The Glühweinstand was a project I started back in the dark days of winter 2010 whilst working for the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Campus Buch. The campus, home to some 3-4000 employees, was nonetheless a rather lonely place back then without much provision for campus inhabitants to socialise. A factory-like cafeteria with very limited opening hours and a small, very formal, privately-run cafe/restaurant that primarily catered to off-campus customers were the only place to get food on campus. The Friday beer session, launched a year or so earlier and organised in a totally grassroots way by a research assistant (Matt) and a PhD student (Tiago) from one of the most isolated labs, was the one beacon of community on the campus.
The Glühweinstand, opening for the first time in 2010, was born of the need for a little christmas cheer and a place to meet on the campus. It was an annual volunteer-run operation supplying piping hot after-work Glühwein and non-alcoholic Kinderpunsch to chilly Campusmitarbeiter for the entire Advent period, weekdays from 15:30 until 19:30 (occasionally later) over 2 shifts. All profits went to Klik Kontaktladen – a community and health center for homeless young people in Berlin to support the great work they do.
From the beginning it was a no-budget project. Thanks to amazing support from the MDC Construction Department – who were the first to believe in the idea – it evolved over the 6 years through several borrowed, repurposed Bürocontainers to finally find a home in a proper little Weinachtsmarkt Hütte (second-hand), fully-fitted out by the MDC Central Services caretakers. Greenery and decorations were contributed by the campus gardeners. Equipment and stock were bootstrapped by the Beer session coffers (a big bag of coins that nobody could bring themselves to pay the beer-delivery service with) until they could be paid off by the takings. Even the nice lady at the Großmarkt gave me a special Glühwein price and free delivery.
Now the community part. We had no shortage of drinkers, but recruiting enough volunteers to cover the shifts was tough for the first couple of years – I’d often end up covering shifts myself. It took a while for the attraction of standing in the cold for 2 hours to become apparent. But eventually, with the prospect of raising money for a good cause, the whole Germanness of the experience, the seasonal cameraderie, and a little healthy competition for best Glühwein sales, the project took root in peoples’ hearts and it took off. From around the 4th year on I’d get calls and emails in late November the minute the caretakers wheeled the hut out of storage, a couple of times even weeks before.
Next to the campus bus stop it was a perfect spot to stop off and catch up with colleagues and friends on your way home, warm yourself by the fire, listen to bad christmas music, and let one bus after another leave without you. It became the thing to tie your initiatives in to if you wanted to gain visibility, for example the ‘bring your own cup’ campaign from the MDC Green Campus ambassadors who introduced biotech company-sponsored china cups to reduce paper waste.
It was a project that belonged to and was supported by the entire campus. I’m proud to say that over 6 years the project raised a total of €10 780 for Klik and grew to be a well-loved tradition for the campus community, which grew alongside it.