Streetwalking in Schöneberg

I had some time to kill the other night, so I walked up and down Bülowstrasse. It’s in the Schöneberg area of Berlin, where Albert Einstein, Hans Fallada and David Bowie all lived at some point.

It was only 7 o’clock, so I was surprised to see prostitutes lining the streets so early. There were six of them. Two emerged linking arms from a shop before separating to take up position.

They weren’t anything like the prostitutes at Hackescher Markt who are both glamorous and absurd in their identical fishnet tights, baby-pink corsets and furry boots.

These women looked eastern European. They didn’t have a uniform, but they were all wearing  plastic strappy high-heels; the kind you’d find in a basement store in the Ilac Centre in Dublin, full of artificial light and pumping music.

The youngest of them had brown hair, very narrow shoulders and was wearing denim hot-pants. She had earphones plugged in while trying to hail down cars.

The oldest woman wasn’t bothering to show her legs. She was dressed casually in jeans and a leather jacket. She had reddish-brown hair and looked bored.

The woman whose face I can’t forgot was standing near a lamppost supporting a campaign poster for Germany’s neo-Nazi NPD party. It featured a fish-bowl picture of an old lady under the slogan: “Geld für Oma statt Sinti und Roma.” (“Money for Granny, not the Sinti and Roma”)

The woman had her hair scraped back into a ponytail. She was performing her job awkwardly – trying to hail down cars by forming a stop sign with her hand, like a police officer would do to check a driver’s insurance.

Tears were running down her cheeks.

No one stopeed but she kept on sticking her hand out at the passing cars.

Lidl children

Whenever I go to Lidl, the cashier asks if I’m collecting the football stickers. When I say “no,” she looks surprised and a tiny bit relieved.

Yesterday I went to another branch closer to work. There were loads of little girls loitering at the entrance, eyeing up the customers. If they had been bigger, I would have felt very threatened.

This time, the cashier simply handed me two football stickers with my receipt.

Outside the shop, the girls lunged at me.

“Did you get a football sticker?”

I rummaged awkwardly in my bag.

“ME! GIVE IT TO ME, GIMME!” they cried.

They were encircling me now, like prey.

“Give them to me, PLEASE!” the ringleader of the group said, coming very close to me. She had a long black plait and reached up to my shoulder.

I looked around helplessly at the many eager faces.

I picked out the one I found least threatening because it was furthest away.

“Are you collecting them too?” I asked her. She nodded shyly.

“She’s my sister!” the girl with the plait shouted.

“Are you really?” I asked the quiet one.


“We’ll share,” the plaited girl said.

I gave up and handed her the cards.

“Promise you’ll share?”

“PROMISE!” she said, grabbing the stickers and running away.

The others followed her like wolves.

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Image source:

When I was a little girl, my mother used to buy me rolls of stickers from the Pound shop. I stuck the best ones in a special sticker album. I kept the rest in a plastic case for future use decorating envelopes and sticking on dolls.

My album contained an entire section of glow-in-the-dark grasshopper stickers. My piece de resistance was a hologram sticker that glimmered green, blue or yellow depending on how you looked at it.

These days I don’t collect anything except for empty beer bottles. There must be about sixty in the kitchen now. Some day soon, I’ll bring them back to Lidl and get an enormous “Pfand.”

I’ll probably spend the “Pfand” on more beer. Then I’ll get more football stickers, which I’ll pass on to another pack of schoolchildren.

The circle of life.