School Tour Germany 2014
Although it was a rough start for everyone at one o’ clock in the morning I think I speak for everyone when I say it was worth it for the amazing trip we had. After a fairly stress free bus journey to Dublin, we checked in and waited to board the plane to Berlin. The time passed quickly, buying goodies in the duty free and before we knew it, it was time to board. The flight was short and before long we landed. We were greeted by a cold wind, but a warm welcome from our Scottish bus driver, Ian, made up for it. He made us feel right at home on the bus. To our delight there was Wi-Fi on board especially Ms Gleeson as she exclaimed she’d “connect right up to that”.
After a short bus journey to the centre of Berlin we met our tour guide to show us the main sights of Berlin for example The Brandenburg gate, The Berlin Wall, The Sony centre, and The Holocaust Memorial. We got many opportunities to take photos and look at these landmarks. After our very informative tour we visited The Checkpoint Charlie Museum where we viewed the history of the famous border crossing.
After a long day of sightseeing we finally got to our hostel. The hostel was lovely. After dinner we went ice skating. Some who were too tired or just not feeling like it stayed behind but most of us risked it. We took the S-bahn, the underground train system, to the ice rink. To my dismay there was very little barrier to hold on to and to get to it you had to cross the ice. Everyone else on the ice seemed to be almost professional and when we cautiously stepped onto the ice it was almost like we were targets. Some got the hang of it quickly but a few others and I never strayed far from the railing until the end when we had to cross the ice once more to get off. We returned to the hostel on the underground. We were warned to get onto the train as quickly as possible as the doors may close on you. We witnessed this first hand when one passenger’s handbag got stuck in the doors. Some bystanders ran over to try and force the doors open while the lady whose handbag was stuck just laughed. When they managed to open the doors another lady decided to chance her arm getting on and squeezed herself through before the doors slammed shut again. During all of this our group just stood there in shock that such a thing could actually happen. When the train pulled off we all burst into fits of laughter.
It was an early start again for day two of our trip. The day started with a trip to the Anne Frank Museum. It was located down a tiny alleyway that you wouldn’t expect to hold so much history. We saw a thirty minute documentary called “The Short Life of Anne Frank” and then got to explore the museum which held photos of Anne and her family and documents from the time. To our surprise her actual diary was on display as it was on loan from the museum in Amsterdam. It was really exciting and a truly moving experience seeing the documentary and learning so much about her and then to actually see her diary.
After the Anne Frank Museum we went to a flea market at Mauerpark. There were some really interesting little trinkets on sale there. The place was like a little hub hidden in the middle of the city. It was quite an experience.
Following our wander around the flea market we went to the Gruselkabinett. It was three floors high. The top floor was the “chamber of horrors” where the “house ghosts” would chase you through some spooky scenes. Some girls couldn’t make it through both rooms. Following that we made our way to “medicine throughout the ages” on the ground floor, with a display of some strange medicinal methods and torture methods along with re-enactments by wax models and sound effects to add to the experience. After quickly making our way through the ground floor we made our way to the bunker underground. Compare to the previous two floors the bunker was quiet timid. We learned about how it was used in the Second World War, for refugees and even to store tinned sardines! Thankfully there was no longer a smell of sardines in the bunker.
We continued onto the Pergamon Museum where unfortunately the Pergamon Altar was closed due to renovations. We still got to see some of the amazing sights such as the Ishtar Gate and much more.
After returning to the hostel for a typical German dinner of sausage wrapped in sauerkraut, which not many were a fan of, we went mini golfing. It wasn’t just any kind of mini golfing though. It was glow in the dark, UV, 3D glasses mini golf. We all enjoyed making our way through the different courses with the different obstacles to get past. After another jam-packed day we all rolled into the bed back in the hostel.
We started our third day by visiting the German Bundestag. We had headsets which were timed to explain what you would see as you climbed to the top of the dome. We were lucky in terms of the weather as you could see all around and also because the top of the dome is open and it wouldn’t have been as pleasant to climb in the rain. It had an amazing view of most of Berlin and the architecture of the dome itself was brilliant.
After the Bundestag we had a bit of time for shopping in the city. We visited the infamous KaDeWe which has such stores as Louis Vuitton and Chanel. Of course we didn’t purchase anything as most things we way out of our budget, but it was nice to see how the other half live.
Then we travelled to the “Tropical Islands” water park located an hour away. An indoor paradise some would call it with a temperature of 29 degrees all the time in a rainforest type environment. It had heated swimming pools, lagoons and slides, for some it would be the ideal holiday. Personally, it was not for me. As someone who isn’t used to such warm temperature I found it uncomfortable unless I was in the water all the time. Also as someone who wears glasses, it made finding my way around difficult as I obviously couldn’t wear them in the pools or going down the slides.
We left the “Tropical Islands” at 20:00 to make our way back to the hostel. Our evening activity for tonight was packing as we would be checking out the next morning and making our way to Hamburg.
So after a quick breakfast and check that no one was leaving anything behind, we waved goodbye to Berlin and started our 4 hour bus journey to Hamburg.
Unfortunately we were a little late so we delayed our tour of Hamburg by an hour so that we could get lunch in an Italian Bistro that Ms O’ Sullivan knew. It was a good sign of the food that the queue was out the door when we pulled up but it made things a little more rushed and chaotic for getting lunch. The pizza chef was run off his feet with us.
After a quick lunch we met our tour guide Sven. He told us about the harbour and the famous St. Michael’s Church which the locals call “Michel”. He made the tour very funny and interesting. We stopped to look inside St. Michael’s. It truly was breath taking inside. It was a Lutheran church which was designed more like a theatre than a church. It had four organs, three of which were in plain view, but the fourth was hidden in the ceiling so that when it was played it would sound like the music was coming from Heaven. If you were at the church at noon you could hear all of the organs playing at once.
After our very informative and funny tour from Sven we went to the Hamburg Dungeons. Here theatrical actors brought to life the more gruesome and less pleasant side of Hamburg’s history. We started by descending into the dungeons in the “Elevator of Doom”. It was a bumpy trip into the “Old Library of Dark History” where our guide left us with some the advice “don’t touch anything, it might touch you back”. One of the bookshelves swung open to reveal a dark room which no one was particularly eager to be the first to enter. We made our way through such scenes as “The Torture Chamber”, “A Plague Hospital” and “The Mad House”. Our tour of the dungeons concluded with an attraction called “Drop Dead”, an eight meter free fall tower. The photographs were very funny.
After the dungeons we checked into our hostel and had dinner. Our evening activity was the Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg, the world’s largest model railway. It was really amazing the attention to detail in each of the scenes. I was amazed that none of the train, planes or automobiles ever crashed. There was everything from a ski resort to a cruise ships and medieval towns to New York. My favourite was definitely the airport scenes where the planes actually took off and landed.
Our last full day in Hamburg was spent in “Heide Park”, the nearest theme park. After an hour drive we got to the theme park. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t very good. It was cloudy and threatening to rain. We fit in a lot of the rollercoasters before the rain started but once it did many of the rides started closing and we decided it would be best to leave early.
When we got back to the hostel we had a few hours to spare. Some went shopping but a few others and I were too tired and just relaxed in the hostel. After dinner, we got ready to go bowling for our last evening activity of the trip. We each had two games of bowling. Everyone made the most of our last night.
The next morning was very relaxed as everyone packed up and gathered in the lobby. At eleven o’ clock we made our way to the Chocoversum. We got to see how the chocolate goes from the fruit on the tree in South America to the delicious treat in a wrapper on our shelves. We also got to taste the chocolate at each stage. It wasn’t until it was sweetened that it started to resemble the taste of chocolate. We got to make our own bar of chocolate and add whatever Smarties or jellies we liked.
After the chocolate museum we made our way to the airport, boarded our flight and waved goodbye to Berlin, Hamburg and Germany. Once landed in Dublin, we got the bus to Dungarvan and were home by 9:30.
I enjoyed every moment of our trip to Germany. I have so many strange, funny and happy memories and wouldn’t change any of it. I’d definitely do it all over again in a heartbeat. A leithéid de thuras!