Berlin: Bunkers, Brezhnev and Bratwurst!
Our History department took time out of half term to lead a large group of GCSE students to Berlin to discover more about the history and culture of this popular metropolis. Below is an account of the visit as well as a selection of photographs.
Our trip to Berlin got off to a very early start as we had to get to the airport at 4:20am. Security was an exercise in how many liquids we could take through in hand luggage and it resulted in the forced removal of Eleanor’s glittery unicorn nails and the breaking of Grace’s padlock with industrial bolt-cutters. Whilst in the airport, Ella decided to leave her boarding pass in KFC, and so, after a mad dash back to KFC, we went to the gate and boarded the plane. As there wasn’t any more room in the cabin, our bags went into the hold, Enya didn’t realise that we would need our passports when we landed and proceeded to put her passport in her suitcase. This meant another wild dash to pick up her bag and run back to passport control so she’d be allowed in the country.
The first place we visited was the site of Hitler’s Bunker. This was underground and as it was a dark part of history they didn’t want it to be remembered as a good thing, so it is used as a car park and you couldn’t access the bunker. From here we went to the Holocaust Memorial; this was designed to represent what they felt in the Holocaust. If we were really brave we could walk it alone. Being surrounded by the giant concrete blocks, forced you to feel confused, lost and we started wondering aimlessly. We could hear the voices of our friends but when we turned around they were nowhere to be seen. Then we went underneath to the museum and learnt some of the stories that they went through which moved us deeply. By this point it was raining really hard but we walked to the Berlin History Museum which was really interesting and a good way to remember parts of history that we had covered in class. After this we went to Bebelplatz where they did the burning of the books. They had a sculpture of empty bookshelves below the street, covered by a glass screen, of course we dared each other to jump on the glass to see if it would hold: you’d be happy to know it did. We also passed the cathedral on the way to the S-Bahn station. The S-Bahn was the equivalent of our trains but they also had the U-Bahn which was like the tube, either way there were always so many steps up or down to the platform. After dinner we went to the Reichstag and walked around the huge dome at the top and learnt some interesting facts about it like there were 360 mirrors in the middle to reflect light into the conference rooms but there was also a sunshade which prevented glare.
On the Saturday we went to Checkpoint Charlie which was one of the few places you could pass through the wall that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Whilst there we took a group photo with some people dressed up as the American soldiers, one of which took a shine to Miss Conboy! From here we went to the Topography of Terror, which was where the Gestapo headquarters had been; here we could see the original walls of the building but not much of it remained. Beside it was a museum about the Gestapo and we found out who lead them and where else they were based in the city.
We also travelled out of Berlin to visit the Sachsenhausen Concentration camp we had an audio guide around the camp and some of the original barracks were still standing containing some of the original washrooms and beds. It was really moving hearing all of the stories and seeing all of the various torture methods they had come up with, such as a shoe testing track which the prisoners were forced to run around for 40km on different surfaces to test shoe sole materials for army boots. The next thing we saw was the TV tower at Alexanderplatz which soars 368 metres over Berlin. We saw this at night which meant we could see all the lights up and down the streets and it was all breathtaking. We were so high up that all the people were tiny dots and we could see to the other side of Berlin. Even the lift showed how high the tower was by having a glass top you could see all the way up the elevator shaft.
On Sunday morning we went to the Story of Berlin, this museum was really good as it was interactive and we learnt more about Germany’s history other than Nazi Germany and the First World War, which we study in class. Within this museum there was an underground nuclear bunker, it could hold just under 3000 people for 14 days in case of a radiation attack. Twenty two of these were built around Berlin, however there were over 3 million people in the city therefore there still weren’t enough bunkers for everyone and 14 days wasn’t enough for all of the radiation to have gone. After the bunker we went for lunch around the area, then we went to the East Side Gallery. This was a long part of the Berlin wall which has been painted with pictures with hidden meanings about the wall itself. One of these pictures had the date of each year the wall was up from 1961 to 1989, surrounding each date were roses, depending on how many people had been killed trying to get through the wall; there were 136 in total. There were also some more famous pieces of art like Brezhnev and Honnecker kissing. Once we had finished going around this we took the S-Bahn to Alexanderplatz where we went shopping before heading to the Hostel to pick up luggage. At the hostel there was a sausage vending machine, which Mr. Robinson would recommend, we then went to the Airport where our flight was delayed, but at least no one lost their boarding pass this time – Ella wasn’t allowed to look after hers. At the end of the flight we all proceeded to clap as the pilot landed, just because it embarrassed Miss Conboy.
I would really recommend this trip as it was a lot of fun –and of course we learnt a lot of history. I would like to say a huge thank you to Mrs Amery for organising the trip, Miss Conboy for being Trip Leader and for Mr Robinson and Mrs Thelwell for coming with us and making it an enjoyable trip.
E Goodwin 11S