Berlin Trip, October 2023

After around a year of careful planning and Teams announcements, and a buildup of excitement and anticipation, the day finally came on the 24th of October for the Y10, Y11 and Y13 trip to Berlin, accompanied by Mr Jones, Mrs Yates and Mr Bennett.

We gathered at the Dawson Road gate at 1:30am. Mrs Yates voiced her intention of grasping as much sleep as she could get on the coming coach journey to Luton Airport and was perhaps later pleased by the fact that traffic on the M1 had us stagnate for about 45 minutes. Nonetheless, we made it to the airport with no major issues and boarded our 7am flight to Berlin Brandenburg Airport.

Another coach journey followed this, taking us to our (A and O Berlin Mitte) hostel where we would be staying for 3 nights. Certain Y11s (which may have included myself…) couldn’t help but look at – and share – the very mixed reviews of said hostel during the buildup to the trip. This may have created some exchanges of looks and smirks on the way to, and at, the hostel. Anyway, we dropped off our luggage and walked to Alexanderplatz, where we bought our lunches from the wide choice of fast-food shops there. We walked onwards to the Spree River, on which we enjoyed a 45-minute boat trip learning about the surrounding buildings along the way. Afterwards, we walked back to the hostel to eat our first evening meal there, with some students relating the food choice (which was primarily made up of types of bread) to Biblical times. However, all jokes aside, there was still a good choice of salad, rice and pasta. The teachers encouraged us to have an early night after this, but perhaps they should know better when there are 4 rooms of excited Y10 and Y11 students!

The following day saw us meet at around 7am for breakfast. With no time to waste, we left to take public transport to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. We were guided around by Mikhail, who gave us an excellent and knowledgeable insight to the history of the camp; the visit was a moving experience. He then accompanied us on our train journey to Hakescher Markt, where we were given time to eat some lunch and shop around. From 2pm onwards, Mikhail guided us around Berlin, and he continued to teach us about the history of the city. We saw the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and the Holocaust Memorial, to name just a few. Mikhail was an outstanding tour guide, and many of us left him a very positive review after we finished the tour.

We returned to the hostel to eat our evening meal. After 30,000 steps already, the stairs up to the 8th floor didn’t look too appealing to some of our students, so around 12 of them crammed into the only elevator in the building.  After dinner, we went on to enjoy some bowling near Alexanderplatz. A certain Y11 student asked the bartender for a bottle of coke by simply saying to him, “coke please”. The bartender asked him to say it in a full sentence, with his reasoning being that “in Berlin, asking for ‘coke’ might get you something different”. We returned to the hostel afterwards to end our night.

The 3rd day again began with breakfast at the hostel. Before we left, a strange woman (probably having been deprived of sleep as a result of staying in a hostel with seemingly thousands of teenagers) gave me a mouthful, and my arm a little slap, simply because I accidently grazed her arm on my way past her chair. I had no problem with reciprocating her attitude (and nor did Mr Jones or Mrs Yates) but Mr Bennett encouraged me to bite my tongue and move on. She also called me a “privileged colonial”… Anyway, we travelled on foot to the DDR museum for a short guided tour. It was an immersive experience nonetheless, and we learnt more about life as an ‘East German’ in the past. We travelled onwards to the Deutsches Technik Museum where we saw some great exhibits and some “physics in action”, which Mr Jones explained well using the benefits of his degree in Physics. We then took the train to the Berlin Wall Memorial, where Mrs Yates turned back the clock and brought out some highlighted notes to explain the story behind the Berlin Wall. We took the train to the Hard Rock Café for our evening meal and were presented with a choice of tenders, burgers or mac and cheese, followed by a brownie for dessert. After a great meal, we returned to the hostel for the final night there, with some Y11s occupying their train journey (in an otherwise empty carriage) with a game that involved slapping someone whilst their eyes were closed, with them trying to guess who it was that slapped them. I was already used to being randomly slapped in Berlin, but it still took me a minute or two until I guessed correctly during my round of slaps.

The last day began with breakfast and some final packing up. We left the hostel at around 9am and headed towards the Olympic Stadium for another guided tour. We learnt about the history of the stadium and how it is used today, with it being Hertha BSC’s home stadium. We returned to the hostel to pick up our luggage and then travelled to Brandenburg Airport by coach. One last journey from Luton Airport to school involved Mr Jones urging everyone to inform their parents of our anticipated arrival time, so that he and the other staff could avoid spending their night waiting for that last student to be picked up. This final coach journey ended with a round of applause for Mr Jones and his brilliant planning of this wonderful trip.

Much like the Y10 and Y11s, Berlin never sleeps, and it was a fantastic city to experience. Learning about the history of the city was interesting and fun. And, in between all of the guides and tours, there were great, funny and memorable moments throughout. The kerfuffle in the elevator, late night pizzas, the long and tiring walks which Mr Jones was unphased by, learning about the staff room’s list of ex-HGS offenders (and the early signs that they showed), hearing Mrs Yates’ scepticism about most of her group “coincidentally” needing epi-pens and inhalers, which only made her bag heavier, and absolutely all of the in-betweens made for an unforgettable trip. It was a pleasure to learn about Berlin from Mikhail and the other guides, and it was an exceptional experience to share with the other students and staff.

Rahul Beghal, Year 11


Click here to view more photos in the gallery.