During October Half Term, pupils from Lower Fifth and Upper Fifth flew to Berlin, Germany, for their combined German and History residential trip. Pupils had a wonderful time learning more about the history and culture of the vibrant capital city, alongside developing their language skills.

Staying in a great hostel near the main train station (Hauptbahnhof), the group started their first day with a fabulous German-style breakfast: freshly baked rolls, cheeses, hams, fresh fruit, pancakes and more. Following their hearty breakfast, they set off to explore central Berlin, and enjoyed climbing to the top of the cathedral, which provided a spectacular view of the key landmarks and sites of Berlin. In the afternoon, the group enjoyed a guided tour of the parliament building (Reichstag), learning about its history, as well as its unique architecture and the role that British architect Sir Norman Foster played in the building’s re-design. Pupils then walked through the iconic Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, taking time to reflect and engage. Following this there was an impromptu stop for a local delicacy – Currywurst – before excitedly exploring the Rittersport chocolate shop. Later in the afternoon, the group headed to Bernauer Strasse to take in one of the remaining Berlin Wall sites, learning about attempted escapes, the division of both Berlin and Germany, as well as the creation of a new country, the GDR (German Democratic Republic).

On the second day, the group took a coach to the Wannsee House to learn more about Nazi Germany and the final solution, before exploring the beautiful town of Potsdam for some lunch. The freshly baked cinnamon rolls with various fillings proved a real hit! The group then headed back to central Berlin to visit Checkpoint Charlie, the Topography of Terror, the Jewish Museum and then the Hard Rock Café for an enjoyable Halloween meal.

Ther final full day in Berlin was jam-packed with fascinating historical information, starting off with the Stasi (East German secret police) Museum, learning about the way in which GDR citizens’ lives were controlled and monitored, as well as how the state was organised. Pupils then enjoyed some shopping and a visit to the famous Kaufhaus des Westens department store, before popping into the Gedächtniskirche (church) with its uniquely modern, blue stained-glass interior. In the afternoon, the group went to Alexanderplatz to go up the TV-tower (Berliner Fernsehturm), which provided 360-degree panoramic views of the city at a height of 203 metres. Not for the faint-hearted! Finally, the group had fun in the interactive DDR (GDR) Museum, learning more about life in East Germany. The final evening was a series of laser tag games near Charlottenburg, with some expert manoeuvres and strategic thinking.

Overall, the time spent in Berlin was a highly enriching experience and pupils had a lot of positive stories to take back home. Those studying history learnt in detail about key events, seeing first-hand documentation and discovering testimonials that brought events to life. Pupils were engaged, inquisitive and embraced fully the cultural benefits that this city afforded. Germanists alike got to practise their German skills with the accompanying staff, as well as in cafes, restaurants, and shops. The group made it back to St John’s with a substantial amount of German chocolate, but crucially, they took home memories that both staff and pupils will cherish for a long time to come.

The Berlin trip provided us with an amazing opportunity to learn about so many key events in history whilst also incorporating so much fun and memories and I will always look back on the trip with happiness and am very grateful to all the staff for organising such a great experience.

Lower Fifth Pupil

I loved looking at all of the museums and learning about the history. There were plenty of opportunities to speak German too in cafe's and to learn more about the language and culture.

Upper Fifth Pupil

The best trip of the year! The Berlin Wall is something I'll never forget.

Upper Fifth Pupil