After our routinely robust breakfast in the hostel, we took a 30 minute train ride to the imperial city of Potsdam to view the grounds and palaces of the Prussian kings and the German kaisers. After considering the imposing pile of the Neues Palais, the guest palace, we strolled the mile long central path of the former hunting grounds, passing several other palaces, before reaching Frederick the Great’s Sans Souci palace, built in response to Versailles. Walking up its many formal terraces, barren in the winter, but still obviously geometrically pure, we entered for a tour of some of its rooms. While the rococo decorations were not to everyone’s tastes, they certainly were impressively opulent. After considering the beautiful vistas from the palace’s hilltop location, we wandered the grounds, winding back to the train station for a return to Berlin.
Next up was a ramble down the Kurfurstendamm, or Ku’damm, one of the most famous streets in Berlin, filled with fashionable and expensive shopping. We all entered Berlin’s legendary KaDeWe department store (think Harrod’s) and looked around. Most made their way to the food halls on the top two floors for a snack. More than one student ate massive pieces of German cakes while people-watching and contemplating the Berlin skyline through the massive rooftop windows.
Released to shop and stroll, the students in groups successfully navigated the city to meet back at the hostel for dinner. We were then very graciously hosted by a family friend of Mr. Hornor, who took us to his quite trendy neighborhood for a wonderful meal in a local restaurant.
Sunday began, after the obligatory breakfast, with a trip to the Altes Museum and its many Egyptian treasures, including the iconic Bust of Nefertiti. After a fascinating couple of hours there, we strolled around the rest of Museum Island before grabbing a snack in the nearby Friedrichstrasse train station. We ended the educational component of the trip with a stop at the Topography of Terror, a museum built on the site of the SS headquarters in Berlin and adjacent to the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall still standing and the former Luftwaffe headquarters (now a bureaucrat-filled building for the EU). The museum’s many displays gave a thorough overview of German and nazi history from the 1920’s through the post-war era. It did a great job of helping students understand, and place in a coherent framework, the many places and events they had seen and heard about during the previous week.
Tonight, we ended our tour of Germany with dinner at a German-Austrian restaurant near a park close to our hotel. While waiting for our many schnitzels to arrive, the students named their favorite parts of the trip. It’s gratifying to hear almost every activity named by someone, with most unable to pick. For us, we’re equally thrilled: this year’s group was exceedingly friendly, positive, and interested!
Tomorrow, many hours of travel will take us from Berlin to Amsterdam and, eventually, to Atlanta. No more to come … Except for pictures!