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Surval Throwback: Berlin trip 2017

09 November 2019

On the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, it felt fitting to publish this article from our Surval trip to Berlin in June of 2017. Scroll to the bottom of the page to the link to an inspirational speech by a Surval student on the topic of unity and freedom...

“All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin”

- A weekend in Germany’s historic capital city

They say the journey is the destination, and the first day of our long weekend in Berlin gave us the opportunity to test the veracity of this philosophy, when fight delays and cancellations resulted in our group taking a more scenic route to Germany’s capital city – an eight hour train trip from Munich! 

What was lovely was that everyone really did embrace the aforementioned philosophy, and the epic journey was transformed by our willingness to make the best of it; as Sofia reflected the next day (after a good night’s snooze!), “You know, despite everything, I actually ended up having fun yesterday!”

A delicious breakfast and some strong coffee the next morning, and we were ready to discover the fascinating history and famous sights of Berlin: first stop – the Brandenburg Gate. We wove our way there through the shady green paths of one of Berlin’s beautiful parks, and then stood gazing up the famous sculpture of Eirene, the goddess of peace, and her chariot of four horses, proud and timeless against the vivid blue sky.

From this symbol of peace, we then found ourselves deep within the eerily oppressive walls of the Holocaust Memorial, a huge, regimented maze of cement steel, which evoked a horrible sense of claustrophobia, a haunting reminder of the suffering of the millions of men, women and children who were imprisoned and murdered under the Nazi regime.

Our guided tour then took us to the infamous Berlin wall, and we stood under a lone tree, sheltering from the sun, as our guide told us a little of its history, and we gazed through the gap to the other side. On Sunday, we would visit the Asisi Panorama, an utterly compelling mural of the wall, which brings this divide between the East and West to life again in devastating detail. No trip to Berlin should pass by without seeing it.

It is uplifting too to see the infinite messages of hope and unity scribbled literally from the floor to the great heights of the walls in the adjacent gallery by people from all over the world. We knelt on the floor to write our own messages – as the American poet, Robert Frost, put it: “Something there is that does not love a wall…”

Our weekend also involved visiting Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, but here, perhaps, there are no words to capture how this experience made us feel. Hope, ultimately, that one day we will live in a world where humans will not inflict terrible suffering on one another...

It is so important to visit and remember these places and times, but emotionally draining too; and so, on Monday, we chose to spend our last morning relaxing in different ways – for some, a stroll around the magnificent Berlin Cathedral; for others, some shopping in the Mall of Berlin! It was a happy way to finish our weekend, but I’m sure that there are other memories that will linger longer…

As part of our commemorating of the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we have published an inspirational speech by Jenny (LA / Swiss Gap class of 2016/17, Mexico) on our Student Blog at this link.