8th January 2018
At 12.30am on a cold and wet January morning 30 excited Year 11 students met 3 tired teachers to start their journey to Krakow and Berlin. Travelling through the night we arrived tired but excited. Our first trip was a walking tour around Krakow, a beautiful medieval city, still dressed in its 'winter market'. In the afternoon we met and were privileged to listen to the story of a holocaust survivor, a humbling experience. We then went to Oskar Schindler's famous factory. After such a busy and thought-provoking day we were all glad to return to our hotel for dinner and finally sleep in a bed.
The next day we were refreshed and raring to go. We visited the 'world heritage' Salt Mines nearby – such an amazing place! A sprawling labyrinth of passageways hundreds of metres below ground - tunnels, lakes and streams, all carved from out of the natural rock salt. There were also ornately cut carvings and statues (out of rock salt), carved by salt miners from generations past, depicting local kings, queens and legends of dragons; there was even a Cathedral - 250 metres underground.
By way of contrast, that afternoon, we were taken by coach to Auschwitz-Birkenau and had a tour around the infamous camp. Our students were moved by the experience and impressed us with their mature reflections on the horrors of what happened in the camp. Words cannot express the feelings that the place evokes and although harrowing and deeply moving, it was a profound experience.
The following day we did some sightseeing in Krakow and shopping in the Christmas Markets before a cultural evening of Polish food, folk music and dancing in a local restaurant. The folk group had everybody up and out of their seats – one or two of our students would not look out of place on 'strictly', it was a really enjoyable experience. After that, we finished our time in Krakow with an evening of ten-pin bowling before boarding the coach for an overnight drive to Berlin.
We arrived in Berlin, bleary-eyed at 6.30 am on Sunday. After a welcome but brief rest and freshen up, followed by breakfast at our new hotel we were met by our tour guide for a walking tour of central Berlin. Braving the icy winds, we explored much of the great city's historical and cultural sights. Standouts, were the Holocaust memorial and the Brandenburg Gate, and a walk along the East Gallery, the largest remaining section of the infamous Berlin Wall. It has now been adorned with paintings and graffiti, illustrating what the wall had meant to a select group of artists. We also visited the German Bundestag but sadly the German Parliament wasn't in session so we didn't see Frau Merkel. However, we did get to climb the spiral walkway leading up to the great glass dome, designed by British architect Norman Foster, which has fantastic views across the German capital.
The following day we visited the Jewish Museum, a unique and moving experience. We finished the afternoon off with a trip to the Topography of Terror exhibition and the famous Checkpoint Charlie. The visit really brought many aspects of the GCSE/A level History courses to life, as well as raising big moral and philosophical issues about rights, values and what it means to be human. We arrived back at Bristol airport about 11:00pm on Monday evening before boarding the coach to begin the long journey back to Helston. The coach arrived on time at 3:00am to be greeted by tired parents.
It was a pleasure to share so many thoughts and experiences with a group of thoughtful and sensitive students, thank you.
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