Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Berlin Trip

Day 1
On Friday the 27th of October, while most students prepared for their mid term, a group of History and German students, including many 4th years met at Dublin airport at 4.30am for their very early flight to Berlin. Many of us seemed a little cranky queueing up for security but we seemed in a much better form after we had a good nap on the plane. We got through the airport in Dublin and Berlin surprisingly fast, although I did get searched by a security guard after setting off their security machine. We got a coach to our hotel and barely had time to abandon our bags in the hotel basement. Then it was off to our first trip, a walking tour of Berlin city. While many of us weren't exactly keen to walk around the city in the lashing rain we actually had an amazing time. We got to see some of Berlin's most interesting landmarks and learn about its rich history. We saw landmarks like the Berlin Wall, Hitler's bunker, and the Brandenburg Gate and got background about them from our helpful tour guide. 

After the door, we went back to the hotel to explore our rooms and have dinner, then we headed off to the Reichstag building, the German parliament. We went through a quick security check there, where of course I managed to set off the security machines again and get another pat down. Once we got through we were given a headset with earphones to guide us through the parliament. The building had fantastic architectural features and the view from the top of it of Berlin at night was breath-taking. The glass dome on top of the building which represented the reunification of Germany was especially impressive as it used the sunlight to decrease the carbon emissions of the building.

Day 2
On the Saturday we visited Checkpoint Charlie and the Topography of Terror. Checkpoint Charlie was a crossing between the capitalist and communist sides of Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. There is a large mast in the middle of the checkpoint which symbolically features a picture of a Soviet soldier on one side looking over the American sector and an American soldier on the other side looking over the Soviet sector. We had a chance to get our picture taken with a soldier outside of a replica of the guard house that stood there. We went to the museum there which featured plenty of interesting images, newspaper articles, and stories of the point and how people attempted to escape over the border. After that, we visited the Topography of Terror, a holocaust museum. A guide showed us different parts of the museum and explained some of the images we saw. The experience was informative but sombre, and opened our eyes to the horrors of Germany's past.

That afternoon we went to Alexanderplatz, a huge square in Berlin for lunch and shopping. Some 4th years decided to sample the local cuisine and try Currywurst. Currywurst, by the way, is sausage sliced up and covered in ketchup then sprinkled with curry powder. It was about as tasty as it sounds, I later decided to buy a pretzel to expel the taste from my mouth. We shopped in some of the major shopping centres in Alexanderplatz and people bought designer tracksuits and delicious German chocolate for their families. I got a snow globe which later broke. That night we went to see 'The One Show' which I could only really describe as a spectacle. It was an artistic show, meaning it didn't have any main plot and featured beautiful and strange costumes as well as well as dances with fire and gymnastics and singing. We later asked the teachers what the entire thing meant, but were told that it was probably better not to overanalyse it. Nevertheless, it was certainly very entertaining and captivating. Things only got more confusing as our bus driver sang us German shanties over the speakers on our way back to the hotel, but overall we had a fantastic day.

Day 3
On the third day we got a coach to Potsdam and were brought to Cecelienhof Palace. Unfortunately, we never actually got to do our planned guided tour of the place as it was shut until 12pm on Sundays. However we did get to admire the majestic outside of it while it was redecided what we could do for the morning. We eventually ended up going to a nearby village which was an unexpected and very beautiful place. Some 4th years decided to skip the Currywurst that day and we headed to a nice Italian restaurant for lunch. Others visited the amazing bakeries and caf├ęs in the village. After the village, we went on to the Wannsee Conference House. We learned that at the Wannsee Conference, many Nazi figures including Adolf Eichmann discussed the solution that had been reached about how to deal with the Jewish people in Europe. Our tour guide gave us a very engaging talk about the conference and answered some insightful questions very well. We were given a chance to walk around the house after that and read or listen to stories about those who died in or survived the Holocaust. 

After dinner we went to the TV Tower, one of Berlin's most iconic landmarks. We learned that the tower was originally built by the East German government after they removed all religious imagery including crosses from their side of the city. Unfortunately for them, the TV Tower they built has a huge golden cross on the side of it when the sun shines on it during the day, and despite some expensive measures the tried to take such as using special paint to repaint it, the golden cross remains. We got an elevator to the top of the tower, and I could feel my ears popping as we went up. At the top, we had a chance to look around and admire our view of the city from the tower at night. 

Day 4
On the final day we had planned to go to the zoo and Hitler's bunker, but unfortunately our flight had been moved to earlier in the day so we didn't get to see them. I did, unsurprisingly, set off one final security machine as we went through the airport and get my last security search. We flew back to Dublin, exhausted but completely satisfied with our trip. Everybody said that they had the best time and all the 4th years especially said it was a once in a lifetime trip. We all went home delighted and beaming, ready to enjoy the rest of our mid term break.

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