Grünheide-York-Partnership: The Visit

Happy! From November 26 to November 28 you would have found us on a tour in Berlin and Grünheide if you had known our group of 50 German/British friends from Grünheide and York. We are sure, you would have loved it - it was brilliant. See what we did.

First Day – Saturday

In the morning we all met up on the platform of the station “Hackescher Markt”.The days we had all been looking forward for such a long time were about to start. At last the train we were waiting for arrived, the York group got off the train and excited chatter drowned out the sound of the passing trains as old friends saw each other again and new friends were found.

Twenty minutes later we started our day: We met Mr.Jander, who gave us a guided tour in Berlin-Mitte. He told us much about historical events from the perspective of civil disobendience in Germany and the ability to say ‘no!‘. We learned a lot from this very knowledgeable man who was passionate about this subject and whose English was excellent.

When we reached the Brandenburg Gate we had a break for lunch, but finding somewhere to eat was a bit difficult at this tourist hot spot.
In the end most of the group ended up at McDonalds and after a quick lunch we all met up again for a tour of the Reichstag.

The tour was really interesting and we climbed the dome, designed by an English architect, Norman Foster, for a spectacular view over Berlin.

Following the tour, each group had three hours to interview people about their group's Berlin building, collect information and have a look-around the city – or at least a small part of the city.

At 6.30pm we met up at “Hackesher Markt” again and took the train to Charlottenburg. Here we were met a unique ensemble of people: a drunk piano player, a 45-year-old playboy bunny, an odd dinosaur, a rabbit with sex-appeal and a naked Neanderthal. This cabaret was an exhausting experience we’ll never forget!

From beginning to end it was a day that packed a punch, not always in the way we expected!

Second Day – Sunday

This day started very quietly because we were all so tired.

Our first excursion was tothe prison Hohenschönhausen. There we had an extremely interesting guided tour and learnt things which made a very deep impression on all of us.
Though the prison is incredibly understated, even sparse, it was really shocking to learn how and why people were brought to the prison, how they were (mis)treated and how they lived.

Our “civil disobedience” tour on Saturday had gone some way to prepare us for how difficult life was for political opponents of the socialist state, but we had not been able to imagine this degree of cruelty and very few people in the GDR were aware of it or fought against it.

After that we were very hungry and in need of a break. We ventured out onto Berlin's public transport network again and had lunch at a very nice Italian restaurant „Il Mondo“, in Lichtenberg. There we had time for a chat and the pasta was delicious.

After lunch we visited the Stasi-Museum where we had a guided tour and interviewed a woman about her experiences of life under Stasi surveillance.

Then the groups split up and had time to themselves, to work on their topics, visit the East Side Gallery or go to one of Berlin's Christmas markets.

We spent the evening at the “Grand Hostel” talking about the next day and we had a „Spätzleteller“, the second taste of German food for the York students, some of whom enquired about what they were eating and were told the Spätzle was “fake pasta”. (: Anyway, it tasted good. All in all this was a really interesting and funny, but also a deeply moving day.

Third Day – Monday

For the Grünheide students the day began like every Monday, at half past eight. As other students started their classes, the project group sat down for a cup of tea to reflect on what they had learnt over the weekend and think about what they wanted to incorporate into their Berlin buildings.

The Grünheide group did a couple of hours of work, before heading to the Fangschleuse station at midday to meet the York students arriving from Berlin.

Back at school we had a four-star lunch provided by Sunshine-Catering and Mr Klage, the headmaster, stopped by to meet the York group and find out how work was progressing.

After lunch the students couldn't wait to get started creating their Berlin buildings using information and material that we collected some days ago. The challenge was to incorporate written, spoken and visual material into the corpus of a famous Berlin building or institution and the results were very impressive.

The Grünheide students also prepared a buffet for the whole group with more German food for the York students to try (sausages, Schnitzel, potato salads and pasta salads this time!)

Finally we moved our sculptures from the art building to the school foyer where Mr Klage again joined us for the presentation of each group's results.

Then, sadly, it was time to say goodbye after a whirlwind three days when friends were made and horizons broadened.

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