“Comenze see ze gurlies!” The German pimp nearly shouted at me while pulling on my arm. He was trying to get me to enter one the many brothels in Frankfurt, which happen to be near the train station, which I had accidently happened upon. I’m serious. I wasn’t seeking out the brothels and didn’t know they were there. Stop laughing.
Anyway, how did I come to be in this situation? Well, I have to take you back about twelve hours. This was the start of my very first overseas travel adventure. I was ready to take on Europe. I was ready to see the historical sites. I was ready to drink all that awesome beer. However, there was just one problem on my first sojourn. Nobody told me Europe was expensive.
I’m sure some of you are saying, “Well, no shit!” I know I know. I thought $350 (that’s US Dollars and not Euros) would get me through a couple of weeks. As I later found out, this amount of cash was barely good enough for a round-trip train ticket to Paris, a baguette, and the use of Germany’s pay toilets.
Anyway, I was active duty Navy at the time. If you’re active duty and on leave, you can take space available flights on Air Force cargo planes. Why would anyone take a cargo plane instead of a regular airliner? Because it’s free. Although nowadays, I’m sure many would compare the experience of most airlines to cargo planes. But you can’t pass up free.
The behemoth I found a flight on was a C-5 Galaxy out of Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. If you’ve never seen a C-5 Galaxy, it is immense. It is no moon, but practically a space station. It has a large cargo bay, which can fit several tanks, a parade float, Tony Stark’s ego, and other bits of military equipment. There is even a section in this monster for passengers.
That’s where I got to ride. In the passenger compartment that has no windows and faces backwards. And the seats looked like the worn out hand-me-downs from decommissioned passenger planes from the 1970s. Felt like it too. But I couldn’t complain. The flight was free. Besides, the flight left at around 2:30am. So I was tired enough to sleep through most of the trip.
One other benefit of this flight was that I met a retired Air Force Master Sergeant. He was a nice guy who offered me a ride in to Frankfurt. We were landing at Ramstein Air Force Base, located near the town of Landstuhl, about an hour or so outside of Frankfurt. For some reason, I wanted to go there. I don’t remember why. I guess I wanted to see a major European city for the first time. Me and my desire to be a man of the world and all.
We landed sometime in the afternoon, and the Master Sergeant and I went to the car rental place near the flight terminal. He rented a car and we went to the Air Force Inn on base to change our money and where he could use the phone to call his wife. Apparently, he had a German wife. He told me later that he lived nine months out of the year in the States working as a schoolteacher. He spent his summers in Germany with his wife, but she didn’t go to the States with him because she didn’t want to live there.
Soon after, we were jetting along on the famous autobahn at the speed of light. Those German freeways are fun. There are certain areas of the autobahn that have no speed limits. That’s where you can take your BMW, Mercedes, or F-16, and cruise at well over one hundred miles per hour, unless you were like us and in a simple Renault hatchback. But still, I remember the speedometer getting to around 180 KPH (that’s Kilometers Per Hour for everyone in America). However, I remember the car beginning to shake at those speeds.
The road conditions are also much better. This allows for greater safety, or so I’m told. I have to say, there wasn’t a single pothole in sight. Nor was there an abandoned vehicle, or dead animal carcasses. The German highways were smooth, clean, and in good repair.
Just a note on German autobahn etiquette; stay the fuck in the right lane. I’m serious. Unless you’re in a Ferrari and can match the speeds of many of the other German motorists, you’re going to get run off the road. Let me tell you what passing is like in Germany.
Whenever we would make a move to pass a large truck, or lorry for any English readers, the Master Sergeant would check his left mirrors and note no oncoming vehicles in the left lane behind us. Nothing. Great! Now’s our chance! He would move over to pass, and put his foot to the floor on the gas pedal. By the time we were half way passed the truck (about two seconds), there would be a line of BMWs and Mercedes right up our ass. As soon as we passed the truck and were into the right lane again, those vehicles behind us sped by as if we weren’t moving and they were shot from a cannon.
Like I said, the autobahn is fun.
The Master Sergeant took us into Frankfurt, and to a local restaurant he liked. I honestly don’t remember where it was or its name. I wish I did because it had good food. At his suggestion, I ordered something called a Jäger-Schnitzel. It’s just a pork loin steak thing with bacon mushroom gravy poured all over it. It was amazing. You can’t go wrong with slab of pork with bacon gravy covering it. Now that I think about it, I’m sure if you looked you’d find a porno involving Jäger-Schnitzel and Paris Hilton.
I like that Frankfurt has a fusion of the classic European architecture and the modern. To me it looked like the ground floor of many of the downtown buildings had the late twentieth century features on the outside, complete with shops, cafes with outdoor seating and not one street mime. The upper stories reminded me of something you’d see in the late 1800s, only with plumbing.
Despite the older style of many of the buildings, you knew everything around you was modern, clean, and efficient. I was in Germany after all. I walked the streets noticing this while almost getting run over by the city’s crazy taxi drivers. Even their cabbies drive a Mercedes Benz. Just be warned. They don’t stop when they’ve already got a passenger… at all.
The Master Sergeant dropped me off at the Frankfurt train station. I thanked him for everything and walked in to buy my ticket to Paris. The train station here was very busy, even in the latter part of the evening. Dozens and dozens of travelers milled about like fire ants after you poked their mound with stick.
I saw young backpackers, obviously on break from college to see Europe. There were businessmen on their way home or heading to another city for some meeting. People from all walks of life crowded the platforms until their trains arrived. But despite the apparent crowded chaos of it all, the train station in Frankfurt was much more clean and safer than you would expect.
Compare that to many train or bus stations in large American cities. You know what I mean: homeless living under the platform benches, crack dealers, and the ever-present smell of urine and shame. But I digress.
I purchased my round-trip ticket to Paris, with an open-ended return. It cost 73 Euro. Damnit! That was more than I expected. Oh well. Time to find a hostel or something. I had already looked up a hostel on the internet and found that its address was right near the train station on KaiserStrasse. But to my dismay, I couldn’t find the place.
I walked down KaiserStrasse to the location, according to the building numbers, where the hostel address should be. However, no hostel was listed there. I noticed only a German language school. The door was locked and the school closed for the night. Well, perhaps I could find something else. Mind you, it was around 10pm by then.
While walking down the street, I just gazed at the buildings, the lights, and the activity of a European city at night. I was feeling pretty good. Hey, I was in Europe and I was seeing Germany. I felt like Dora the Explorer minus the Spanish lessons.
I looked left down MoselStrasse. I saw lots of lighted signs outside many of the doorways and lots of activity. Not speaking German, I didn’t know what many of the signs said that I could see, but I was sure I could find a place to sleep down there. Since I was in my exploratory reverie, it didn’t cross my mind that this might be the wrong direction.
Only about twenty feet down the street, I started to walk past a German man wearing a dark grey suit and smoking a cigarette. He saw my backpack, the obvious look of confused wonderment in my eyes, and knew instantly that I wasn’t from around these parts.
“Hello,” he said to me in English. “How are you this evening?”
“I’m doing well, “ I replied, stopping next to him. “And yourself?”
“Good, good. Where are you from?” he asked before taking another drag.
“I’m from the United States.”
“Aha! That’s great! I like America! What part?” He seemed genuinely interested. The reason would become clear very shortly.
“I’m originally from California, but currently live in Georgia.”
“So, why have you come to Frankfurt?”
“Well, I wanted to see Germany, and the rest of Europe.”
“That’s very good,” he said while simultaneously exhaling cigarette smoke. “Frankfurt is beautiful. Since you are here to see Germany, how about you come inside and see the girlies!”
The man gestured to the building we were standing in front of. This time I noticed the yellow-lighted lettering on the wall above the door. It read “Peep Show”. The realization hit me that this man was a pimp. Then I remembered that prostitution is legal in Germany. My problem was, not only did I have a girlfriend at the time back home, but I certainly didn’t want to pay for sex.
“See the girlies! German girlies!” he said more excitedly while gesturing for me to enter the building. “Only the first four minutes are free!”
“That’s okay.” I told him, hoping to placate him and make my escape. “I still have to find a hostel, and maybe I’ll come back.”
He seemed fine with that answer, but still added, “Remember! First four minutes are free!”
I thanked him for the offer, turned around, and continued walking down MoselStrasse. Big mistake. I swear, it was only two or three doors down from the German pimp in a nice suit, when a man much more shabbily dressed flung open the door and accosted me.
“Comenze see ze gurlees!” The man nearly shouted at me. His accent was thicker than the first guy. He was donned in a flannel, checkered shirt and ripped jeans. He also had a thick beard. I was just beset upon by the German lumberjack pimp.
“No, no, “ I tried to dissuade Grizzly Adams. “Thank you, but no. I need to find a hostel.”
“Das okay, vee have beds here!” This time he had a hold of my arm and was trying to pull me into the peep show/brothel place he was representing. This was the same building as before, just a new door. No sign above the door, but the window had the unmistakable red neon glow coming from behind it.
“No, that’s okay. I’m not interested.” I hoped that would placate him, but he didn’t seem to hear me. Or he didn’t care.
“See ze gurlies! Furst five minutes free!” He exclaimed as he gestured to someone inside. Then a woman came out to help him.
She was older, or maybe she wasn’t. It was hard to tell because she looked like a meth addict; long, stringy blond hair and a wrinkled face. Her body was frail-thin and she was dressed in a leopard print mini-skirt over fishnet stockings. She too had a cigarette in her mouth, a younger body but an old face.
“Come inside, young one, “ she pleaded at me. I almost jumped because her voice was quite hoarse. She almost sounded like Christian Bale does as Batman. I’m sure she lost her once fine singing voice from years of a steady diet of cigarettes, booze, and man juice.
Either way, it was quite a site having the Lumberjack Pimp along with Medusa Meth Whore frantically trying to drag me into their lair. Who knows what horrors awaited me? Perhaps something out of Grimm’s X-rated fairy tales, or even worse, being forced to work at a California DMV.
By sheer luck, I was able to convince my would-be captors that I would return soon with a friend, so they let me go. I turned away from them and continued as quickly as I could down the street. What I saw down the rest of MoselStrasse was disheartening.
This time it was clear to me that all the lighted, neon signs above their respective building entrances, were in fact advertisements for various peep shows, strip clubs, titty bars, and other houses of ill repute. And in front of each door stood a man and/or group of working girls.
I had run smack into the middle of Frankfurt’s red light district. It was a veritable gauntlet of muff pushers, booby traps, ass peddlers, and pleasure hockers with a few nightclubs sprinkled here and there. If I was ever going to make it out of Frankfurt with both my money and my penis intact, I needed to flee.
And flee I did. I made the very next turn and got the hell out of the there. The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful. I wandered the nighttime streets of this German city for another couple of hours, but didn’t find a hostel. I was sure Frankfurt was a nice place, minus the aforementioned street. I just needed to come back during the daylight hours.
Since I was unable to find a place to sleep, I returned to the train station and slept on a bench by the platform for my coming train. No problems there. Remember what I mentioned about it being safe?
I only slept for two or three hours, but early the next morning, I boarded the train for Paris.