A Berlin heat wave has arrived! And yet, the warm sun has not dampened our students' will to explore.
We finished week two by dividing the students into two different excursions. One group visited Humana, a company known for recycling old clothing and selling its environmentally friendly products. The other group ventured to a refugee center, where they engaged in community service by painting beautiful rainbow benches for the children staying there.
Last Saturday, we hopped on a train and sped through the Berlin landscape towards Potsdam, the capital of Brandenburg. Arriving in the city early, we took an in-the-moment opportunity to walk around a quaint street full of vibrant coffee shops and bakeries. Students grabbed a snack and then hiked around Babelsberg Park, discovering a castle and 1800s-era tower built for Kaiser Wilhelm I.
The students later met back up at the train station and embarked on the last leg towards our primary destination: Sanssouci Palace. This magnificent building was built by the Prussian King Frederick the Great to serve as a vineyard retreat in the summertime. Students listened to an audio tour that took them through Frederick's bedroom, a grand reception hall, and a guestroom named after its most famous occupant, the philosopher Voltaire. Once the students had emerged back into the open air, they explored the lavish grounds surrounding the hedges, getting lost in the hedges and marveling at the garden labyrinth.
Our final event in Potsdam was a tour of the Barberini Art Museum. Students got lost in the magnificent paintings. Some discussed the meanings of the paintings while others simply basked in their complexities. When we left, we were greeted with a major rainstorm. As a team, we made our way from overhang to overhang, venturing out into the open only when there was a break in the downpour. The students laughed the whole entire way. Some stayed dry, while others welcomed the elements with open arms. It was a comedic and invigorating way to end an otherwise toasty day.
Sunday was a free day for our high schoolers. Some went off to the Berlin Zoo, home to a large diversity of animals. Others opted to cool off in Berlin's Olympic Pool, testing the high dive or soaking in the rays on the pool deck. With that, our final full weekend in Berlin came to a close.
To start off our final week in Germany, we took the students to Tempelhofer Feld, a massive, decommissioned airport that had been looming only a few blocks away from G-27. Tempelhofer began construction in the 1930s under the horrifying Nazi regime. Its massive structure was designed to intimidate. Our fantastic tour guide took the students to an old airport chapel, a cloakroom, basketball court, and baggage claim area. Many of these locations look just as they did when the airport closed about 14 years ago. The most fascinating part was when our tour guide took us 40 meters below the surface level to a previously-secret bunker. This bunker held aerial surveillance photographs for the Nazi army. The materials were burned within the bunker in 1945. The charred walls we witnessed still stand as evidence of this. To put it lightly, it was an incredibly interesting tour.
The students will be spending this week wrapping up their business projects, going on a few more excursions, and reflecting on their positive experiences here in Berlin.