History of the STATION – Hostel for Backpackers

Foundation

The STATION – Hostel for Backpackers opened in 1998 and is still privatly owned and managed by the founder today. After a one year experience as a shareholder in a Backpacker Hostel in Berlin which was founded 1997, he started to search for a commercial property in the heart of Cologne. In 1998 this was much harder than expected, prejudices conerning noise, drugs or crime were strongly fixed in the heads of Cologne’s real estate property owners. Due to lucky circumstances a contact to the leading manager of Deutsche Bahn Real Estate Department Cologne came up. He was not only the man with the perfect property on Marzellenstr. 44-48 but also willing to get convinced by a new business model – a Backpacker Hostel! With Mum’s credit and a friend’s share a sum of 80.000,- Deutsche Mark was raised to establish Cologne’ss first independent Hostel (and one of the first in Germany over all).

Opening

On Friday, 14.08.1998, exactly on the beginning of Popkomm (the world’s largest music fair at that time was hosted in Cologne), doors opened for 51 beds in 16 rooms on 4 floors. Success of the concept was very quickly apparant and the vacany rates were much higher than of traditional Cologne Hotels.

Expansion Rheingasse

On 1st of April 2000 a small hotel with a traditional bar on Rheingasse 34 (Altstadt area) was taken over. because there was no option of expansion at the home base in Marzellenstrasse. While the hotel - despite the bad condition of the building but due to the high request in Marzellenstrasse - was directly running well, the bar was a problem for long time. Only the regular SM (sadism-masochism) meeting - which met there for years – filled the bar once a week but shocked some of the asian backpacking girls during their check in procedure. After some DJ teams discovered the place as their Party-HotSpot the Station Bar got a legendary reputation well beyond the city limits. A well deserved shout-out to Katrin, Miriam, Holger, Raphael, Christian, Tom, Martin, ... and all the others who became well established DJ’s in Cologne’s music community. With success the problems showed up as well. The bar was so attractive that on a regular basis up to 150 people were waiting in front oft he door to get in. It didn’t take long until the neighbors complained as well as growing vandalism. We were regularly visited by the local law enforcement and the GEMA (to charge higher rates for music licenses) or several other Institutions which make it harder to run a smooth business.

Expansion Marzellenstrasse / Quitting Rheingasse

When mid of 2003 the 5 upper storeys next door to the home base in Marzellenstrasse 44-48, (means in the building Marzellenstrasse 50-56) were left, and the problems in the Hostel on Rheingasse became bigger due to fire regulations, it was decided to close the place on Rheingasse until 31.12.2005 and expand at the home base instead. Despite a 100 % miscalculated evaluation of the costs by the architect – which would have been a financial disaster without a landlords new credit – after a 6 months construction period doors to Marzellenstrasse 50-56 were opened in spring 2004. In the beginning there was no breakthrough , no connection between both buildings, which means only one stairwell in each building. Due to german fire regulations it was not allowed to have more than 60 beds in each building. Only after a long bureaucratic procedcure it was possible to break through and connect each corridor which means two opposite exits can be used for emergencies. With this constellation it was allowed to realize almost 200 beds in 50 rooms which you still can find today.
But for almost 200 guests you also need lounge and bar areas which didn’t exist. Luckily the 1st floor on Marzellenstrasse 44-48 which was still used by a daughter company of Deutsche Bahn, became available. Not a perfect solution but the only option at all to provide breakfast and drinks for almost 200 people.

Progression of the Service

Also the service for the guest changed in between the last 17 years. While some basics like 24 h reception, no bunks and max. 6 beds per room always stayed other services and comfort constantly developed to higher standard. Today guests can choose for almost all roomtypes between the comfy private bathroom or the budget room with common bathroom on the corridors. All bathbrooms are permanently renovated and equipped with hairdryers. The rooms all got laminate, the corridors an additional carpet to keep the noise of Luggage trolleys or high heel shoes as low as possible. Guests get access to the rooms by an individually programmed electronic keycard. Lockers and safes for valuables can be found on all corridors and are surveiled by a camera system. On the arrival and departure day guests can leave their luggage for free in the luggage rooms which are equipped with lockers as well. To save the budget or to celebrate diner with other guests a fully equipped kitchen is available 24 hours. Even for your business date you can find a washing machine, a dryer and an iron to prepare your shirt well. Today never to miss is the Internet access by provided computers or via Wifi.
During the last 17 years it was a frequent up and down concerning quality of service (which needs to be fairly mentioned as well) and economical situation of the business. Luckily in the right moment the decrease of the VAT down to 7 % helped to do the necessary Investment in amending and extending the hostels service. However you think about the change to the reduced VAT, despite the reduction the independent Hostels still pay 7 % more than the houses of the HI (DJH), which are completely freed from the VAT and enjoy a big advantage in competition on the shoulders of tax payers. Also the total accomodation offer in Cologne became much bigger and diversed. Many years the STATION – Hostel for Backpackers was not only the first but also the only independent Hostel in town. Nowadays not only several smaller Hostels (by which a cooperation is working fine) enrich the market, also the big hostel chains opened an outlet in Cologne. Additionally the hotel market changed as well. How to differentiate between a hotel and a hostel?

The Opening of the STATION – Cafe – Bar – Restaurant

As already mentioned, the gastronomic offer was still the biggest problem to serve up to 200 guests. The improvised breakfast an bar offer was never satisfying. We would have loved to run a bar where we could get locals from Cologne together with the hostel guests, but there was no option to do so. With the opening of the new STATION – Cafe – Bar – Restaurant on the groundfloor of the building on Marzellenstrasse 50-56 several new options are offered. Not only that we can serve daily a rich breakfast buffet on more than 250 squaremeters but also the possibility to serve an original „German Bratwurst“ or other german and international dishes to the guests. Since now our guests had to get out to explore Colognes nightlife. Now the nightlife comes into the Station. The STATION – Bar ist he place where people from Coloigne will meet with travellers from all over the world. Sure that several contacts and friendships will be fixed here in the future. Therefore not only the big Sport events (Bundesliga and Championsleague) shown on the TV will care for but also changing DJ sets and live acts. In summer you can enjoy cold drinks at the pool or in the sandy beach in the big outside area.

The new Entrance and reception

To finalize the Business concept in spring 2016 the reception moved form the neighbourbuilding into the new room attached to the gastronomic area, where the guest already views the bar while checking in and feels welcome for his first Koelschbeer. Wiht the breakthrough from the reception to the stairwell the guests now finally have direct access tot he elevator.
In the former reception and lounge in the neighbourbuilding we established our new conference room (with beamer, big screen, Flipchart, Whiteboards, etc.) which can be booked for up to 40 people for workshops or seminars. The adequate catering from coffee and drinks to a complete 3-course-menue is easily bookable in addition.
Finally, the new STATION – Bar – Cafe – Restaurant completes the STATION Hostels service after almost18 years of improvisation and hopefully cares for a perfect well feeling of the Hostel guests as well as the several locals which will visit the STATION – Bar – Cafe – Restaurant.

Please feel welcome!