Last week, my social studies class took a trip to Berlin. It was my first time being in Germany’s capital, and I definitely enjoyed seeing the typical Berlin attractions. I was able to see the Brandenburger Tor, which was an important monument during the Cold War as it was often seen as a symbol of the separation between East and West Berlin. I also saw the Bundestag, which is where the German parliament meets. On top of the building is a glass dome in which visitors can walk up, which was really cool. Of course, we also visited the East Side Gallery, which holds remnants of the Berlin Wall. I’d learned about the Berlin Wall in the U.S. and during my time in Germany, but being right next to it really gave me a sense of how impenetrable it must have seemed. There is graffiti all over the remnants now, and I enjoyed seeing how the different artists chose to express themes such as freedom, democracy, and unity.
One of my favorite things during the trip was our visit to an old Stasi prison. The Stasi were the secret police in East Germany during the Cold War, and even though we talked a lot about the German Democratic Republic in our language camp excursions, seeing an actual prison made it seem very real. Also, the tour guide was actually imprisoned there for four months and then imprisoned elsewhere for four years, and hearing his story was really interesting. It was crazy to think that during the span of one person’s lifetime a prison can turn into a sort of museum; it was clear during the tour that our tour guide was seeing something very different than the rest of us. As I walked through the prison hallways I thought about how many prisoners had walked the same steps, and history didn’t feel so far away.
Even though it rained a lot, I had a lot of fun in Berlin. It was nice to spend time with my friends from school, and I felt very immersed in German culture as we explored pieces of Germany’s history and political processes. We saw a lot of amazing things, ate a lot of good food, and overall enjoyed being away from school for a week. With that being said, I’m excited to be back with my host family!
Until next time,