Germany : Day 8

Our last day in Germany! We began by taking a train to Potsdam, seat of the Hohenzollern rulers of Prussia. After the 30 minute train ride, we walked around and through the vast palace grounds. A night’s worth of snow made the early morning landscape look fresh and undisturbed, save for a few locals jogging, or walking their dogs, or taking their children sledding.

    
 
   
    
   
 
   
    
 
Overlooking the endless gardens and woods stood Sanssouci, Frederick the Great’s summer palace. Our tour of its rooms showed off its intensely rococo architecture. 
   
   
We walked back through the grounds and took a train to the Potsdam Hauptbahnhof for a local lunch before continuing back to Berlin. Since one of our first stops in Munich a week ago was the site of the Beer Hall Putsch, it made sense that our last historical stop would be the site of Hitler’s bunker, marked by a small sign in a nondescript parking lot next to the newly opened Mall of Berlin. 

For our last meal in Germany, the students were allowed to wander in groups through our now-familiar neighborhood and gorge themselves one last time: Italian for the girls, street meat and donuts for the guys. 

All are now packing, readying themselves for a pre-6 AM wake up and the beginning of a train/bus plane ride back to Atlanta. It’s been a great trip, made even greater by Mr Hornor’s amazing navigational skills and vast knowledge of German and art history. Tsch├╝ss!

Germany : Day 7

We began the day with a tour of the Neues Museum, another of the many amazing museums on the centrally located Museumsinsel in the Spree River. Here we spent a great deal of time considering the Egyptian collection, culminating in (photos verboten due to reasons of conservation, economics, and aesthetics) the iconic Bust of Nefertiti.

   
    
    
 

  
Jumping forward thousands of years, we headed to the KuDamm district of intense and largely high-end commerce to have lunch in the vast food halls of KaDeWe, Berlin’s answer to Harrods. With views from the upper of the two food levels overlooking vast stretches of the city, we were able to eat a nice (if overpriced for the less careful shoppers) lunch and orient ourselves and the many sights we’d seen over the last few days.

We took a short subway ride back to the hostel to deposit the many packages purchased for loving parents and family members, then headed out again to culminate our Berlin experience by visiting the Topography of Terror, a museum housed next to the largest extant stretch of the Berlin Wall in the city and on top of the remains of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters, destroyed during WW II. The thorough exhibits here gave the students a full overview of the course of German history from 1933 to 1946 and beyond. Of particular note to many students were the displays discussing the post-war fates of many key figures of the Nazi regime, ranging from execution to prison terms to ‘denazification’ and a return to civilian life or employment by foreign governments: a complicated and unsatisfying ‘end’ to a terrible period.

For our final group meal in Germany, we again walked through our Kreuzberg neighborhood to a German-Austrian restaurant for an authentic meal. While more than half the group ordered the German version of fried chicken, the rest of us ordered the house special of wiener schnitzel, although a few only managed to attempt the kleine version. Magically, on a trip distinguished by incredibly good luck in timing of both weather and transportation, we emerged from the restaurant to the beginnings of a beautiful snow shower. With a lighter, more exuberant step, the group wound its way home, ready for the next day’s trip to Potsdam.

   
 

Germany : Day 6

Today’s path through Berlin began at Alexanderplatz, famously featured in The Bourne Supremacy, favorite movie of 2/3 of the chaperones. From there we walked to Museum Island to see the Pergamonmuseum. While the Pergamon Altar is undergoing a multi-year restoration, we still were able to see the Ishtar Gate, the Market Gate of Miletus, and many other smaller pieces.
   
    
 

Next, we visited the nearby Berliner Dom and toured the cathedral’s beautiful interior.
   
 

Like in-the-know locals, we ate lunch in a train station (Friedrichstra├če). More walking led us back to the hostel for rest and primping before an early Greek dinner next door and a subway ride to the Philharmonie to see the Berlin Philharmonic perform selections from Schumann, Strauss, Chopin, and Reimann. Seated just a few feet behind the orchestra, we could read the music on the percussionist’s stand and the conductor’s every dramatic gesture seemed aimed directly at us. Hearing such beautiful music being performed by some of the world’s great musicians in a visually arresting hall was a highlight of the trip. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, no usable photos of the performance were obtained, although we did avoid a potential international incident with an usher. Humming contentedly, we returned to the hostel, ready to further explore Berlin tomorrow. 

Germany : Day 5

Our first day in Berlin began as every day here does: an American-sized continental breakfast. Strengthened and refreshed, we started another of Mr Hornor’s patented urban treks (we’ve averaged about 7 miles a day walking). This tour gave us an overview of Berlin, hitting many important sites shown below: Potsdamer Platz, the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Holocaust Memeorial, and Checkpoint Charlie. 

  

   

  

   
After resting a bit in our hostel, we strolled through our Kreuzberg neighborhood, checking out the dozens of shops and restaurants and street food stalls, before finally eating at an Italian restaurant that has become a trip tradition. Tomorrow: museums and the symphony!

Germany : Day 4

Our last day in Munich began, as usual, with a filling breakfast at the hostel. Greeting us on our final walking tour of Munich were dropping temperatures, gusty winds, and an icy rain. Unlike common tourists, though, we persevered. After walking again through the old town, we arrived at the Odeonplatz, scene of many pivotal moments in German history.
  
These were made more concrete through Mr Hornor’s detailed remarks and collection of historical photos on his iPad. Next we moved on to Konigsplatz, surrounded by both museums and former Nazi buildings and monuments. We visited the Antikensammlung, housing one of the world’s great collections of Greek vases. Of special interest on this trip was a large Etruscan exhibit. 

   
    
 

Marching back out into the almost-snow, we wandered to the University of Munich, where, standing in the eponymous platz, we heard the moving story of Sophie Scholl, a young college student barely older than our Pace students who became a symbol of the resistance after being hanged during the war for distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets. 

  
A nearby university cafe provided warmth and nice lunches for the group. After retrieving our luggage from the hostel, we returned to the Munich Hauptbahnhof. After stops to load up on fine German pastries and water, we boarded a train for our 6 hour ride to Berlin. Arriving at our new hostel around 10:30, and after a day filled with traveling, we all slept soundly, ready for our first real taste of Berlin tomorrow.