After two horrendous weeks of exams, it was time for the long-awaited and deserved Inter-semester break. Different university societies plan different trips during this week-long break before Semester 2 starts. The most well know trip is probably the Ski Trip to Val Thornes, which I have heard is quite awesome and you can read Hannah's blog post about it here.
As the Chair of the German Society it was my responsibility to plan the trip to Germany’s capital Berlin. The planning had already started in October, so I was really glad when exams finished and my little German society group was able to finally board a bus to Gatwick Airport. After a little detour on the motorway as our bus driver missed the exit to Gatwick and a lot of panic from my side, we arrived at the airport at 11 am and landed in Berlin in the afternoon.
Our hostel was literally in the middle of Berlin – the former East Berlin - just right next to the famous Alexanderplatz with its TV Tower. At the check-in it felt like we had never left Bath as it was a Belushis pub and hostel, which we also have in Bath and most of the staff only spoke English and hardly knew any German. However, once we left the little hostel bubble behind us it hit me hard that we are in Berlin, one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in Europe. You will find a typical East German building called Plattenbau in one street and just around the corner you will find a modern skyscraper.
It was crazy to see how the division of Germany and especially Berlin still has an impact on the city itself. The city itself remembers its famous division wall- the Berliner Mauer – with two brick rows on the street to mark where the wall stood. For me it was unbelievable to imagine that this city was divided into a Communist and a Democratic part for such a long time and that this ended just a few years before I was born.
As this was more or less a study trip to experience German culture and get a sense of living in a German city, we planned a lot of activities. It included a lot of German food – Currywurst, Schweinsbraten and Bread – and of course good German beer and Radler, a mixture between beer and lemonade. Considering I ate meat twice a day you would think that German cuisine only consist of meat dishes, but the vegetarian in our group always found something to eat as well. Even the non-drinkers were able to survive without drinking beer.
For me, the most interesting part of our trip was to visit the German Reichstag, the house of the German parliament. In this house you can actually feel the drastic political changes Germany underwent in the 20th and 21st century before it became this European superpower. The outside of the building was built in the monarchy, whereas inside you will find a modern glass cubicle designed by Norman Foster to house the united German government. However, the parliament only started its work in the new building ten years after the reunification. In the inside you will also find Russian graffiti left by the Russian soldiers at the end of the Second World War and you will still see some marks left by bombs.
The most impressive part about the building is probably the glass dome. The idea behind it is that members of the parliament should look up to see members of the public walking around to be remembered why they are in parliament in the first place. The public on the other side can look down on the elected members to have an eye on them so that something like the Nazi regime cannot happen again.
All in all, I can only recommend going away in the inter-semester break with a society. You will see a new city, you will meet new people and you are predicted to have some fun and might even make some friends.