We woke to lovely sunshine and made our way out into the suburbs to visit Sachsenhausen concentration camp which was used by the Nazis to deal with political opponents. We were given an introductory talk and then we were split into two groups so that our guides Jan and Sasha could give us a guided tour. We were told how brutal and inhumane the conditions were in the camp and how although it was not a death camp as such many prisoners died because of the casual violence used by the guards, the poor diet and lack of hygiene.
After having filled up on McDonalds and Subway in the sunshine we made our way back into central Berlin to visit the Jewish Museum which is architecturally a stunning building. Mrs Munford’s History group had a guided tour on the subject of the Jewish response to the rise of the Nazis while the rest of us wandered around at our own pace.
We were greeted by another lovely sunny morning and made our way into the centre for a guided walking tour of Berlin that covered what life was like in the city before and after it was divided by the building of the wall in 1961. We looked at the site of some sections of the wall, the iconic Brandenburg Gate (or Battenburg Gate as some group members christened it) and were told about Cold War spying activities as well as some of the more daring escapes from the East to freedom in the West. The tour finished at Checkpoint Charlie the most infamous crossing point from capitalist West Berlin to Communist East Berlin. There was then time for some shopping (much to the relief of Fran Dyke) at Potsdamer Platz before going to the ‘Topography of Terror’ museum which charts the rise of the Nazis, the effect of their rule on Germany and then what happened to them after WWII.
The evening visit to the German Bundestag building was amazing as we saw from the inside Norman Foster’s amazing glass dome – Mr. Pottinger was in his element! The views over the city at night were great too.
We packed up early and set off for our last day in Berlin. Our first destination was ‘The Story of Berlin’ which is an interactive museum that charts the rise of the city from its foundation up until the present day. We also had a guided tour of an underground nuclear bunker which was designed to allow a small proportion of Berlin’s inhabitants to survive for two weeks; it was very eery and claustrophobic.
Our last visit was to the Bauhaus Museum which showcases work from the most important school of architecture, art and design of the Twentieth century including furniture, ceramics, photography and metalwork, again there was a very excited Mr. Pottinger who had to be physically dragged away from the gift shop.
We were lucky with the beautiful sunny weather and I am grateful that everybody kept going on what was a very busy schedule without complaint and remained good humoured. The hostel manager complimented both the good behaviour of our group and how tidily we had left the rooms. I was impressed and grateful how everyone took on board the need to be sensible and stick together on public transport. I was proud of how everyone conducted themselves and it made the teachers’ job an easy one. Special mention should go to Matthew Bunby who managed to keep up despite being on crutches for the whole time, Elise Fisher who similarly kept going despite feeling ill and Luke Chesworth who added his own individual touch to the Easyjet bright orange head rest!
I would also like to thank my colleagues for all their help: Mrs Payne who made travel around Berlin much easier by using her language skills to check we were going the right way and getting on the right train, Miss Holloway for her range of amusing T-shirts and giving out medication, Mrs Munford who stepped up and kept going even though feeling ill herself and last but not least Mr Pottinger who relentlessly searched for the caffeine fixes that kept him going. I hope that everyone enjoyed it despite the frenetic pace and I certainly laughed a lot most notably when James Gale announced to a very serious museum guide that the Nazi Minister for Propaganda was Joseph Gerbils much to the amusement of Mrs Payne who lost what little composure she had left.