Monday nights at Kosmos – travellers and locals meet up
Not normally anyone’s favorite day of the week, Monday’s in Hamburg have earned a special place in my social calendar.
They begin, like most people’s, with lots of cursing and moaning upon hearing my alarm ringing early in the morning. After a full day at work, which is somehow all the more grueling after two days off, it’s time to head to the gym, eat dinner, and then… Then it gets interesting. Instead of curling up on the couch with a nice cup of tea or a glass of wine like most other nights, I get dressed and head out to a bar. Not just any bar, but Kosmos St. Liederlich. Located on Paul-Roosen-Straße, this small bar next to the kiosk, with its ominous red light and dubious basement back room, doesn’t seem like the kind of place you would find completely full on a Monday night, but Monday nights at Kosmos are special. It is here that over 50 couchsurfers from all around the world meet up to drink, talk, and laugh.
Couchsurfers is a term coined for members of an online organisation called couchsurfing.org. The group focuses on providing homes and contact to locals for travellers all over the globe. Basically, if you are travelling and don’t want to stay in a hotel or hostel, or AirBnB, you message someone on couchsurfing. If they have time and an open slot on their sofa or guest bed, you can stay there. The concept works just as well for locals with a couch, and the site has created a large international community. The Monday night event, called Monday Nights at Kosmos, is organized by Abroad, a group of four young couchsurfers based in Hamburg, who wanted to create a way for young travellers and locals to meet up. This is exactly what happens here. The magic of Monday night’s begins with Clemens, the bartender who knows every regulars drink order, and there are over 30 of them! After getting a beer and a shot for 3 Euros, most newbies head over to a corner table to quietly sip their beer and figure out who they can talk to. Typically after a shot and half a beer they are able to overcome their shyness, and quietly ask the person sitting closest to them if they too are there for the couchsurfing event.
They almost always are, and the newbie is very quickly pulled into the conversation. The atmosphere here is extremely welcoming, everyone here has a story to tell and wants to hear yours. Some of the regulars jokingly refer to it as their living room, and that comparison hits the nail on the head. Many of my friends head over to Kosmos on Monday if they want to see me, knowing that I’ll be sitting at my table drinking a Weissweinschorle, or that Tom will be in the back drinking a beer, or Oliver in the front window drinking an Augustiner. Even if you don’t know anyone there, there is no need to worry. Man or woman, young or old, traveller or local, everyone is just truly and honestly friendly, and everyone wants to get to know everyone. There is a range of ages, from 18 to 55, and people from all over the world show up, although the locals tend to outnumber the travellers. I’ve been coming here for over three years, and even though I’ve slowly gotten to know every single one of the regulars, the newbies are the ones who keep it interesting.
There is always a nice mixture of born and raised Hamburgers, the locals who have lived here for their whole lives, foreigners who have either just arrived in Hamburg or who have lived here for many, many years, and passers by, travellers who are just in Hamburg for a night or two.
The nice mix of customers here is a reminder on the large mix of cultures constantly developing in Hamburg, and demonstrates one of the best aspects of city life, the ability of many people from all walks of life are able to communicate with each other and develop friendships. Newcomers are always heartily welcomed, and conversations can be heard in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Russian, English, and German. The one rule on Monday nights? You can’t ask anyone where they come from or what they do in Hamburg, if you break the rule you pay for their next drink! At three Euros per drink this may not break the bank, but the amount of new people you meet every night can mean quite a few drink purchases. Of course, the drinks you buy for them pay for themselves, as the conversations that develop as a result of the paid debt are more than worth it. On warm summer nights, and semi-warm spring and autumn nights, everyone gathers around the three tables in front of the bar, pulling the benches as close together as possible and sitting on each others laps to make more room. During the winter, everyone gathers in the back basement room, another unexpectedly popular area.
The front of the bar is smoke free, and those who venture towards the back do so with the knowledge that the clothes they are wearing will smell like smoke when they leave, and their hair will need to be washed before going to work the next morning. The walls in the backroom are painted with a mural depicting a dreamy Kiez, with buildings breaking out of a wall, and planets hovering around, and the art is well worth a closer view. Even though there is a drink deal on the Moraviar Pils, the Moscow Mule here and the Polnischen Sommer are super delicious and well worth the slightly longer wait (a beer can be tapped quite quickly, long drinks and cocktails require a little more finesse). All the long drinks are made by hand, with free pouring, which makes the question “Do you want your drink sweet or sour” have all the more meaning. If you have work early the next morning, please say sweet, the bartenders tend to be very generous with the sour drinks! Everyone hangs out around here until about 23:30, when people begin to straggle towards the train station in order to catch the last train. Those who live around St. Pauli and those who don’t care about the last train have been known to stay until 3 am.
The vast majority of my friendships in Hamburg were made over a beer and a shot at Kosmos, and there has never been a night that wasn’t worth it come Tuesday morning at 6:30. So whether you live in Hamburg and have never left, just arrived in Hamburg, or are merely here for a night, if you don’t have anything to do on a Monday night, you do now!
KOSMOS St. Liederlich