Alright a couple things to start this off- I’m cold and it’s going to get colder but I only have 72 more days until I’ll be getting on my flight back to Australia and that feels like only a few weeks. I’ve been here now for over 280 days (9 months or so) and it’s gone so fast. This month I’ve been able to have a few days in Berlin and a few days also in Amsterdam and they were both absolutely beautiful. They were also a great opportunity to get more pins and things for my blazer.
Berlin: I went to Berlin for about four days this month. I went down on a Friday after school and spent time with some of the exchange students who live in Berlin and also saw a lot of the important sites and museums Berlin has to offer including Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburger Tor, and the East Side Gallery where 1.6km of the original Berlin wall still stands.
During a few of the nights I was there, Berlin had a light show on many of the old buildings much like Vivid in Sydney. I met up with some exchange students at the Brandenburger Tor and we watched that for a while. I think the theme must have been on freedom as there were many animations and quotes projected onto the structure such as “Freiheit ist, wenn ich Sonntags im Mauerpark alle Sprachen dieser Welt höre” (Freedom is when I hear all the languages of the world in the Mauerpark on Sundays) or “Freiheit ist, dass egal was ich brauche, ich es hier finde, denn Berlin hat für jeden was” (Freedom is that no matter what I need, I can find it here because Berlin has something for everyone).
During the time I was there, I realised just how much I love public transport. I’ve always appreciated busses and the occasional train, but Berlin is amazing with public transport and I think we should get a subway in Maitland. Just a little idea but also talk to your government representatives. Make it happen. They even have free wifi on all the subway stations- it’s magical.
The most interesting place for me was the Berlin Hohenschönhausen. It was used by the Stasi in former East Germany as a political prison which over 20,000 people passed through. The conditions were inhumane, and they used torture, disorientation, and psychological intimidation to interrogate people who attempted or planned to leave East Germany as well as political prisoners. Much of the time, the prisoners didn’t know why they were there or what they were being accused of, but they were always assumed guilty and were forced to stay up during the night being interrogated to find the extent of their actions. I took a two-hour guided tour through the cells and interrogation rooms- some of which were set up as they were back then and if you’re ever in Berlin, I would really recommend taking a tour.
Amsterdam: This month I had the opportunity to see Amsterdam for a few days with Lauren from the USA, her host mum, and her host cousin. It was so beautiful, and we got to see a lot in the few days we were there. We went on a few of those Hop on-Hop off bus and boat tours through the city and the canals, we had a look at the Van Gogh museum, and inside the permanent exhibition in Body Works where real bodies are used to show how the body functions. There was also a small fair which we went to after dinner both nights where we could see over most of the city. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get inside the Anne Frank House as the line was a few hours long and tickets sell out well in advance.
I loved that instead of not understanding German, I could have a go at not understanding Dutch for the weekend.
Paris: On the first of November, I’ll be going Paris for a few days with Rotary and the exchange students from 1880, 1940, and 1950 (the same districts as Eurotour so once again probably around one hundred exchange students). We’ll be going by bus overnight and seeing a lot during our three days in Paris. Unfortunately, most of the exchange students from our Eurotour have already gone home because of the different school year in the Northern Hemisphere but it’ll be good to see the others from Australia and New Zealand as well as the newbies who arrived only a few months ago.
I know from my oldies that it’s an exciting week away so I’m really looking forward to it and I guess I’ll explain a bit more about it next month.