18 Sep 2014

WALKING THROUGH THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT

Letter : R

In 1978 I was working near Brussels North Station. Every day I drove with my car to the Waterloo station from where I took the train to Brussels North. It was a very easy commute. My office was just one street farer then Red Light District just at the exit. They were usually always at the stations, but since the areas around the main stations have all been changed completely, I have no idea where they are now. Maybe Google knows.

Coming out of the station I had to go through a street in which was one window after the other, side by side, nicely decorated with red neon frames and inviting signs, not for me but for men.

The girls usually sat on red velvet chairs had a little table besides them and were busy with knitting or stitching. When I went by I could immediately see if a girl was "working" because then the wool and knitting needles or the stitching work was laying on the table and the chair was empty. After a few weeks I got so used to them and they to me that they always waved to me to say hello and I waved back with a big smile ! They worked ... I went to work although it was another kind of work, I mean mine.

It was a special atmosphere in this street, old women armed with buckets and brushes cleaned the sidewalks and steps and chatted together in this very special Brussels' dialect which unfortunately is disappearing. It wasn't dangerous at all, it was rather more folklore and friendly. Prostitution is officially allowed in Belgium if the woman does it on her free will, only pimping is punishable. Of course it has to be discrete and in special areas.

I was quite surprised how many men were already clients so early in the morning ! My work started at 9 am. One girl told me that from 7 until 9 are the best hours ! When I saw the clientele walking along the street, I thought the poor girls, what a rough work, there were no George Clooneys or Brad Pitts amongst them ! They also avoided any eye contact and head down, walked quickly to their destination.

With the time I was so used to go through that street that I found everything normal ! Suddenly I had another view on these girls. Some of them were excellent mothers and showed me pictures of their children, they did this job to offer them a good life.

Today this street and its houses don't exist anymore. The whole area around the North Station had been demolished and a business center was built which is called "Little Manhatten".



I found a picture of this street on Internet, which must have been taken at that time. Today I probably wouldn't walk so innocently through these streets ! Times have changed !

Jenny Matlock

17 comments:

Jo said...

Your post sounds like straight off a movie set. Amazing. Those girls were obviously neat embroiderers once their "career" was over. I can just imagine a man greeting his wife at home in the morning and then popping into one of these bordellos before arriving at work all prim and proper! You tell such a good story!

Andrew said...

That is a colourful reminisce. At least in Brussels and Amsterdam the girls are in a controlled environment and warm, unlike here where so many work on the streets.

Jo, the more popular girls would not have been so good at embroidery.

Linens and Royals said...

A great memory to have. The girls would have been warm and dry and could knit for their children while waiting for clients. Much better than walking the streets.

Gracie said...

I just knew about Red District in Amsterdam, I didn't know you had one too in Brussels

carol l mckenna said...

Oldest profession in the world ~ Very informative and fascinating post for R ~

artmusedog and carol (A Creative Harbor)

fredamans said...

We have no 'red-light districts' around here. Just hookers on the streets. Maybe the districts would be better for all. The girls get protection and the families don't have to see it.

Sarah~Magnolia Surprise said...

Prostitution will always be around... better to have the women in a safe environment and meeting medical standards than to have them walking the streets. When I visited my brother in Holland (I was 17) we went to the red light district in Amsterdam (during the day!) and it was like you described. I remember the women knitting and thought that was pretty funny! A different experience for a teenager! I have the feeling my parents wouldn't have liked my brother taking me there!!

Anna-Karin Eriksson said...

Poor girls, it can't be an easy line of work! You tell the story very good, like I visited there myself.

//Scaniatjejen
http://www.scaniatjejen.se

Loree said...

Interesting bit of recent history. I did not know there was a red light district in Brussels but then I suppose there is one everywhere except they are not all famous.

Grantham Lynn said...

Wow very interesting post.
Very interesting Letter R!
Thanks for coming by my Rodeo post.

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

How interesting! I can't imagine getting up early enough for work to drop by for a little fun before the office...

Jim said...

Kind of sad, Gatina. They all were someone's daughter.
When I was in the service a VERY YOUNG fellow had fallen in love with a prostitute. Several of us would go by two's along with him to make sure he would be okay and come back in good shape.
..

Judie said...

I, too, have seen the Red Light District in Amsterdam many years ago. It is so sad that those girls cannot find decent work to care for their children. Good "R" post, Gattina.

pattisjarrett said...

I enjoyed reading your musings.

Wandering Wren said...

How hilarious that the girls were all sitting on their red chairs knitting or stitching, I expect today they would all be on their mobile phones ?!
Great post Gattina - you are my first R to visit, who could resist that headline?!
Wren x

Wandering Wren said...

How hilarious that the girls were all sitting on their red chairs knitting or stitching, I expect today they would all be on their mobile phones ?!
Great post Gattina - you are my first R to visit, who could resist that headline?!
Wren x

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

you were very brave. My maternal grandma's house was neighbouring our red light area. My older sisters were not allowed to use the road, but the longer road. My bros tease, How much, how much.