Last week (20th-24th of February), I and 22 other students went to Berlin to gain an understanding of its historical and cultural contexts. Berlin is a city that has been through a lot so has an incredible amount of history behind it. On the trip, we went to places such as; The Berlin Wall and Museum, The Brendanberg Gate and the Bauhaus Archives – I will go into detail about each of them. The aim of this trip was to give the attendees a huge amount of information and ideas for our FMP projects and it certainly delivered as my mind was almost popping with all the new and amazing stuff I was learning from modern day culture in Berlin and its historical culture.
For the duration of the trip, we stayed at a hostel called Transit Loft which was located roughly 2 miles from the centre of Berlin. The local area had lots of lovely places to eat and had excellent tram links to the rest of the city.
After breakfast; which each day was at 8:30, we had a short tram ride to get to the Berlin Wall memorial. The first thing I thought when seeing the wall for the first time was ‘It doesn’t look too big, couldn’t people have just jumped over! ‘, as I hadn’t done much research into the wall. It was quite shocking for me to find out that constantly the wall was patrolled by guards with guns and people that had tried to get to the other had side had been shot died right where we were. It was fascinating to learn about the way that groups of people had managed to get over the wall. The Berlin Wall was constructed overnight on the 13th of August 1961 to stop people from West Berlin moving to East Berlin. With was done because in 1948 the Western powers introduced a new form of currency. The Soviet Union imposed that they put up a blockade. After the city was divided the West put up a wall.
After this, we had a short tram ride over to the most famous landmark in Berlin the Brandenberg Gate. This was something that you can’t go to Berlin and not go to as it has lots of history behind it. It was built from 1788 to 1791 by Prussian King Frederick William II and afterwards was a key entrance to the city. When the Berlin Wall was standing the Gate was closed and became a symbol of divided Germany.
In the afternoon, we went to the Holocaust Memorial which was an outstanding piece of architectural art by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. The 4.7-acre site consisting of 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping hill. The memorial cost approximately $25 million pounds to construct. When walking into the work you feel so small and uneasy about the situation you are in. In Eisenman’s project notes, he says the work is supposed to create and uneasy, confusing atmosphere. It didn’t dawn on me at the time but the work resembled the looks of a graveyard.
A place I didn’t know we were going to but found really interesting was ‘Check Point Charlie’. This was one of the best-known crossing points from West Berlin to East Berlin. At the checkpoint which is know surrounded by shops had a museum next to it. Here I learnt about how some people converted cars so they could transport people without being caught by making secret compartments in the vehicles.
Finally, on day one we went to the Jewish museum. Most of the places we went to in Berlin you had to leave your rucksacks and cameras in locker rooms so didn’t take photos but I also wanted to take more away from the trip than a bunch of photographs. In the museum, I learnt about what it is to be a Jew, about social life and food. In the museum there are two huge installations which I made sure I experienced; these were The Garden Of Exile and The Holocaust Tower. These to places where a bit like the Holocaust memorial I saw in the morning as they were supposed to make you reflect on the horrific history ethnic groups each as Jews have had. The Holocaust Tower is a huge cold, damp, concrete hole in the ground with just a single hole in the ceiling for light to come through. Stood in the hole I felt so small and insignificant. The room had a small iron door which when opened, shut with a loud bang which I guess was supposed to add to the feeling of being trapped.
In the morning we went to one of the best museums I have been to (well group of museums). Museum Island is a group of five museums in Berlin which each contain work from different ethnic groups and from different historical periods. We only had 2 hours here so I had to pick which museums I wanted to see the most. We all firstly went in the Pergamonmuseum which had the Market Gate Of Miletus which was a Roman structure made from marble and was created in 2 century AD, the Ishtar Gate which was the eight inner gate of the city of Babylon and was made from glazed brick and hundreds of other amazing exhibits. Some friends and I then went to the Alte Nationalgalerie which had some amazing paintings which for the first time ever I really started to understand. We finally went to the Neues Museum (translating to new museum). Here we saw Egyptian and Prehistory and Early History collections which included the famous Bust Of Nefertiti.
After lunch, we went on an Alternative Berlin Tour which was one of the things I was most excited to do. Our tour guide was brilliant and he made the tour so fun with his humour. The only bad thing about the tour was that as we were in the centre of a city the traffic and trains were quite loud so I couldn’t hear everything he said about the street art. We started by looking at artist and groups tags. An example of this is graffiti artist Kripoe, who was part of the CBS crew (short for cowboys) which was active between 1995 and 2005. His signature yellow fists are a sign of rebellion….To Be Continued!!!!!
Overall my time in Berlin was so fun I can’t even describe it. I learnt so much and I now have got lots of ideas for things I could create for my FMP.