Exchange 2017 – Day 3 & 4 – Berlin

Up early on a Monday morning, waiting for Herr Großman the Director from the Heimschule Lender. He and his wife are both from Berlin so they give a great perspective to the visit. They were there to see the Wall and to see it fall in 1989. We started with a trip to the Jewish Museum. It is very powerful experience. There are stairs that make you out of breath on purpose to give the feeling of the Jewish people in Berlin. There were very different experiences and the nice thing was that it expressed the jewish experience in Berlin from the beginning and addressed more than 1933 to 1945. The building was designed by American Daniel Libeskind and has great symbolism. 

We broke for lunch and the kids got to explore the Berlin Neighborhood around the Jewish Quarter. We met in front of the Neue Synagogue and started an exploration of the Jewish Quarter. We learned of the impact of the Jewish Community  in Berlin and much more about this area. Down the block is another building that served as the Postal Stables and was made to look as ornate as the Synagogue. Then the fun really began. When you travel the streets you see these interesting entrances into backyards but give them no thought. They are not like anything we see in America so we think they are private property. Often in these neighborhoods the backyards are where the action is! We discovered theatre enclaves, small shops and restaurants, and even historic areas. Make sure you take a look at some of the pictures of these backyards below.

We came back to our hostel and decided to try something different and went back downtown and visited the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche. The inside was closed but the ruins of the church from World War II were amazing to look at for the students. Rather than tear it down or rebuild it, they preserved it and kept a visible memory of that time period. We had dinner in the plaza next door and went home exhausted.

Our last full day in Berlin was an exciting day with a look at history & beauty. We traveled to the Allied Museum to see the activities after World War II and during the time of the Berlin Wall. This was very personal for the Großmans because they grew up in Berlin. The museum showed us some very interesting details but some of the most powerful came from the Grosmans and their personal experiences. It really made it come alive for me and the students. Here we also discovered erdberen. Edberen are strawberries. We got several boxes and had a feast. They are very tasty and have great and deep flavor.

The most interesting was our trip to Cecilienhof Castle. It was beautiful and sat right near the water. It was the site of the Potsdam Conference in 1945 after the war. We visited rooms that were the offices of Truman and Stalin and the main conference room. It was awe inspiring to see the chairs and table that made history and brought about modern Europe. The importance of this conference can’t be understated and to be in the rooms where it happened was sobering. We went down to the waterfront and had a drink but the real treat was yet to come. We rode a boat on the Havel river and toured Potsdam by water. The highlight was a drab little bridge. It is the bridge where spies were transferred from the East to the West. It was the bridge that movie Bridge of Spies shows. It was interesting to note the differences in architecture in all of Berlin and Potsdam had a little more old style than Berlin. We ended the day back in Berlin and went downtown to have dinner. We had to see a Woolworth store because I managed some before I became a teacher and so it was a bit of nostalgia for me. Next: Travel and meeting with our families in Baden-Baden.


Places visited:

  • Jewish Museum
  • Synagogue and Jewish Quarter
  • The Backyards
  • Kaiser Wilhelm Church
  • Allied Museum
  • Potsdam
  • Cecilianhof Castle