During February half-term, a group of pupils from Forms 4 and 5 travelled to Berlin and Krakow, to explore the fascinating historical sights those cities have to offer.
Form 4 pupil Zoe’s journal of the trip is below:-
“Our first stop was Potsdam, Brandenburg, where we toured the town and enjoyed the stunning interior of the New Palace, which was built by Frederick II to celebrate Prussia’s success in 1769.
We then went to Wannsee Haus, which was the building where the Nazis met and planned the extermination of 11 million Jews in ‘The Final Solution’ (concentration camps) during the Second World War.
Once we had eaten our lunch in the picturesque gardens of Wannsee Haus, we visited the Olympiapark that was originally built for the Summer 1936 Olympics. Since then it has hosted many matches for big tournaments such as the 1974 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
After a short break, we took the U-Bahn to the monumental Reichstag Dome where it was fascinating to see Berlin from the inside!
To kick off our second full day, we visited the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which was one of the first camps in the Second World War. Those held in Sachsenhausen were persecuted either because of their religious or political views, not forgetting the millions of disabled people who were also killed there.
Walking where many of those people were forced to go; to be fed sparingly, treated harshly and ultimately be killed was haunting.
We then had some free time in Alexander Platz discovering some of the city of Berlin.
We moved on to the Jewish museum, which represents the uncertainty that Jews felt in that time of the Second World War. The building’s architecture was designed by Daniel Libeskind, who did a fantastic job in my opinion. There were many thought-provoking exhibitions and installations, which put you into their shoes.
Then it was time to travel through the night to Krakow. After a nine-hour coach journey full of singing and very little sleep, we arrived at our hotel, checked in and tried to get some sleep for the next day ahead. But there was no wasting time, so after breakfast we went to the Schindler factory. Schindler (a high-up businessman) used his connections to keep the Jewish people living relatively safe by convincing the German authorities that they were crucial for his work as they were highly skilled. Yes, they may have been highly skilled, but they were mainly there to keep them safe. This was a fascinating tour of a building, which commemorates the actions of a great person in a time of such misery.
Over lunch we spent some free time in one of Krakow’s many beautiful squares, which meant that we could experience the town of Krakow and eat some delicious food.
The group then had the privilege of meeting a holocaust survivor. Listening to her speak in her native language and to see the emotion on her face whilst recounting the stories during that time was an experience to remember.
That evening, we ate a delicious meal served by the hotel and went bowling, which was a fun, light-hearted activity before the intense trip planned for the next day. At 6:30am the next morning, a group of sleepy teenagers all met to visit the memorial of Auschwitz first-hand. It was an amazing yet powerful experience to see a place that we all learn about in the classroom, films and books. The scale of the camp was unbelievable. To think how many people entered those gates and didn’t make it out again proved to us all how real those facts really are. The first-hand experience of walking around the camp will stay with all of us forever.
After the quiet bus journey back into the centre of Krakow, we had some free time in the old square. There were traditional markets and an array of shops for us to buy some final souvenirs before our journey home. To finish the trip with a bang, on the final evening, we ate at a classic Polish restaurant that had professional Polish Dancers. Everyone loved participating or watching the dancing and it left us all in good spirits ready for our journey home.
Overall, the trip was amazing; both the historical monuments that we had the privilege to visit and the culture that we experienced. I would highly recommend the trip and would like to thank all the staff who made it possible.”