue was a fantastic, family-friendly choice, and that's not only due to the well stocked playroom in a central location, and the zoo right next door. The open spaces also made it easy for families to be around people, mostly sound-proof rooms made night-time bearable, and fences around the outside areas allowed parents to relax while children roamed more or less freely.
We had negotiated exclusive use of the venue, which paid off as we slowly took over the building and made it our home for the week. We occupied up to 368 of their 447 beds, allowing for couples and families to have their privacy in the available 2/3/4/6-bed rooms. These rooms were all basic and clean, with en-suite bathrooms. Bed sheets were provided and had to be applied and stripped ourselves, and towels were available for rent. No soap was provided, though, which we rectified out of our own budget.
Distances weren't long, so going between talk rooms, or for a quick nap, or to fetch something from your room was easily possible between events. The centrally located cafeteria added to the feeling of all being together in one place, but the venue almost never seemed crowded, this despite there being as many as 525 attendees on site. The only real exception being the traditional cheese&wine party, which was the convivial scrum one can expect as several hundred people are given the chance to sample hundreds of permutations of cheeses and wines.
Downstairs were locker rooms, table tennis and football tables, laundry facilities, as well as a disco. We installed a karaoke machine there and rumours have it that sometimes, morning housekeeping would still be listening to songs sung.
In conclusion, this was a nigh perfect conference venue for DebConf, and we can warmly recommend it to anyone looking to organise a similar conference of similar size.
(should come from annex.debconf.org, but I can't access that sensibly right now)
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- maybe https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipPxzmJzvYAYu74lvoN0Up31Y0gzw_bvJJs_JTZVMkfJFZnLGz-KTJhHhWQS4VnmrA/photo/AF1QipM2SYzP2Gt3TeZ4komkUVt5bcW9ZRExm-_xU8XB?key=R0ZkUGhGZjZrYVBmeUx2a3hxZE5JZ2VyZ3Z6QkNB