Brothels, strip clubs, sex shops and ‘sex kinos’: the most sinful mile in Germany is located right in the middle of Hamburg. When in the 17th century all noisy and smelly trades were banished to the new ‘Reeperbahn’ or ropewalk between Hamburg and neighbouring Altona it only made sense that the prostitutes would be among the exiles. And so the most colourful neighbourhood of Hamburg was founded. This was the place where sailors transiting in Hamburg’s harbor could drink, gamble and well.. basically do everything else forbidden by God.
As brothel and church could be found next to each other this created an atmosphere of particular openness towards each other. People minded their own business. And up until the ‘80s, when an Austrian pimp moved in, even gang rivalry was civilized and basically non-lethal. St. Pauli saw its fair share of squatter movements and left-wing demonstrations over the past decennia, and today, as many former students have never left, the neighbourhood is still predominantly left-wing. And the Reeperbahn is the center of all this.
Although one might find a prostitute or two around the Hauptbahnhof or in St. Georg, St. Pauli is the only place where the ladies of the night can go around their business in a legal way. This is their territory and they rule it with a fierce hand. The brothels and sex houses are forbidden for women, as is the Herbertstrasse. Although if I were entering this street I would not be breaking actual written laws, I would be wise not to ignore the signs saying ‘forbidden for women’. The girls are known to be aggressive and sometimes even violent towards women entering their turf.
The Davidswache police station on the Reeperbahn is the only police station where no police officer can be sent against his or her will. But contrary to what this law suggests, young police officers are dying to get an assignment at St. Pauli. The smallest police district in Europe (less than a square meter), this is where all the excitement happens. No less than three German television series played at the Davidswache since the invention of the television, creating a waiting list for potential police recruitees.
The Reeperbahn’s nightclubs, bars and restaurants are some of Hamburg’s most important tourist attractions. You will not find any locals here, as they know better and cheaper partying spots, but it is a well-liked spot for bachelor parties. It is also the place where the Beatles arrived without a working visa, convinced the border police that they were actually on a student exchange, and started their international career. The rest is literally history.
Oh oh Hamburg..