We arrived at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof Thursday morning after a night sleeping on a train rumbling across the German countryside. Half were in a 6-person cabin and half in three 2-person cabins. ‘Cozy’ would be the operative adjective for the accommodations.
Our first of many trips to come navigating Berlin’s exhaustive subway system brought us to our hostel, a converted Bishop’s home from the late 19th century. Beautifully renovated, spacious and clean, it bears little resemblance to the severe hostels of the past.
After checking in to our rooms, we went on a small walking tour, led as always by Mr. Hornor. Strolling past the preserved, bombed-out ruins of the Anhalter Bahnhof, a beautiful train station destroyed in the war, we walked around Potsdamer Platz, then through the evocative and discomforting Holocaust Memorial. A short walk away was the iconic Brandenburg Gate and the imposing Reichstag building, its modern, transparent dome capping its imposing historical heft.
Snacks at the hostel and then dinner at a nearby restaurant sated the by then ravenous appetites of the students. All were then fancily-attired for our concert at Berlin’s ultra-modern and justifiably famous Philharmonie. From our seats in the first few rows, we heard a wonderful concert of works by Mozart and Schubert.
Friday started, as all days do, with a hearty breakfast at our hostel. Many were thrilled to find the menu now included eggs, bacon, and tiny waffles, in addition to the usual assortment of breads, jams, cereals, yogurts, and cold cuts.
We once again hopped on the subway for a trip to the awe-inspiring Pergamon Museum on Berlin’s Museum Island. Here we were fortunate to see three great pieces: the Pergamon Altar, the Market Gate of Miletus, and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon. Students were equally impressed with the museum’s extensive and beautiful Islamic art collection. They especially were awed by a 900 year old astrolabe. Actually, that was just me.
We then walked by the Neue Synagogue, had a late lunch, and headed to Checkpoint Charlie to see the famous Berlin Wall crossing point and learn more about the history, and the post-history, of the Wall and the Cold War. Yet again the subway quickly and conveniently returned us to our hostel for a couple of hours of rest and school work. Those with math assignments to complete opted to join me in the hostel common room to work problems, review, and even take tests. Not even a spinning disco ball and thudding German rap could break the concentration of Pace students.
For dinner, we walked to a nearby busy neighborhood and released the students in groups to find their own restaurants. All declared the event a success, even those who chose, for reasons only they can understand, to eat Mexican food in Berlin.
Tomorrow we head to Potsdam to tour the Imperial Grounds and visit, among other places, Sans Souci. Upon returning we’ll head to the Ku’damm and KaDeWe for shopping. More to come!