On the 14th of April, a group of German and History students went to East Berlin to improve their German and experience the fascinating culture there. When we arrived, we dropped off our belongings at our hotel rooms and went to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner.
The next day we ate breakfast at the German Language School in Berlin and went to our first classes. Some of us found it a bit daunting at first as the teachers only spoke to us in German, even in the beginner classes, but we soon settled in as we participated in a combination of studying and games such as hangman. For the beginner classes, one of our first tasks was to fill in a questionnaire about ourselves, then scrunch up the paper and have a makeshift “snowball fight” until we each had to write a paragraph in German, using another person’s questionnaire.
On Monday, we walked around East Berlin visiting the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which was a series of different sized concrete slabs on uneven ground so that you walked amongst them. It created an uneasy atmosphere made to recreate the feeling of being in a concentration camp. Then we visited the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building and learnt about its significance for the history of German democracy. On Tuesday, we visited the Stasi museum and had audio guides outside before we could go in and have a tour around the museum.
We spent Wednesday looking around the Sanssouci Palace which is a small Palace as it was only meant to be used in the summer. We saw the grape vines that inspired much of the architecture there; for example, stone carvings of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, and images of grapes on the walls. Our last day went quickly as we took pictures of the Berlin Wall and ate vegan Swedish ice cream after our lessons and meal at the German Language School, before flying back to England.