Kurfürstenstraße: Living in Berlin’s Red Light District

It was a sweltering May morning, and I was ten minutes early for my 10am flat interview. Quite pleased with the fact I’d managed to find the place, I decided to explore. I had travelled a staggering ten paces before someone grabbed my arm, muttering something I couldn’t quite catch, prompting me to rattle off my catchphrase, “Entschuldigung, mein Deutsch ist Nicht so gut.” The striking blonde thought for a moment, before retrieving the elusive word she was searching for, “Blowjob?”

You could say the usual small talk and appliance demonstrations inclusive of a WG apartment-viewing were somewhat hindered by the scantily clad elephant in the room. I had to say something. “Lot of, eh, prostitutes out there …” was all I could muster. The law student showing me around went on to tell me how he’s lived in the area for six years, and not one day has gone by where he hasn’t been the target of solicitation. Suddenly, the very reasonable renting price made a lot more sense. Despite a minor internal dialogue in which I considered the rare possibility of my older relatives coming for a surprise (and likely traumatizing) visit — I decided to accept his offer.

Nights, not surprisingly, are the worst. Kurfürstenstaße is carpeted by all manner of prostitutes — typically wearing luminous colors, tiny tops, and matching bottoms, and demonstrating a “hands-on” approach to salesmanship. My former housemate, a native Berliner, was actually amazed by the lack of leather, stating these girls lacked the certain “professional” air of their Oranienburger Straße counterparts. She had a point. There’s a certain creeping chaos to this street, which is unnerving, but really only at first.

On Kurfürstenstaße I drink in every conversation I happen upon, every seat offered to weary workers, every familiar look. Occasionally it feels like a close-knit community. More often it seems a place of strained business partnerships. What remains consistent, though, is the tone of the place: the BMWs which slow to a stop, the clinical conversations, the assortment of miserable characters dotting the street. All of it adds up to a perpetual grey. Seeing it all unravel daily in front of you, you can’t help but wonder how everyone ended up here. The would-be lawyer, six years here. The girls whistling at good prospects. The Imbiss worker who keeps everyone well-fed. The shop owners who give up their seats for tired heels. And me.

Then I remember, at least in my case, all I had to do was accept an offer.



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