Kurze Wege  


D Block Berlin Exchange 2017

Nicholas Brown (JDM), George Goodhart (TEJN), Jude Martin
(NPTL), George Pickthorn (JDM), Nathaniel Watson (JDM).

The return leg of the annual Berlin exchange took place during the first week
of our Easter holiday. Five Etonians took part and as ever it proved to be a
most worthwhile experience for all concerned, particularly given the warm and
sunny weather. The boys were excellent ambassadors not only for the school
but also for themselves, and it was a genuine pleasure to be with them
wherever we went. All of my German colleagues commented on the boys’
positive attitudes, their interest in all that we did, the impressive quality of their
spoken language and the way in which they really tried to speak as much
German as possible.

My colleagues at the Hermann-Ehlers school had organised the usual varied
and interesting programme for us. Our boys were able to attend a couple of
lessons during the course of the week, although it was a busy time for the
German staff and pupils alike, with rather a lot of exams taking place. The
different fancy dress costumes sported by the school’s leavers caused a
considerable amount of amusement. Whenever we ventured out into the city
itself the boys were great and highly entertaining company; there really was
never a dull moment. There were plenty of opportunities during the week to
visit Berlin landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate, Unter den Linden, the
Holocaust Memorial, KaDeWe, Checkpoint Charlie, the Ku’damm and
Potsdamer Platz. We visited the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church with its
striking bombed tower left as a ruin after WW2. I think the boys were all
amazed by the beautiful blue light from the myriad stained glass windows inside
the new church. The many candles burning outside on the steps of this church
were a sobering reminder of the Christmas terrorist attack. I hope the boys
were able to appreciate the differences between the former East and West, so
apparent still in the architectural styles. We certainly covered a lot of ground, be
it on foot, by bus or underground.
Various highlights this year included an informative guided tour of the
impressive Reichstag building. This took place early in the morning and we
enjoyed stunning views from Norman Foster’s glass dome over the city in
almost dazzling sunlight. For our tour of the Olympic Stadium, built for the
1936 games, we had a very enthusiastic guide who knew his stuff not only
concerning the Nazi history of the building but also when it came to sport. We
were allowed into the footballers’ dressing rooms and admired the running
track, famously coloured blue for the Herta Berlin football team. A personal
favourite for me and the boys was the stunning panorama of the Berliner
Mauer by artist Asisi – unbelievably realistic.
Our visit to the Bernauer Straße Berlin Wall memorial was a thought-provoking
one, and I was proud of how much our boys knew about the Cold War period
when quizzed by our guide. The German Spy Museum also provided plenty of
insight into this era. The boys all loved going up the famous East German TV
tower, which affords incredible views over Berlin, although this was
unfortunately the one misty morning of our stay. We made up for the weather
by ordering Kaffee und Kuchen in the revolving café, where we tried to work
out how long it took the café to complete a full circuit by means of an
ingeniously placed mint provided by yours truly. “Waiting for the mint” proved
to be quite hilarious.
The boys were interested and motivated throughout, keen to speak German
and to learn new phrases or slang expressions, and much laughter was to be
heard between the exchange partners. Their enthusiasm for all things German
was infectious and I don’t think I’ve laughed so much for ages. As ever, plenty
of photos were taken and Berlin specialities such as Currywurst sampled with
enthusiasm. Indeed, German food in general proved to be a real hit for some
and I was constantly amazed by the boys’ ability to consume such large
quantities! This year we managed to win the traditional football match between
the two schools again, and it was once again proved that football is indeed a
world language judging by the banter between the two sides. I hope that some
will stay in contact with their partners and organise private holidays of their
own in the future. Over the week-end, boys were taken out and about by their
host families who all spoke most highly of them. There were some moving
farewell scenes at the airport and I got the distinct impression that the
Germans were really sad to see our boys go.
Overall this was a hugely enjoyable trip for all concerned and my special thanks
go to Frau Angela Schulz for her organisation and friendship. We hope that
this exchange will continue to run so successfully for many years to come.
KSKP 14/04/2017


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