Today we visited the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum. Its taken me a little while to write this blog post as it’s just so difficult to decide what to say about such a horrible place. I’ve heard stories about what went on in concentration camps but being there and seeing the grounds for myself just made the stories so much more chilling. After a 2 hour sobering visit, we ventured into the city to learn more about Berlin’s checkered past.
Given free time in the city, Phil, Steve, Fiona, Jason and myself decided to visit the Berliner Dom – a large cathedral in the center of town that was built around the turn of the 20th Century. The inside was beautiful (as many cathedrals that we’ve visited during our time in Europe) but it was the access to the top of the building that made it the most memorable. A few flights of stairs up we exited the outside of the dome and were treated to a beautiful view of Berlin from above.
As the sun set and the temperatures reached below zero, we headed back to the hotel and dressed up warm. We jumped back on our trusty Contiki bus to meet a local guide and learn about the Berlin wall. The site we visited was home to the infamous tunnel 57, named as such to record the number of people that managed to escape to the West one fateful night.
Despite the successful escapes of some, most failed in their attempts to reach freedom from the Soviet-run East, and were captured or shot. The site remains a place of great sadness with a memorial to remember those that fell, including a memorial for one particular man who jumped from a 4 storey building only to miss the ‘catching blankets’ being held for him down below.
We learnt from our guide about ‘dead letter drops’ – a technique used by people to communicate without the Stasi (secret police) being able to interfere. We played a fun little letter hunting game to find the pub we would be drinking at and the rest of the night was dedicated to drinking.