29th December 16
The weekend of Nov 18-20th saw the History Department head off to Berlin with YR11 students. Trip participant Dora, YR11 reports from the field.
Berlin Trip 2016, Student Report
The Berlin trip started in true KAS style; running through the airport. Not too dissimilar from Home Alone 2. The atmosphere from the outset was one of excitement and unity. We landed and checked into a hotel that felt like the German equivalent of a Premier Inn. I was given a room keycard and told not to lose it. I knew I would lose it.
The next day we had breakfast and set out to go on our WW2 based day. To start the day, we all went to Starbucks and got caramel frappés. After touring the Brandenburg Gate we went to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and, actually, nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming sight that awaits you when you arrive there.
The Memorial, which was designed by the architect Peter Eisenman and the engineer Buro Happold, consists of smooth concrete blocks of slightly different sizes to make a landscape which felt unsettling – its eerie orderliness strangely at odds with the atrocity it is there to remind us of. It was something you really had to see in person to get a proper sense of it.
It isn’t just the memorial that felt significant but its location. Sitting right in the centre of Berlin, it is impossible to avoid – a necessary and everyday reminder that Germany must never forget what it happened during World War II. We walked round Berlin and our tour guide pointed out various points with historical significance including a car park which sits above the bunker in which Hitler committed suicide. It’s breathtaking to see how widely and dramatically the war affected Berlin.
Then, I went to McDonalds for lunch and went on a massive ice slide.
We spent the afternoon at the Topography of Terror Museum located on the site of the former SS and Gestapo Headquarters. It examines, in excruciating detail, the principal instruments of repression during the Third Reich. It was a sobering experience.
So, for our evening entertainment we went bowling at what appeared to be an authentically communist-style bowling alley – even tap water was off limits. Nevertheless, we persevered and demonstrated our KAS sporting prowess in our usual inimitable style.
On the Sunday, our day was themed around the Cold War and the temperature was appropriately perishing. This was my favourite day. Berlin was the living embodiment of the Cold War with the wall arbitrarily dividing the city, families and friends for decades. We arrived at some preserved ruins of the Wall where there are some photos of people who died trying to cross the divide in Berlin. Afterwards we went to a Berlin Wall Memorial that restored my faith in humanity, in particular the exhibits that focused on the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the joyous reunions that ensued.
In many ways, just walking around Berlin itself felt like an education. In the years since the Wall came down, Berlin has attracted young people from all around the world, and their energy and creativity has made this one of the most exciting cities in the world for young people to live. Everything that modern Berlin seems to stand for also represents the very things that the Wall opposed. We finally went to East Berlin to see the world’s largest open air gallery, the Eastside Gallery, and seeing the 1 kilometre decorated section of the Wall there simply underlined my sense of amazement at the journey of self-discovery Berlin has been on in the last few decades. Given what the Wall had represented, there was only thing for it, Berlin has made a landmark out of the past and embraced its history in a remarkable and public way.
Then, we returned to McDonalds and had another go on the massive ice slide.
I learned a lot of things I didn’t know over the course of the weekend, but I also had a few things confirmed that I sort of did know: mainly that the History Department are some of the smartest, loveliest, funniest people you could hope to spend a weekend with and I’m grateful to them for taking us on such a phenomenal trip.
Dora, Year 11