What the (Frank)fuck?
I was in the south of France and needed to get to Berlin. With my mind in full stinge mode and my hobo budget in check, I came to the decision that I would fly with Ryanair to Frankfurt Hahn airport, stay for a night, and then get a share car the rest of the way. Upon touchdown, I unfortunately made the discovery that Frankfurt Hahn airport was nowhere near Frankfurt at all and that I would have to dish out 14 euro on a two-hour bus ride to get myself into town. With the cost of flight, a bus, a hostel and an eventual journey to Berlin, it would have sufficed to turn off hobo brain for a day and just fly there directly.
I arrived just after 9pm. The bus dropped me off about 100m from the door to my hostel, so I got in quick, put all my shit down and headed straight back out to tend my grumbling stomach. With a vague idea of where to go from vague instructions the woman sitting on the computer at the hostel desk with a vague face gave me, I turned the first corner. Up ahead, I spotted a group of people: some standing, some crouching and some in full sprawl right on the footpath.
Woah! I thought to myself. Just after 9 on a Monday night and there’s already people laying in their vomit? This town likes to party!
As I approached said group, what I thought would be a bunch of giddy boozed gals and guys turned out to be some sort of mini crack convention. It was too late to do the awkward run-across-the-road-to-avoid-the-situation dance, so I strode determinedly forward, giving only a couple of sneaky side glances to check out the action. In the short five-second period of passing through the group, I saw:
- one woman cutting something up on paper;
- a guy with a lighter assisting another guy to smoke something through a pipe;
- and a woman sitting with her back against the wall, eyes rolled back in head, head leaning on shoulder and needle sticking out of leg.
Now, I’m not usually that surprised by shit like this; I’ve seen it all before. But this was something else. It didn’t stop there – there were more groups on almost every street in the Bahnhofsviertel (train station quarter), which I’d soon come to understand was actually the Red Light District. When I think Red Light, I think Amsterdam. But that’s all regulated; although it’s promiscuous, there’s somehow a friendly vibe to it.
The Red Light of Frankfurt makes you feel like you’re on the set of some seedy 80’s porno. The streets are so bright from the tacky multi-coloured fluorescent lights on every building that your vision starts to blur. The door bitches of the endless strip clubs and peep show hubs are like gremlins with scars on their faces and greasier-than-the-floor-of-McDonald’s hair. They are so confronting – one actually grabbed me in an attempt to lure me into her dungeon.
The most bizarre part of all of this? Police are constantly driving AND walking up and down the streets. I feel like as a global hobo, I shouldn’t have been so shocked by all of this. But I was, I really really was. I guess it was partly due to the fact that all I knew about Frankfurt was that it is the business capital of Germany. I naturally assumed it would just be a bunch of fancy pants button pushers driving around in BMWs. Also, having spent a fair bit of time in Germany, I’d come to love how the classes in each city mesh together, rich and poor living amongst each other.
Which brings me to the point of the division, as in the “there is actually a park in the middle” division. After I tended to my grumbly stomach, I played some hectic deep death techno loud in my ears to feel the vibes of Bahnhofsviertel and power walked back to the safety of my hostel. Next day, I walked to the other side of town – the side that is hidden behind a park so that, if you look on a bird’s eye map of the city, it is shaped like a wall keeping all the “scum” hidden away. On the other side are grey buildings next to beige buildings next to silvery kind of buildings and an occasional historic looking building shrouded in the shadow of grey, beige and silvery buildings. There is every kind of generic shop you would see in any other city, and the people on the street all look like upper-middle class clones of each other. You can barely hear a word spoken on the streets as they all walk around holding shopping bags with upper-middle brands printed on them. I feel I was lucky to hear one busker in the distance on their saxophone. All the while they go about their daily business when 500 metres away, some woman is sitting with her back against the wall, eyes rolled back in her head, head leaning on her shoulder and needle sticking out of her leg.
Frankfurt, I give you o stars.