Absalon – good company when traveling solo
Is it a church? A club? A café? A bit of all three and something else as well. Absalon is different - far from being a church, even if the building is a former church, far from being a club as it’s open to everyone, and much more than just a café, although you can eat and drink here, morning, noon and night.
The people who founded it call it a house for people, or an “extended living room”, and the aim is to create a place where people can meet each other via activities. Over a game of table tennis, a board game, or simply spending an hour on your laptop in the company of others, you can forge new relationships and a sense of community, even if you’re only in Copenhagen for a quick visit.
“If I were traveling, I think it would be great to find a place like this to hang out for a while,” says Rebecca Lajboschitz, who is part of the family behind Absalon. “You can easily get talking to someone, obtain some local insider knowledge and advice that can turn your trip into a completely different experience,” she says.
It’s exactly the kind of place to go to when you are new to the city and need some company, throw some shapes or be creative. The events calendar is packed with all sorts of possible and improbable activities - from Paint & Wine, life drawing and linoleum printmaking to making bowls with boobs(!), morning dancing, podcast workshops, a running club and backgammon. You can sign in whenever you like and it costs no more than a large mug of coffee.
“It's brilliant to make something together and be inspired by each other. We experiment a bit and see what works and sometimes we’re really surprised by the results. For example, old fashioned linoleum printmaking, pottery and life drawing, are very physical and tactile activities, that can instantly appeal to new people, when they are presented with a twist.”
Absalon has even managed to make bingo evenings cool with themes such as boy bands, drag and Game of Thrones.
“Bingo can seem pretty daft, but we make sure we tweak things so they are a bit different. And it’s fun when 200 people enjoy a common experience, singing and laughing over a song together. That really makes life worth living,” says Lajboschitz.
The value of social communities is at the very heart of Absalon’s existence. The aim is to start a social revolution on a small scale by encouraging involvement and interaction between people on an individual level. The hope is that other people will be inspired to open similar locations, so the revolution can spread. Which is why the location should also be able to be financially sustainable.
“We want to show by example that this kind of venture is viable and give other people the courage to do something similar. We therefore steer clear of support, donations and volunteering,” says Lajboschitz.
“Having said that, independence is important in being able to run the place on our own terms and give it its own special identity. The personal side is manifested in the interior design – that we don’t have practical, institutional furniture, but recycled chairs from K.B. Hallen, a multipurpose venue in the Frederiksberg district of Copenhagen dating from 1938, unmatched plates and hand made posters – and our personnel are chosen for their gravity and natural ability to have presence, rather than because they are the world’s best barista. We prefer a cheerful amateur than an unbending professional.”
With over 700 daily visitors, Absalon is clearly meeting a contemporary need. Not least the communal dining for 200 people which is incredibly popular.
“I think this is because you get a sense of being at home when we eat together. Everyone eats the same food, the trays and bowls get passed around the tables and we all make sure everyone gets some. We help each other and chat together, and the food is priced to ensure you don’t need to be a high earner to eat here. Even so, the food is delicious, and probably exceeds diner expectations. The thinking behind this is that people will feel more generous if they get more than they expected. Maybe you will feel like buying a bottle of wine and sharing it with others, and you also often see people buying dessert for all their table,” says Lajboschitz.
“In Denmark, everything can very well be planned, and we tend not to talk to strangers. But here, you have to be in contact with each other. For example, we don’t have loads of signs for the WCs and WiFi code – you have to ask someone.
And then suddenly you’re not that too distant from each other.”
Sønder Boulevard 73, København V
Published: March 18, 2019