The Bahnhofsviertel in Frankfurt – roughly translated into “scary red light district full of drunk men, junkies, dealers and women turning tricks’ – is usually avoided by everyone who’s in their right mind.
I used to live near Frankfurt before I moved to Berlin. The city never seemed remarkable or interesting to me, but I would always remember the Bahnhofsviertel as an obnoxious place. It’s not like in Berlin, where the “bad stuff” just spreads all over the city. Here, it’s centered in a realm of 3 or 4 streets. But time has passed, and the district I used to avoid has become a culturally evolving hub for artists, students and – ahem – “the scene”.
At night the streets are lit in neon pink colors to advertise the sex shops, brothels, strip clubs and bars. The backdrop is the fantastic skyline of Frankfurt. During the Bahnhofsviertelnacht – an annual festival for the district – the streets are packed with people having a good time. Mosques, ethnic restaurants, churches, brothels – everything is open and on display.
Of course, the Bahnhofsviertel being trendy now – as the only affordable area in the city center – has not been met without controversy. Gentrification is an issue in Frankfurt as well. Art students from the Städl-Schule, creatives and party-goers all mingle in the Bahnhofsviertel now.
Remarkable places of interest are Plank, a bar in affiliation with the Robert Johnson Club in Offenbach, the Yok Yok Kiosk – a Späti, basically – , and the 25 Hours Levis Hotel, where I got to spent a wonderful night. In relations to Berlin, the Bahnhofsviertel has more in common with Oranienstraße than Simon-Dach, but it’s still weird to see men and women – bankers – in suits mixed with the cool crowd. It’s also ethnically mixed, much more than in Berlin. The scene does not only consist of Western Europeans and Germans. Many young, creative Afghanis, Arabs, Greeks and Turkish are part of the “cool” community as well. In that sense, the Berlin scene can definitely learn from its counterpart in Frankfurt. It’s also interesting that quite many of these kids were born and raised in Frankfurt, while many people who are the leaders of the artistic / creative scenes in Berlin are usually from abroad (or other German cities). What gives?
I visited a couple of times in the last few months and decided to take a few shots of the surroundings. It turned out to be more difficult than I thought, considering that it’s basically strictly forbidden. The privacy of the prostitutes has to be ensured as well as that of the johns. They congregate openly.