GCSE History Trip to Berlin

GCSE History Trip to Berlin

On 15 October 2022, still recovering from the rigours of the first half of term, 50 excited Fifth Year pupils arrived at Gatwick airport with open minds and enthusiasm for the four busy days ahead. Four days of culture, walking, and a great deal of currywurst!

Following a short flight alongside two other English school groups, we arrived at the shiny new Berlin Brandenburg Airport and travelled to the hostel by coach to the strains of the first of many songs, got settled in, and went to bed eagerly awaiting the dawn. The first full day began with a walking tour of Berlin with our guides Amy and Fran. This was really interesting as we were told lots of personal anecdotes about the history of Berlin and the Cold War that wouldn’t be found in textbooks and allowed us to get a feel for the city.

After 3.5 hours, some pupils began to flag and so we stopped off for the very first currywurst, of many. Everyone was keen to hit Mr Hosking’s ‘Triumvirate of Berlin Food’ – currywurst, kebab, weiner schnitzel in Hackeschermarkt along with a well-earned sit down. Re-energised, we boarded a coach to the Glienicker Bridge, as made famous by the film Bridge of Spies, where we received a first-hand perspective talk on the history and significance of the bridge by Bob, our captivating tour guide. Afterwards, we went to Potsdam, site of the famous Potsdam conference in 1945, where Mr Wood gave us a detailed breakdown of the history of the house and the wider context of the Second World War. This segued nicely into a talk from Mr Hosking and Mrs James on the Wannsee Conference and the development of the Holocaust, after which we headed back into the city to visit Gleis 17 (Platform 17). This memorial cemented the shift in tone begun at Schloss Cecilienhof with the pupils becoming more sombre and reflective, mirroring the mood of the memorial itself. Many found it hard to process the numbers engraved beneath their feet. Nevertheless, after the eye-opening experience we were able to slowly pick up the mood on the coach ride back with songs before dinner at a restaurant in Alexanderplatz. After a walk around Berlin following dinner, the first day drew to a close and the opportunity to rest!

The second day started earlier with a coach journey to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, arguably the most hard hitting and thought-provoking location visited on the trip. The day advanced with a trip to the Topography of Terror, built on the site of the SS Headquarters during the Nazi era, and a closer look at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe which occupies an entire city block in the centre of Berlin. After dinner, we met again with Fran and Amy who restored our spirits with a night-time counter-culture tour of Berlin; a fascinating journey into the hidden underbelly of art and graffiti this diverse city has to offer.

The last day began with an opportunity to souvenir shop for families and friends and most people took the chance to load up on mementos of Berlin. The last historical site we visited was an inoperative Stasi Prison, now a museum, which expanded our knowledge on the lifestyles of East Germans during the Cold War and the use of psychological control. With time ticking on, it was time to head back to the airport. One swift night flight later, everybody was reunited with their families having had their thirst for historical knowledge satisfied, and we would like to thank the History Department and all the teachers who worked so hard to make the trip a reality.

Auf Wiedersehn, Berlin!

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