frankfurt’s sachsenhausen: welcome to the monkey house

Left: The Frankfurt skyline. Sachsenhausen is a part of the banking capital. Photo (cc) flickr user Moe_

THIS is part 18 in a series about the year I spent au pairing in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. If you’d like to catch up on the rest of the series, check out the index here.

Frankfurt’s Sachsenhausen is a curious place. Though the moniker technically applies to an entire city section—residents, shopping, and everything in between—when you hear people talking about Frankfurt Sachsenhausen, they’re usually talking about the pub district, a concentrated city block of often touristy bars and clubs, a micro city with no permanent residents. It is a place full of trays of bright green shots and hair gel and fake tan, full of spilled apple wine and loud conversation and lost earrings. It is the kind of place you go knowing you’re going to be doing the walk of shame home later/aren’t going to remember most of the evening.

Among the people I know now, the mention of it elicits groans. But then, before Britta had returned to America and I had traded my job au pairing for one teaching English, it was also one of a large group of American and Brittish au pairs’ favorite haunts. To its credit, the Irish pub did give out free pints of Guinness on Tuesday nights whenever a U2 song came on the stereo.

Sachsenhausen was never really my sort of place, but it did have its merits. My favorite of those was a small bar without sign or name, a dark, crooked little anachronism jammed between two more modern architectural concoctions. Barely the width of three doors, it looked like the home of a wrinkled old city witch, the kind of building only visible to inhabitants of London Below. It was the kind of place that got around the law that pubs had to close between certain wee hours of the night by locking visitors in behind blackened windows. It was sordid, it was seedy, and I only ever went inside once. For better or for worse, I don’t remember much of that night. It was bound to have been a disappointment, and I’m sure it was. I’m glad that no memories of banal drunken conversation have replaced my musings of the more magical happenings that could be playing out between its black-bricked walls.

It’s other merit, though a far less romantic one, was Das Bett, a music venue on one of the pub-city’s outer edges. At the mid-sized music club that favored indie music, another American au pair friend, this one from New Orleans, and I watched skinny white boys in nerd glasses make music with a Nintendo Game Boy.

Frau Rauscher Brunnen. Photo (cc) flcikr user Chris Pirillo

I’ve heard rumor that Das Bett has moved house, but the “Frau Rauscher-Brunnen” (pictured right) remains, a statue that provides an excellent stage for people watching should you find yourself unwillingly pulled into what the Frankfurter Allgemein has so appropriately called “Ein Ort zum Fremdschämen” (translation: a place for feeling embarrassed for other people, note: English could really use a concise version of the word fremdschämen). Madame Rauscher does what you, someone who maybe doesn’t want to be drunk out of her mind or hassled by another bachelor party group, wish you could: she spits water randomly out onto the street. Unfortunately I’ve never seen her hit a moving target.

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