In October, 37 of our Year 11 students visited Berlin for an action-packed 3 days and nights.
On Friday, students explored the city on foot to take in many of the wonderful, historic and cultural sites. We saw sites as diverse as the TV Tower in Alexanderplatz, the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Cathedral, the Holocaust Memorial and the Topography of Terror – an exhibition charting the terror unleashed by the Nazi regime on the very spot that housed the Gestapo and SS Headquarters 80 years ago. Students taught each other about some of the key events and developments of Berlin through the ages. A visit to the Reichstag by night provided us with a brilliant view of the city by night, and students learnt all about the government of Germany in the 21st Century.
On Saturday, we visited the house of the Wannsee Conference – the place where the logistics and plans for the final solution to the Jewish question were discussed and agreed upon. This gave students a close look at how the Holocaust was able to happen, and provided us with lots to consider. Our visit to the spectacular Olympic Stadium – the home of Hertha Berlin Football Club – juxtaposed history and sport, and students toured the changing rooms and press room as well as the indoor climate controlled warm up space and the pitch itself. The Nazis had the stadium built for the 1936 Olympics, and it was a superb spectacle in itself in its day, with the first electronic timers and giant TV screens to show off Germany’s amazing building and technological skills.
In a suburb of Berlin, lies the Hohenschonhausen Memorial prison, where – on Sunday – we were able to hear first-hand accounts of life for prisoners at the hands of the Stasi – the secret state police of East Germany – as well as tour some of the complex. This was an eye opener for many students, who had only heard about the Stasi for the first time on the visit. We closed our visit off with a visit to a Sunday flea market near to the Berlin Wall Memorial. Students took in the more Bohemian sights and sounds of the city, and some bought quirky bits and bobs or tasted some of the gorgeous food offerings.
Throughout the visit we used public transport: buses, trams, U-Bahn and S-Bahn. This was also a brilliant part of the trip, where students were able to gain valuable life lessons involved in using a busy transport network, and seeing how people get around in a busy cosmopolitan city. Our accommodation was brilliant, and students enjoyed some down-time winding down in the brand-new Hotel Schulz, which is situated right next door to the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall – the East-Side Gallery. Meal times were relaxed, and students acted mature in their approach to the communal setting. A great night’s sleep was necessary after each of our busy days, and the brand new, beautifully decorated rooms were a perfect place to rest our heads.
The staff were so impressed with the students throughout the visit, and truly felt that all of them got an immense amount from the experience. Behaviour was impeccable, attitudes towards the subject matter were absolutely appropriate, and their considerate nature towards others both within and outside the group were all aspects worthy of high praise indeed. By the end of the weekend, everyone felt as though they had truly made the most of the visit, and many of our students declared that they had made some wonderful memories. We also hope that we have inspired them to see the world, and travel far and wide in pursuit of knowledge and culture!
“I really enjoyed the trip – it was informing and fun. The bit I will remember the most is the Reichstag Dome, where we saw the city by night.” Mia
“I loved the trip! The part I found most interesting was the House of the Wannsee Conference, where we learned all about how the Holocaust happened.” Katie
“I enjoyed the Stasi prison visit the most. I found it thoroughly interesting and a great experience for everyone to hear about a real life prisoner’s story.” Jaiden
“I absolutely loved the trip! My favourite thing about the whole trip historically, was the Reichstag. I really enjoyed spending time with people I don’t normally talk to.” Phoebe
“Exploring so much of Berlin’s contrasting History in such a short space of time and getting to know our wonderful Y11s better were the best bits for me!” Mrs Jones
“The Holocaust memorial is so surreal – it really takes you out of your comfort zone. The Wannsee House was really creepy. Amazing to think such horrible things could be contemplated in such a beautiful setting. I also thought that because of the weather and the group of pupils we took it was generally just a lovely weekend. The kids were a credit!” Miss Stone
“A fantastic visit to Berlin which in the words of the song by the group called Berlin “Took my breath away”. Mrs Llewellyn’s superb organisation and planning meant that so much was packed into the three days. It is difficult to pick up the highlights but I found
• The visits to the Holocaust Memorial and Topography of Terror very moving
• The new Reichstag dome and the refurbished Olympic Stadium very impressive
• The guided tour of the Stasi prison by a former prisoner very thought provoking
As well as an action packed visit to an interesting city I really enjoyed the company of three great members of staff and some fantastic young people. They were a real credit to the school and their families. I hope the old bald bloke with the bad sense of humour didn’t dampen the visit!” Mr Dowler