In October, 13 students and two teachers of Regents International School Pattaya travelled from Thailand to Berlin to begin a 10 day jam-packed educational tour of two historically rich countries. We started our tour of Berlin visiting many places of historical interest such as the Jewish Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, Hitler’s underground bunker, the Berlin Dome and the Reichstag, which involved making our way around the huge glass dome at the top of the building. On the second day we visited the Jewish Museum, an amazing and huge building with hundreds of different exhibitions, in many different rooms and with many different interactive exhibitions. We also visited the Brandenburg Gate, a beautiful structure that has withheld through both World Wars.
Over the next two days we visited other important sites such as the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, the Topography of Terror, the Berlin Wall, the East Side Gallery, (the largest and longest standing open air gallery in the world) the Soviet cenotaph and the largest church in Berlin. On our final day we had a guided tour around the Olympic Stadium, we learnt many important and interesting facts; the stadium is home to Usain Bolt’s 100 metre world record in 2009, it was where Zinedine Zidane was sent off in the final of the 2006 World Cup for head-butting Marco Materazzi, it will host the 2015 Champion’s League final and it was home to the 1936 Olympic Games.
The second half of our trip was spent in Poland, in three beautiful and historic cities full. We first travelled to Osowka to visit Hitler’s secret underground headquarters; we spent time discovering secret rooms and passage ways that the Nazis had tried, but failed to destroy. Our guide told us his theories of what the Nazis were using the underground headquarters for (including the idea of building super weapons) but obviously nothing can be proven. We then travelled to Wroclaw and the next morning had a guided tour around the city. We visited Wroclaw Town Hall, the Market Square and Wroclaw Cathedral as well as many Churches and Synagogues that remained even after the bombing and destruction of the Second World War.
A poignant day was then spent at Auschwitz-Birkenau; we travelled to the extermination camp and were taken on a tour to learn about, and try to understand, the terrible experience that awaited the victims of the Holocaust. We saw rooms filled with personal belongings taken from the victims; their clothes, utensils, luggage and even their hair; we also saw belongings taken from the children before they were murdered. It was very emotional as we were led around the bunkers where the Jews slept, the punishment blocks, the public bathrooms and finally the gas chambers and crematoriums. Visiting the gas chambers was very touching but also very distressing, hearing details from the guide of how many people were pushed into small concrete rooms was heart-breaking, hearing how they forced other Jews to see this, to remove them and then take them to the crematorium was even worse.
Our final day in Krakow was spent on a tour of one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. We visited many different places of interest including the Main Square, St Mary’s Basilica, Wawel Cathedral, the Cloth Hall, Collegium Maius, Izaak Synagogue and finally Schindler’s Museum where we learnt of one man who tried to save Polish Jews from the clutches of the Nazis. In the evening we visited the Jewish Museum and met with a very special lady; a Holocaust Survivor. She told us her story; how her parents had been taken by the Nazis and murdered, how she had grown up with adoptive parents who hid her from the Nazis, knowing if they were caught they would be punished and she would be sentenced to death. The group were able to ask questions and it was incredible to hear how strong she had become despite her terrible past.
The ten days we spent in Europe were magical, spending much time discovering two incredible countries. The students we took were brilliant, showing maturity and empathy in the most terrible of situations, and interest and eagerness to learn on tours and in the museums.