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16 November 2017

Lower Sixth Scholars Learn of Berlin's Intimate Past

In the October half term, 17 Lower Sixth Academic Scholars visited the German capital of Berlin on a short but extremely eventful cultural trip.

Day 1 began with a trip to Bernauer Straße, a street on the border of Berlin districts, Wedding and Mitte. The scholars, accompanied by Mr Smith and Mrs Cashmore, were able to walk through the ‘death zone,’ and along the stark remains of the wall that divided the city during the Cold War.

Later in the day, during their exploration of the DDR Museum, they were able to examine aspects of life in East Germany, including past economies and even potty-training. They then toured a former secret police prison, where the guide engaged pupils with stories about the brutal methods used within.

In the evening, the scholars and staff ventured into Western Berlin, walking to Checkpoint Charlie, a crossing point between the East and West of the city, before making a trek through the bright lights of Potsdamer Platz to Brandenburg Gate, one of Berlin’s most important monuments.

On Day 2, there were further remarkable sights, including the neoclassical buildings of central Berlin, beautifully restored after the war, as well as monuments from the Middle East, reconstructed and preserved in the Pergamon Museum.

After lunch, the pupils opted to explore either engineering innovations in the Technical Museum, or artistic masterpieces in the Gemäldegalerie. They met up at the Libeskind Building, a Jewish museum designed by Polish-American architect, Daniel Libeskind. Here, another brilliantly informative guide steered them through 2000 years of Jewish history.

Despite growing fatigue, the party topped off their day with a late night trip to the Fernsehturm, a German television tower constructed in the late 1960s. Here, they climbed to the observation deck, which provided fantastic views of central Berlin. It was a beautiful sight, and a real highlight of the trip.

Day 3 took a bleaker turn. During the morning, pupils rode the train to Oranienburg to witness the horrors of Sachsenhausen, a Nazi concentration camp formerly used for political prisoners. This was a very thought-provoking excursion, and a visit remembered by all.

In the afternoon, the group returned to the engineering wonder of Hauptbahnhof railway station, before strolling via the Reichstag back to Potsdamer Platz for some much-needed coffee. Unfortunately, it was then time to begin the journey home.

The group returned having seen a huge amount, showing a real interest and engagement in all they had seen. The excursion was a fantastic opportunity for the scholars to learn more about Berlin’s rich and vibrant history, and will now form the basis of a presentation to an upcoming Phoenix Society meeting.

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