Frankfurt: Bahnhofsviertel

by Sara · 21.08.2013 · Escapism · 2 comments

While Frank­furt suf­fers from a very “clean” repu­ta­tion as Ger­manys cen­ter of fin­ance (and gen­er­ally being a typ­ical orderly Ger­man city), there’s at least one dis­trict that has been excluded from this notion. The Bahnhof­s­vier­tel — 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 5 years ago. 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. This here in Frank­furt is ser­i­ous, gritty shit, and it’s all 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”. 

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 to even remem­ber what you saw. The pri­vacy of the pros­ti­tutes has to be ensured as well as that of the johns. They con­greg­ate openly on the streets. Not to for­get the addicts who stand in line at the meth­adone clinic. I wouldn’t care if it was for­bid­den — I’m a rebel like that — but get caught and you’ll face the pave­ment. There is enough secur­ity to ensure you can’t take a proper pic­ture, espe­cially at night.

Nat­ur­ally people are pre­pared for the influx of inter­ested young people: already they are throw­ing around with big words like “gentri­fic­a­tion”, because with every new bar that opens, and with every gal­lery that moves closer, the already super-high rent prices (Ber­lin rents are a big joke com­pared to what you’d have to pay in Frank­furts hot­spots) will rise and throw out the last of those who had tried to stay in the city center. 

The atmo­sphere of the Bahnhof­s­vier­tel is mes­mer­iz­ing. At night the streets are lit in neon pink col­ors to advert­ise the sex shops, brothels, strip clubs and bars. The back­drop is a fant­astic sky­line of Frank­furt. Dur­ing the Bahnhof­s­vier­telnacht — an annual fest­ival for the dis­trict — the streets are packed with people hav­ing a good time, as if the red light belongs to the scenery. That’s like throw­ing a party down at the worst cut of Pots­damer Straße, but it works out here. Mosques, eth­nic res­taur­ants, churches, brothels — everything is open and on dis­play. One gets the feel­ing that even with all the gentri­fic­a­tion con­flicts, some­how it all comes together here.

Remark­able places of interest are Plank, a bar in affil­i­ation with the Robert John­son Club, the Yok Yok Kiosk  (basic­ally the only Späti in Frank­furt that I can think of; and like in Ber­lin, people love to hang out at the Späti!), and the 25 Hours Levis Hotel, where I got to spent a won­der­ful wild 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. Also, Frank­furt is so over­whelm­ingly Ger­man that you have to be pre­pared for it. 

In front of Plank

25HOURS Hotel

  1. i used to be at the Bahnhofvier­tel 2/3 times a week, but that’s nearly 10 years ago. feels like an etern­aty if i now think about it. but time does not stand still, i’m get­ting older (and wiser) and the streets are not the same anymore.

    i always liked the way it was back then. ever­body knew how to keep clean and stay alive. every­one knew where they stood and where they belonged too.

    nowadays with all the money com­ming in and the hard times the old crowd faces it gets more dif­fi­cult and less fun.

    but then again — it all depends on how you define fun, right?

  2. I live right on Kais­er­straße now and it’s not as bad as people think. I get a lot of guys star­ing at my boobs and stuff — it seems people have less man­ners around the area. And I get sad see­ing the young girls on the corners. But I think if I looked closer in Lon­don, I’d see the same. It really is becom­ing the “scene” in Frank­furt, maybe it’ll take over from Bornheim to be “the place to be”.