Our Berlin Experience 2011
From the 8th – 12th December, a class of budding German speakers stayed in the prestigious German capital of Berlin. It was an amazing experience, filled with adventure, excitement and insight into a city filled to the brim with historical wealth.
On Thursday morning, we were swiftly chauffeured to Luton airport in our luxurious minibuses to our Easyjet flight. After the impressive in-flight entertainment in the form of Paul’s fear of heights, we made a gentle landing in Berlin. We used the “U-Bahn” to pass through Alexanderplatz and reach Senefelderplatz, the location of the Meininger Hotel, our temporary home. It was here that we were assigned our rooms for the stay. Then it was off to the highlight of the evening – the food. 12 Apostles was a beautiful restaurant, serving the finest Italian cuisine imaginatively named after Jesus’ followers. We all discovered a newfound love for Judas in his Pizza toppings (name of the Pizza); it was a combination so delectable it could have easily led to betrayal across the table.
After a beautiful dinner, we headed for a tour around the main sights of Berlin by night. First up, was the astonishing Brandenburg Gate. We gathered around the gate and said the College prayer. We then ran through the historical gates to recreate the moment the East Berliners were first allowed to pass through it to the West in 1989. After a game of “Frau Nash sagt” (similar to “Simon says”), we returned to the hotel to reflect on the adventurous day we had.
Our first full day in Berlin, Friday, did not fail to provide even more discovery and adventure than the day before it. The day began with a lengthy yet engaging tour of the city. We saw everything, from the university Albert Einstein attended, to a thought provoking monument dedicated to the Jews murdered in the Holocaust. When the tour had concluded at Checkpoint Charlie, we had the opportunity to experience one of Germany’s legendary Christmas markets. Everything looked beautiful and it was a chance for a group of London boys to embrace German culture and to be immersed in such a joyous tradition, not to mention an opportunity to see the teachers race down a 50 foot slope! We moved from the Christmas market to enjoy some fine Austrian cuisine (most of us had “Wiener Schnitzel”) before making our way to the “Olympiastadion” to see Hertha Berlin play against Schalke 04 in a Bundesliga match. Despite our morale boosting cheers, a headed goal from Adrian Ramos and a multitude of chances, the home team were defeated 2:1 by Schalke. The journey home was comical as we were stuck in the middle of a packed “U-Bahn” carriage transporting hoards of singing Hertha and Schalke fans. It was a memorable end to the day and definitely one of the highlights of the whole trip.
Saturday did not get off to a great start. Due to the moronic decision of a few of the hotel’s inhabitants to smoke in their room (nothing to do with us!), we all received a rude awakening, courtesy of the combination of the fire alarm and the sirens of the fire engines. After another couple of hours of sleep, we were all woken up again, as it was time to go the “Story of Berlin” museum. We received 800 years of Berlin history in a matter of hours. We even stood in an underground nuclear bunker, which was truly an amazing experience. When the museum tour had ended, some of us went shopping whilst the others went to the zoo. It was an outstanding zoo with numerous animals – some of which we had never seen before! That was followed by a tour of the “Reichstag” (the German parliament building). It was a sight full of surprises; we not only saw Angela Merkel’s office, but also had a beautiful view of Berlin from a towering glass dome at the top of the building. After seeing the inspiring panorama of the German capital, we returned to ground level to once again embrace the spirit of the German Christmas market, only this time on a much bigger scale and with a show inside. When the time for fun and games was over, we ended the day with a beautiful German roast dinner, before heading back to the hotel.
Sunday was our last full day in Berlin, but that only meant that we knew it would be twice as special. We began the day as if it were any other Sunday – by celebrating mass with members of the congregation inside the beautiful St. Hedwig’s Cathedral. Despite the service being in German, it was quite easy to follow (with the help of the translated mass sheets) and it was a soothing experience. We then took a lovely break for “Kaffee und Kuchen”, where we indulged in delicious cakes and hot chocolate in one of Berlin’s most famous cafes. We then headed off to the visibly stunning O2 World to watch the Eisbären Berlin take on München in ice-hockey. It was a dazzling display of speed, strength and style, which ended in Berlin clinching the winner in overtime. The final score was 3:2. After the dramatic end to the match, we quickly moved on to our next destination, which was a bowling alley, where we spent the next two hours having an enormous amount of fun. Dinner at the Hard Rock Café was a perfect way to ease back into the culinary familiarities of home, not to mention a beautiful meal as well. With that, our final day in Berlin drew to a close.
Overall, the Berlin trip was an amazing experience which we would recommend to anyone who gets the opportunity in the future. We would like to thank everyone for making it the best school trip ever!
Reuben Arthur (4C) and Max Pittas (4G)