We arrived in Hamburg on the afternoon of Tuesday 9th November and checked into Camping Buchholz. It was rather an expensive campsite with only one shower open for each sex at this time of year. Luckily the site was relatively empty so there were no queues. The fresh water point was in an odd position making it impossible to park close to it. My long hose was buried underneath so much stuff that in the end we did not bother taking on more water. That first afternoon in Hamburg was spent grocery shopping and visiting a local launderette.
On Wednesday we checked out of the campsite and drove closer to the centre, finding a free place to park close to the funfair. Our time in Hamburg was limited so we headed to somewhere I’d always wanted to visit, the St. Pauli district. St. Pauli is known as the red light area of Hamburg and it did have a slightly rough around the edges feel about it. The signs stating a ban on guns, knives, pepper sprays and baseball bats were a little disconcerting. The reason I wanted to visit the area was because it was here that The Beatles played in clubs like The Indra, The Kaiserkeller and The Top Ten before they were famous. The long punishing sets they had to perform helped them to improve enormously as musicians. Hamburg played an important part in The Beatles story. Not only did it turn them into a very good live band, it was responsible for the famous Beatles haircut which the local Exis (existentialists) sported. The two most famous Exis were Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voorman. Astrid took many photographs of The Beatles during their Hamburg visits and Klaus went on to design the Revolver album sleeve and was a bass player in his own right, playing with Manfred Mann between 1966 and 1969.
The clubs we wanted to visit were all on a street called Große Freiheit. Whilst it still does look like a red light area, the number of prostitutes working there is far less than in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The first venue we visited was The Indra club.
Many of the clubs The Beatles played eventually closed down, some since re-opening or going back to the names they used in the early 1960’s. A short distance away we noticed the Kaiserkeller and it was clear the influence The Beatles have had from the list of acts who were to perform in the coming weeks. Perhaps the fact that it is the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first visit has something to do with this.
At the end of this street we noticed a statue of The Beatles and signs stating the area as ‘Beatles Platz’. Within yards of the statue is an exhibition called Beatlemania which we decided to visit. The exhibition is on many floors and contains lots of information and memorabilia.
Besides all the exhibits relating to their Hamburg days, the exhibition also has a large Sgt. Pepper album sleeve you can pose in for a photo and a room designed like the interior of a Yellow Submarine.
The 3 hours or more we spent inside seemed to flash by and it was getting dark outside. We headed back to the motorhome, passing through the large funfair which was now open and looking very colourful with all the bright lights against the dark sky. It was time to leave Hamburg and continue our journey, this time heading for Holland and Amsterdam.