Tag Archives: Beatles

Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig, Prague: Refugees Welcome (Part 1)

11 May

Brandenburg Gate: Berlin 2015

Berlin is the kind of city that doesn’t give a shit if you like her or not. I suppose that’s what happens when your city is blown to smithereens and then walled up for 30 years. And that’s not to say it isn’t pretty…because it is – some of it at least.

It’s more so that Berlin isn’t there to impress you. It is what it is. And more than anything Berlin is full of history. We were there for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. At one point there were bands of Russians parading around the gate, waving a Russian flag and celebrating. It was strange.

Down the road from the Gate is the Holocaust Memorial (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas) A series of stone slabs arranged in rows, varying in height and covering 4.7 acres. Unlike most memorials, there is no visible list of the dead, no dates to mark the atrocities. (Though that is available in the attached underground section). Instead as, you walk through the memorial, the slabs grow, eventually blocking out the street noise and sights, until you feel like you’ve completely disappeared inside the “tombs.”

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I think the most effective part of the memorial for me is the way it uses abstraction to imply universality.

Throughout Berlin, you can find pieces of Die Mauer, the infamous Berlin Wall, which divided the city into four separate sectors run by the Americans, The French, the British and the Russians. If you paid attention in history class you learned that the Russians, aware of their dwindling population (many East Berliners “voted with their feet” prior to the wall and left their sector for the Western side), built a wall that cut through homes, streets, subway lines, churches, graveyards and families with stunning and fierce finality.

I remember watching the wall come down on television in 1989. Iconic images of teenagers standing on top, sledgehammers swinging. I recognized their youth, their anger, their intention even if I didn’t understand what their experience at the time was like.

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I was 12 years old. Even then I understood revolution. What I didn’t understand was The Wall. To me, it was just a slab of concrete, something that if you could climb, you could escape. It wasn’t until I was standing at Bernauer Strausse that I fully understood that The Wall was two walls, and a death strip.

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136 people died trying to cross the Berlin Wall – mostly men, in their twenties during the 60’s. So when you stand at the East Side Gallery admiring the graffiti, and there is much to admire, you’re looking at 1/3 of the barrier that the people who risked their lives trying to cross were faced with.

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In case it wasn’t obvious, The Wall had a very powerful effect on me. Thinking about it in terms of my own life, what would it be like if suddenly I was no longer allowed to leave Brooklyn? If Manhattan was just a distant memory?

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Checkpoint Charlie

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From Berlin, we took a train to Hamburg, Germany, chasing after the Beatles….

The Beatles in Hamburg, Germany 1960 - hundreds more Beatle pictures www.morethings.com

“I was born in Liverpool – but I grew up in Hamburg” – John Lennon

The Beatles (back then as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stu Sutcliffe) spent from August of 1960 to December of 1962 in Hamburg, Germany where they played a variety of clubs, honed their skills and really became the musicians that would change music.

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The Reeperbahn

They played the Kaiserkeller:

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The Indra:

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(Here’s the contract that they signed with Bruno Koshcmider to perform at the Indra:)

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They also played at the Top Ten (which has sadly been turned into a Pizza Hut) and The Star Club:

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While they were there they met Astrid Kirchner, with whom Stu Sutcliffe fell in love.

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Stu dropped out of the band, applied for art school in Hamburg and had hoped to settle down into a life of painting and photography with Astrid. They lived together at Eimsbuttler Strausse 45A:

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The attic windows were Stu’s studio, and where he collapsed on April 10, 1962. Astrid rode with him to the hospital but he passed away before they got there.

While we were there we had drinks at Gretel and Alfons, a place the Beatles used to drink at, and where they have a note from Paul McCartney when he returned to Hamburg and paid his bill back in 1989.

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Hamburg paid tribute to the Beatles and created BeatlesPlatz, where four steel outlined musicians were erected.

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Off to the right, is this one, representing Stu.

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And we found The Dom, the fete field that Astrid used as a backdrop for the iconic images she took of the Beatles.

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One of the best things about Hamburg is that we could recreate THIS:

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Aside from The Beatles, Hamburg is a pretty little German town with a really big church that has a whole lot of steps (453) that if you are stupid enough to walk to the top of you can get a picture like this:

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Then, we headed back to Berlin….which we’ll pick up in Part II of the longest blog post ever…

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Peace love and starbursts,

Ally

London Liverpool LONG Recap

18 Apr

Oy, mates.

So I’m back from my recent trip to London and Liverpool which was amazing. In fact, I dare say it will be a tough trip to beat. I just love London. My mother keeps insisting that I move there so she can have a reason to come visit me. We’ll just pretend that my mother didn’t tell me to move to the other side of the ocean (Just kidding, Dish. I love you!).

So first off – LONDON.

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Trafalgar Square

This was our second trip to this fantastic city. I loved it the first time but this time, I really got to know it. Like walk around without a map sort of know it. And if any of you have been to London with it’s bazillions little no name streets (come on London, that’s why we build grids in NYC and use numbers. Easy Squeazy Lemon Peazy).

So here’s some places we went:

St. Martin in the Fields

That’s St. Martin in the Fields. I’m a big classical music fan and back at home on WQXR I occasionally get to hear performances done in St. Martin in the Fields and I finally got to go to one! They’ve been hosting these FREE concerts for 75 years (did I mention they were free, cause they are. Though they’ve got a donation box, and honestly, what’s wrong with you? Donate a little). They did a variety of pieces by Handel including a stunning soloist  and a trumpeter who placed a Baroque trumpet (no spit valve so watch the floor!).

Hey wanna know something cool I learned about the lions in Trafalgar Square – the sculptor who made them had never seen a lion so he modeled the feet after his dog instead.

 

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And of course we say this:

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And we went here:

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Where we saw this:

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and he did this:

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And I did this:

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And we also went here:

Charles Dickens House and Museum

Charles Dickens House and Museum

 

where we saw this:

Charles Dicken's writing desk

Charles Dicken’s writing desk

I know it’s kind of blurry cause you couldn’t have the flash on but that is Charles Dicken’s writing desk. He wrote Oliver Twist in this room, on that desk. Seriously *MindBlown*

And we went here:

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But only “real” explorers get to go inside. Whatever that means.

But they did have this:

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Which was cool but nearly as cool as this:

Robert Falcon Scott Monument

Robert Falcon Scott Monument

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And in case you didn’t know how much I love Robert Falcon Scott, proof.

We also went to lots of writers homes and musicians homes but I’m saving that for a new blog that I’m creating for fellow travelers. But I will say we did see the rooftop where Elton John wrote Your Song, some Rolling Stones homes, David Bowie’s apt and where he took the picture for Ziggy Stardust.

Okay that one I’ll show you

It was here:

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And now it’s this:

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But you remember it like this:

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Where were we?

Oh yes, museums! All the museums in London are free which is such a fantastic way to promote and foster the arts (I’m looking at you, NYC).

It was like ART OVERLOAD but here are some highlights:

Ballet Dancers by Degas

Ballet Dancers by Degas

Venus and Mars by Botticelli

Venus and Mars by Botticelli

Bathers at Asnieres by Seraut

Bathers at Asnieres by Seraut

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion

'The Rokeby Venus by Velazquez

‘The Rokeby Venus by Velazquez

Van Gogh's Sunflowers

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

 

We also went to the Handel house (it was a very Handel themed trip apparently)

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which happened to be right next door to this:

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The Handel house was great, and one of the best things about it is that on the ground floor they have a small rehearsal area that musicians can book and we were lucky enough to be there when people were practicing which really brought the whole thing to life.

We also did a Jack the Ripper walking tour of the East End, which was cool because the first time we went to London we didn’t get past the Tower Bridge and I really wanted to go to WhiteChapel.

You can still find the actual spot where Jack the Ripper killed his victims on the street:

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It’s even creepier if you picture 1888 gaslight London

Also, the East End has some fantastic graffiti:

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And no trip to London would be complete with a walk over the Tower Bridge

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To Southwark to see the Globe

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have some pie at Manzees

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Seriously, this stuff is amazing. Look every pub in London sells meat pies. And all the meat pies are good. I mean, how could it not be good. It’s a pie….full of meat…..with mashed potatoes on the side. But what happens at Manzee is MAGICAL. It’s worth the visit down Tower Bridge Road.

And finally, because you all know how obsessed I am with Doctor Who we walked all the way across London to find this:

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Look at it! A TARDIS just sitting outside the Earl’s Court Tube Station.

I died.

Seriously. DIED.

Can you see how happy I am? Cause I’m so happy. Happy and dead.

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And then there’s still LIVERPOOL. You know what’s great about Liverpool? Everyone sounds like George Harrison. Seriously!

We saw the Cavern Club, which to be honest was sort of a disappointment.

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It’s not the original – that was torn down even though the bloody Beatles played something like 250 shows there. So they built this one a little down the way from where it was. Jay does a better job of explaining what it was like so I’ll let him talk for a change.

But they do have this outside which was pretty cool

 

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We stopped off at a couple of John and Stu Sutcliff’s favorite pubs

First Ye Cracke (insert snickering here)

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See, proof

John Lennon at Ye Cracke

John Lennon at Ye Cracke

 

And also The Phil

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mmmmm ciders!

 

And of course we went to Mendips, John’s childhood home.

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To see John and Paul’s place you have to buy tickets for the National Trust tour. That’s the only way you can get inside and honestly, being inside is the whole point. Standing in John Lennon’s tiny (so tiny) bedroom was surreal. I thought about him, with his feet up on the wall, coming up with the words to Hello Little Girl. As he told Yoko when he took her by, “There it is Yoko. That’s where I did all my dreaming.”

In the back was were the trees that overlooked Strawberry Fields….”No one I think is in my tree….”

The guide told great stories about Mimi, a stern but good woman who raised John from the age of 5.

Afterwards we went back on the bus and headed down to 20 Forthlin Road, Paul McCartney’s home

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It was an council house – which is a form of public housing built for working class families. They were rented not owned. Mimi, John’s aunt, didn’t think much of people who lived in council houses, but she liked Paul because he spoke ‘proper English’ and didn’t sound like a Scouser (Liverpool accent – basically what George sounds like).  Their carpets were sewn together from scraps of other carpets, one big patchwork and the walls were lined in mismatched wall paper. The walls are also covered in pictures that Mike, Paul’s older brother took of ‘Our Kid’ (his nickname of Paul).

This is Paul and Mike with his mother Mary who died when the boys were young. In fact after John lost his mother, Julia, in a car accident he bonded with Paul as they were both now motherless. Paul wrote Let it Be for his mother.

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And one of my other favorites ones, of Paul climbing the drainpipe outside. He used to do that as a kid when his father locked him out for missing dinner.

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And here he is with John…working out I Saw Her Standing There in his living room, where they would practice when they cut school.

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I stood right next to that fireplace.

Crazy.

Okay I’m getting carried away and there’s still a lot to cover.

We also found George and Ringo’s place during an epic trip through the suburbs of Liverpool that I wrote about here and that I’ll go into more depth about on the new travel blog I’m going to keep.

But here’s George’s place.

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This one is special for me. Not just cause it’s George and I adore him (if I’m FORCED to pick a favorite, it’s George) and not just cause the people who live there don’t like people coming around to take pictures but because this is the first house we found after being told it was IMPOSSIBLE. We were told by shop clerks and tour guides not to bother. Take a taxi tour, they said. Get on the Magical Mystery Bus. As soon as they told me I couldn’t find it was the moment I knew I would. I’m stubborn like that. With our day bus pass in hand we found our way all over Liverpool.

To Penny Lane:

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To Strawberry Fields:

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To the churchyard where the QuarryMen played their first show

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Which if you look closely has this:

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This particular gem was shown to us by a small Chinese couple that spoke broken English. As soon as we walked in the graveyard they beckoned us over and pointed it out and then he mimicked John Lennon playing his guitar.

Then across the street to the place where John and Paul met.

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Where they hung this:

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Pete Shotton: “Hey Paul, John wants to know if you want to join the group.” Paul: “Okay” *rides off on his bike*

 

And then to Julia’s house, where for a small precious period of time, John had her back in his life. Not as a mother but as a friend. Julia taught John to play the guitar. John referenced Julia in quite a few songs, but most famously in Julia, which also has references to Yoko Ono. (Ono in Japanese means child of the sea)

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And then finally to the Dingle, where Ringo was born

It was a craphole then and it’s a craphole now. Such a craphole that I made us leave early when I thought I heard voices behind the shuttered and boarded up windows and feared being robbed by squatters. I’m such an idiot.

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And then of course there was Stu Sutcliffe.

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Stu was the Fifth Beatle, a best friend of John’s, an amazing painter and unfortunately a pretty crappy bass player.

Stu left the band to study painting, his true passion, in Germany with his girlfriend Astrid Kirchner. Astrid not only took some of the most iconic pictures of the Beatles, but she was the reason they got their Beatle haircut. Tragically Stu died at the age of 21 from what is believed to have been a cerebral hemorrhage.

When he and John were in art school together, they lived on Gambier Terrace, in this loft.

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Stu is buried in Liverpool and finding his grave was one of the few things we didn’t get to.

But we did go into the Walker Art Gallery and found his art. I can’t help but think Stu would have appreciated us picking his art over his old bones.

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Hamburg 2

It’s pretty amazing isn’t it?

I think he would have been an incredible force in the art world.

 

So I think that’s about it. I had the best time with this guy:

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Everyone should be so lucky to have a traveling buddy like this.

So Cheers!

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And Goodbye England!

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Peace, Love and Starbursts,

Ally

P.S…..Trish the Dish and Big Ron (ie. Mom and Dad) the backpacks were AMAZING. I never knew I could carry that much crap on my back. You’re the bestest.

 

 

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