This blog is going to be a bit of travelogue, apologies for people who want a blog about pedagogy, this won’t be it.
I’ve just come back from Berlin, the second time this year, and maybe the fifth time in the last four. And again it hasn’t failed to amaze me. I’ve been to Rome, I’ve been to Paris, but neither compare to the wealth of, often very raw, history at your finger tips in Berlin.
You want baroque, there’s a shed load (despite the British attempts to bomb it), you want Nazis, done, you want Communists, easy. Berlin is essentially a microcosm of European history of the last two centuries and a brilliant microcosm at that.
With school over the last three years I’ve done the museums and the major tourist sights to death (although having said that the DDR Museum and Topography of Terror never fail to amaze me). So during half term my partner and I decided to do something a little different and set out to cycle the Mauer Weg, a cycle path that follows the route of the Berlin Wall, all 160 kilometers of it. In three days we covered 110km of it and in those three days cycled through such an immense swath of history I was slightly dumbfounded on occasions.
On the first day we detoured off the Mauer Weg for 500 yards and visited the Treptower Park Soviet Memorial. In the rain we were virtually the only people amongst the biggest war memorial I have ever seen, genuinely it’s huge. At one end is the statue you see to the left, a 12 metre high behemoth of a Soviet soldier bringing down his sword on the swastika. Wow.
The next day we continued the wall stopping at the plethora of ace detailed information panels that explain exactly what happened at the sight you are standing on. Most are where people were killed. Some are crossing points. It’s quite incredible and really does highlight the horror that took place from 1961 to 1989.
The third day our route took us from Potsdam, through Wannsee and beyond. In the space of about two hours we cycled past Stalin’s villa, Truman’s villa and Churchill’s villa at Potsdam and the mansion where the Wannsee Conference took place. So essentially we saw the places where some of the most significant decisions of the twentieth century occurred.
Genuinely if you are a history teacher and have never been to Berlin, go! It’s jam packed with the most amazing sights, it’s cheap and has hardly any tourists compared to Paris or Rome. It easily gets my vote for the best historical tourist site in Europe.
If you agree or disagree please argue with me below!