We met at school this morning at 2.30 am to begin our journey to Berlin. The coach took us to Heathrow and from there we went through baggage check in and passport control then into the Departure Lounge where we had breakfast.
At 6.30 am we started boarding and by 7.25 am we were ready for take-off on board British Airways flight BA990. Arriving at Berlin Tegel Airport at 10.15 am (9.15 am UK time) we were met by a bus to take us to our hotel. This was located in a converted mill building. At the hotel we had time to drop our bags, change shoes etc and then onto the tram and train to meet our guides who would take us on a walking tour of Berlin.
We were split into two groups and were shown the Berlin Wall, the Topography of Terror which is an indoor and outdoor museum situated next to the Berlin Wall; the site where Hitler’s Bunker had been but which has been deliberately filled in to ensure it does not become a shrine to Hitler; the SS building; Checkpoint Charlie; the line dividing East and West Germany; the Brandenburg Gate, at which there was a pro-Palestinian demonstration next to the American Embassy building; the Jewish Memorial and the Soviet Memorial in the Tiergarten.
Our final destination was the Reichstag Building which has a wonderful classical exterior but is very modern inside. This building houses the Government Chamber into which the visitor can look from the foyer and also down into from the first floor. Above the chamber is a glass dome and visitors are able to walk up a spiral slope to the top and have a spectacular view of Berlin.
After our visit we returned to the hotel for dinner, allocation of rooms and bed. After an early start and a walk of approximately 12 miles, we were very tired and happy to go to bed.
Breakfast at 7.00 am and on the coach at 8.15 am. This was to be an emotional day as we visited Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. It is a very still place and was difficult to contemplate how anyone survived such a dreadful experience. The Camp is now mostly razed to the ground with few buildings surviving but which house exhibitions and commentary on what life would have been like. Over an entrance gate in German is the stark statement “Arbeit macht frei” translated to “Work sets you free”. It was a very flat open area – at the best of times would seem cold and depressing, but we visited it with snow falling and a temperature of -6 (with wind chill), adding to the atmosphere.
From the cold of the camp to a house in Berlin where the destiny of millions of Jews was discussed entitled “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. We had a very interesting and informative talk from the guide and there many artefacts supporting this conference.
To raise our spirits after a difficult day we went bowling before returning to our hotel for dinner. After dinner we all decided to brave the cold and visit the wonderful Christmas market to buy gifts for our families. Arriving back at the hotel just after 10.00 pm it was straight off to bed.
Today the plan was to visit the Deutsches Historisches Museum for the morning. This is housed in beautiful, almost pink stone building. The inside of the museum provided plenty of space to wander around and look at the many exhibits which gave a wonderful history of Germany throughout the ages. Students concentrated on the areas necessary for their GCSE History examinations whilst staff had the luxury of simply wandering to look at those areas of particular interest.
After lunch we visited the Alte Nationalgalerie (National Art Gallery). This – another beautiful building – houses not only an exhibition of Rodin sculptures but a range of well known – and not so well known artists – such as Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas and Cezanne. Of particular interest to those GCSE Art students on the trip was a collection by Friedrich.
From the museum we headed back to the Christmas Market and then to the hotel to collect our bags for our homeward journey.
Unfortunately due to the snow, our time at the airport was spent sat on the floor whilst Mr Sturdee and Mr Attlesey tried to sort out our travel due to our flight being cancelled. We arrived at the airport at 5.20 pm and eventually left at about 12.15 am to return to the hotel we had left seven hours earlier. We were told that we would have a phone call at about 11.00 am on Monday to confirm flight details. This arrived earlier than expected and at 10.00 am we were again on a coach back to the airport.
After another rather long day we finally arrived back at St Augustine’s at 8.30 pm on Monday.