After what felt like three days of traveling, our group finally landed in Berlin sometime after 7 am Tuesday morning.
It was much colder in Berlin than expected, so I am thankful that I threw a sweatshirt and coat in my bag at the last minute before departing! After getting picked up at the airport by Heike (teacher at the school we will be at and director of the WKU/Germany partnership) and Dr. McGee (a WKU professor), we took a bus and a short walk to our hotel. We had a short time to change clothes and prepare for the day ahead. We grabbed a quick breakfast at a cafe in the train station (it was roughly 2 am at home and my body was SO confused), and then we set off!
Our first stop was at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which had the top bombed off during the war. The inside was beautiful.
The church was also open for people to enter, and I am so glad that I got to spend a few minutes inside the beautiful sanctuary.
We walked by Bellevue, which is the official residence of the president of Germany. Dr. McGee taught us about the German government, and the similarities and differences between our nations’ government systems. Being a Middle Grades Language Arts and Social Studies major, I loved getting to know more about the way the government is currently run in Germany!
Next was the climb up the Victory Column. My legs could never have been adequately prepared for this. My muscles are still aching from the two hundred and some odd steps that we climbed. (Am I a wimp? Maybe.) It was a very small, spiral staircase all the way to the top. There was one stop at a lower level, which I was hoping was closer to the top. But alas, I still had so much to climb. I am so glad that I did it though because it gave some amazing views of the city!
Here is a picture of me smiling through the leg pain!
We walked down the road to the Brandenburg Gate via a scenic path that many bikers and walkers were on. The Brandenburg Gate once was inaccessible because it was located by the Berlin Wall.
We had a few hours of down time (NAP TIME) at the hotel. We did make a quick stop at the grocery store/market down the street, and in my tired state, the only thing I picked up was a variety pack of chocolate. Not a surprise.
After not sleeping in what felt like forever, I enjoyed a nap that held me through dinner.
Speaking of dinner! Dinner the first night was wonderful. I enjoyed schnitzel, which was what everyone told me to try when I came to Germany.
Day 2: April 19
I FINALLY slept, and I felt like a real person again on Wednesday morning. After a delicious buffet breakfast provided by the hotel, we embarked on “museum day”. First, we visited The Story of Berlin museum, which was honestly my favorite museum I’ve ever visited – both as a teacher and as a student. Heike had provided us with questions to answer as we went throughout the museum, and there were three different levels of questions. As we went through the different rooms, there were many different ways to engage with the material to be learned in that room. There were videos, pictures, audio recordings, artifacts, drawers of items and clothing, etc. This, paired with the different levels of questions (such a good way to differentiate), was definitely a great way to stay engaged in the museum! I got to learn about and experience centuries of German history, and it was good to have a different perspective on world history by reading it from the German perspective.
Below are a few of the pictures that I took while I was in the museum.
As we left the museum, IT STARTED TO SNOW. I was SO not mentally prepared for the snow, but I was glad I stuck my wind breaker in my big purse so that I could put it on to add an extra layer of warmth. Also so glad I had gloves. My cold little fingers would have fallen right off! After a quick lunch, a few of us stopped and got hats at Urban Outfitters. (My new pink hat made an appearance in many pictures through this week.)
Next was the DDR Museum, which was a museum about the history of East Germany. Before dinner, we had a few hours to walk around that area. A few of us visited some shops in the area and stopped to take a few pictures.
The group reconvened for dinner, where I tried Spätzle.
Our group also shared this delicious dessert. It was devoured SO quickly.
After dinner, some of us went to the East Side Gallery, which displayed artwork and graffiti on a portion of the Berlin Wall that was left standing.
Day 3 – April 20
Day three was government day. We visited the parliament building, which was a very beautiful building! We walked in the glass dome on top of the building, which provided more information about Berlin’s history and spectacular views of the city.
The parliament building is in this picture below.
The glass dome and some of the pictures I took from up there are shown below.
The glass dome is to symbolize the transparency that the government has. The building and all that goes on inside belongs to the people. We also had a tour from a member of parliament’s staff, and they took us to a variety of areas around the building that tours normally do not get to see! There was artwork all around the building, which added a great touch. Something like ten percent of the budget goes to artwork in parliament.We got to learn more about Parliament and the happenings inside the building.
Below are a variety of pictures that I took on our tour.
In the afternoon, we visited the Berlin Wall Memorial, which displayed large images and information about the wall. There were markers in the ground to show how houses had the wall run straight through them, and there was a portion of the wall left up to show the different levels of barriers that were put up on the east side of the wall.
There were stories of escape and videos about taking the wall down. It was interesting to learn more about life in the East and the decision to remove the barrier between the two.
Dinner was pizza, and the group made a trip to Primark to shop around. I also stopped again at the grocery down the street to get more chocolate (a necessity), snacks, and a Fanta (much better in Germany than the US).
Day 4 – April 21
Today was our trip to Sachsenhausen, which was once a concentration camp that is now a museum/memorial. It was a very surreal experience to walk down the road to a place that so many men, women, and children walk into but did not get to walk out of. We were given a map of the camp and an audio guide. In a small group, I took my time listening to the recordings and learning more about the conditions there.
We went inside the barracks and listened to some audio recordings of men who spent time at Sachsenhausen. We listened to audio recordings, which also provided us with a name, picture, and their occupation. Being able to put a face to it really hit hard. It makes it even more impactful when you see the face of a person who had to endure this place and the conditions that were forced upon them.
The most emotionally heavy portion was the section of Sachsenhausen where people were executed. I am honestly still processing the whole experience, but this particular section, as well as the infirmary area, will be something that will take much more time to deal with and process.
I am so glad that I had the chance to visit Sachsenhausen, and I think that it is an experience that I wish more people had. It truly has already changed my perspective on a lot of things.
We also visited the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. The purpose of the memorial is to symbolize how everyone in the Holocaust was different but that they were all treated the same and were all treated like criminals.
After the memorial was a quick stop to Checkpoint Charlie, which was the crossing point of the Berlin Wall between the East and West sides.
We had about ten minutes back at the hotel before dinner, which is pictured below. It was jägerschnitzel and was delicious!
I am currently back in the hotel room enjoying free wifi. Tomorrow will be our trip to Postdam! On Sunday, we will be heading to Werne, which is where we will be staying with host families and going to the schools there! I am very excited for these next few days in Berlin and the time that we will spend in Werne!
I apologize for the super long post, but we have done a TON of very cool things here the last few days! I hope you enjoyed the pictures, and I promise there will be more soon!