AAnything you can imagine can be obtained quickly and at any time in Frankfurt’s Bahnhofsviertel. It is also allowed to park in the second row. Nobody complains about wheels on lampposts. Or about the fact that a bike rolls over a red traffic light. And on late summer evenings, when vendors push their crates of vegetables down the sun-stained street and the heavy city air lingers in the streets, it feels like a summer vacation. So much for the beautiful anarchic sides.
But Frankfurt’s Bahnhofsviertel is once again under discussion because of its bad reputation. It’s gotten dirtier and it stinks. Things have gotten mixed up since the pandemic, when prostitutes and drug addicts migrated from brothels and drug addicts onto the streets. Those who used to mingle with tourists and commuters are now more visible. Down to the river they sit and fill their crack pipes.
Dealers stand in the doorways and murmur, and groups of bored boys stream in from the train station. The restaurant owners complain that they have to clean up feces every day because the addicts rummage through the garbage cans and leave the leftovers. If only it were the junkies they know. But new ones keep coming. In the last major raid there were 60 criminal charges. The restaurateurs in the district say: “It has never been so bad.”
There is nowhere else like this
Everyone is now discussing the situation in the district: the public order office, the state police, the social department, the health department, landlords and restaurateurs. The green head of health, Stefan Majer, invited the federal drug commissioner. He hasn’t come yet. It annoys the people of Frankfurt that addicts come from all corners of the Federal Republic and the country looks at their neighborhood with disgust. That there is always talk of violence and crime when it comes to the station area, even though the problems of the area, drugs, prostitution, homelessness, gentrification, party tourism are much bigger.
Some proudly say: There is nowhere else like the station area. Three high streets and three cross streets, a hundred nations, always something going on. Others say they don’t feel good anymore. They perceive the mood as threatening, the misery as a burden. How someone perceives things around them is a personal matter. You can also avoid a city area. But how a city is viewed when its most popular neighborhood falls into disrepute is a very public issue. Then there are many to blame: the police, who don’t come when you need them. The city that has no concept. The people who go. And the people who stay away.
Christian Setzepfandt earns his money with the district’s state of emergency. For 45 years he has been giving tours, especially to the “unplaces”, to the brothels and printing rooms. Only recently he showed around a group of judges from Gießen who wanted to see the red light district, a school class and the Odenwald emergency pastoral care. The pastors, says Setzepfandt, almost all cried at the end.