The Magic of the Berlin Christmas Markets
By Natasha B, Year 10 Journalist Leader
From the 15th to the 20th of December 24 students from Years 9-11 had the amazing opportunity to fly to Berlin for the German Christmas Markets trip. This trip had been cancelled for two years running due to Covid so everyone was very excited that it could finally go ahead!
At 5:00 am on the first day after school broke up for the holidays we all tiredly (but excitedly) travelled to Gatwick airport to begin our journey. We arrived in Berlin at around midday and after unpacking our bags in the hotel, we went for a late lunch at a local takeaway cafe. Many of us had fun ordering our food in German and I enjoyed the challenge of attempting to stick to the language at all times while I ordered even when some unfamiliar words came up! After lunch we then enjoyed a quick tour around Berlin’s top sights such as the Bradenburg Gate and the Reichstag before heading off to dinner at an Italian restaurant.
After a much needed night of sleep, the next day we caught the bus into the centre again to visit the Spy Museum via Checkpoint Charlie. The Checkpoint Charlie sign was surrounded by areas of the original border crossing that were still intact and we could see the original sign declaring the “American Sector.” We then went to the Spy Museum where there were many interactive features to try out. My favourites were the code writers where we wrote our names in Morse code, the lip reader (where we had to guess what someone on a screen was lipreading) and the laser beams. Afterwards we stopped off at the Alexa shopping centre for lunch where we had some free time. We visited the Alexa shopping centre three times over the course of the trip with it proving to be our favourite place for lunch. Another personal favourite among the students for food was the supermarket Edeka which many of us revisited numerous times for secret snacks. In the late afternoon we had our German lesson where we had a German tutor teach us how to answer questions in preparation for our speaking as well as lots of new grammar. In the evening we enjoyed a lovely Asian meal before heading back to the hotel after a very busy day.
The following day we visited the Berlin Wall. On this trip we were very lucky to have Frau Schindler-Smith with us who could give us a fantastic insight by sharing her own personal experiences of life in East Berlin with us. I learnt so many new things about the wall and how when it fell, many people who crossed the border, including Mrs Schindler Smith, were not sure what to do as it was such a strange thing to have happened. The wall itself was covered in a great number and variety of styles of artwork which we enjoyed discussing.
After this we walked to the Stasi Museum. The museum held an incredible amount of detailed information on the German secret police. We learned some astonishing facts such as the many ways the Stasi used to spy on people by implanting cameras in things as basic as watering cans, plus also how anyone could have been members of the Stasi with there being no way of telling whether they were or not. As well as this, I learned how life threatening it could have been for people if they declined to be part of the Stasi which is very scary to think. For lunch we had some more free time to walk around Alexanderplatz and we then went bowling. The bowling was very fun and competitive with my group either knocking nearly all of them down or none at all on many attempts! As we played more and got into it, our scoreboard became very close! After the bowling we then took the train to a German restaurant where we tried the traditional German meal Schnitzel.
On the second last day, we set off by going up the Reichstag building, which had very interesting architecture and an amazing view from the top! We walked around for a bit taking in the views before taking a quick detour to go see the Holocaust Memorial. Many of us found the memorial quite striking in the design because as you walked in it, the design made the walls rise which made you reflect on the impact of this historical disaster.
Then it was time for our first Christmas market of the day (but not without stopping off at Dunkin donuts first where many of us brought festive donuts!). The Christmas mMarket felt very traditional and it was amazing to see all the food and souvenir stalls. I loved the brown wooden stalls with all the decorations as it felt very festive! In the market, Chris, Jaan and I shared a massive pretzel and chips which were bigger than our heads! The weather this day was bitterly cold so we finished the rest of our food in a nearby 5 Guys that was very warm – we had never been so thankful to see a 5 Guys in our life! At the market there was also a slope you could ride down on an inflatable which Jaan, Abi and I had so much fun on although it did slide down a lot quicker than we anticipated!
Next up was our second Christmas market of the day which was a lot bigger with so many things to see! The market had a very festive christmas aesthetic to it which made it so lovely to walk around. We then returned back to the hotel earlier than usual to watch the World Cup final which got very tense in the hotel lobby with many supporters from both sides coming down from their rooms to watch. For dinner, we went to a German pub where there was a live band playing music. Towards the end of our meal everyone got up and started dancing along which was so much fun and gradually more and more people from the pub began joining in until there were loads of people up at the front dancing along! This was one of my favourite parts of the trip and I especially enjoyed seeing the teachers show off their dancing skills!
On the final day we checked out of the hotel and went to visit KaDeWe which is the second biggest department store in Europe. Here, we went around exploring and brought many things to bring back home including some last minute Christmas present shopping. After that we packed our luggage from the hotel and made our way back to the airport for our journey home. This trip was such an incredible experience and we are so thankful for Frau Schindler-Smith, Frau Adams and Mrs Eastwood for taking us and making this trip possible!