Hallo aus Berlin!
24th February, 2017 by Marcus and Victoria
Reporting back from last term when most students were about to enjoy the madness of Charities Week, 30 Years 10 and 11 students gathered on a cold Monday morning at 4:00 am before the festivities began to depart for a week’s study trip to Berlin, the capital city of Germany.
After a two-hour flight, we were greeted by our tour guide for the week, Bernd, and bussed to our hotel in the Berlin Mitte area of the city. With a view of the great TV Tower, we hastily unpacked and walked to our first Christmas market. Situated on the famous Alexanderplatz, we all separated to walk around the magical stalls. From wooden toys, to Mandeln and Lebkuchen, and Christmas decorations to Glühwein sellers, with our bags suitably full, we headed back to the hotel.
Eine Stadtrundfahrt durch eine faszinierende Stadt
Tuesday morning began with a city tour, led by our eccentric tour guide Bernd, who gave us our first lesson on how the Berlin underground system worked. We caught the S-Bahn to Friedrichstrasse where we had our introduction to the history of the Berlin Wall at the Tränenpalast and learnt how the crossings between sectors were operated by the Allies. We then made our way to Checkpoint Charlie, the famous American Checkpoint between East and West. After lunch, we visited the thought-provoking Holocaust Memorial, before heading to the Brandenburg Gate, which was once situated behind the Wall; but is today a symbol of German unity. Afterwards, we had a guided tour of the Reichstag and its dome which rises to give a spectacular view of the wintery city. That evening, with the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market so full, we headed off to another market on Alexanderplatz, where we took all advantage of the many sausage, waffle, crêpe and gift stalls before returning to the hotel, exhausted but full of happy thoughts of the day’s activities.
Eine geteilte Stadt
On the Wednesday morning, we headed to Bernauer Strasse, for a self-guided tour of one of the largest remaining parts of the Wall, before making our way to the Wall Memorial museum, which we found very moving and eye-opening. From the top of the museum, you could clearly see the structure of the wall – with its many parts. This revelation shocked many, as to the length the DDR regime went to divide the troubled city. We then took the tram to the East Side Gallery, which is a 1316 m long section of Berlin Wall. 118 artists from all over the world contributed to this mural and expressed their feelings and emotions about the Berlin Wall and political events of 1989 -1991 through their art. That evening, we all went bowling. This was a great opportunity for the different year groups to talk, and for everyone to relax after the long busy days.
Vorsprung durch Technik
We were greeted on Thursday by a long S-Bahn ride to the Olympic Stadium – designed and built for the 1936 Games. Designed by Hitler, it was architecturally curated to showcase the power and control of the Nazi regime, highlighted by the thick, bleak pillars, dotted around the colourless park. After a guided tour of the 5-star football stadium, in which we lucky to see the inner workings including the changing rooms, underground VIP areas and training facilities, we departed for Postdamer Platz. A couple of hours into the market visit, Frau accompanied the budding scientists and engineers of the future, just a short distance away, to the Technikmuseum, while the remaining students continued with their shopping spree with Miss White and Mr Burns. Once at the Technikmuseum, which has a full-size aeroplane on its roof, we browsed the extensive exhibitions, but focused on areas of particular interest including medical technology, communication technology, engineering, sailing and textile technology. Then an S-Bahn ride home started the mass clean-up of our rooms, in preparation for our departure the following day.
Auf Wiedersehen – bis bald!
With all of our bags backed and safely stored away, we headed off the Kurfürstendamm, the main designer shopping street in Germany. First however, we visited the Story of Berlin Museum, which guided us step by step through Berlin’s transformation from an industrial powerhouse, through the Nazi empire, through its division and to a current reunited Germany. During the Cold War, many underground bunkers were built in case of a nuclear disaster. We had a guided tour of one serving the East. With thousands of rows of four high bunkbeds, but just a handful of facilities to provide for hundreds of thousands of people, this was an eye-opener to the reality of war and what could have happened if nuclear weapons were used. However, an hour’s shopping on the largest retail street in Berlin soon lightened the mood – with some visiting the Kaiser Wilhem Memorial Church.
A lunch at the famous Hard Rock Café concluded our stay in Berlin. After having flown home, we returned with our mind broadened to the rich history of Berlin, the fascinating culture of the Christmas markets, and with memories we will cherish for ever.