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Berlin is a gold mine for history lovers

The Reichstag, the seat of the German government. (Daniel Cleary/YJI)

BERLIN – When the opportunity to travel on a school history trip to Berlin came up, I jumped at the chance.

I absolutely love history and Berlin is steeped in it. In the last century or so alone, the city has fought two world wars, been the seat of power of a Nazi dictator, been divided in two and reunited again.

There is simply so much to learn – I barely scraped the surface despite many trips to museums and places of interest.

I’d also always wanted to visit the famous Christmas markets and get a feel for the atmosphere in places like Germany and Austria around the festive season. Given the timing of my December visit, I was far from disappointed.

The Soviet Memorial in Treptower Park is simply a magnificent piece of architecture, as is the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate.

The views from the dome of the Reichstag, both internally and externally, are spectacular as they allow you to see the resplendent Berlin skyline and give you the opportunity to gaze down into the famous seats of German parliament.

A Christmas market in Berlin. (Daniel Cleary/YJI)

Funnily enough, the day I happened to visit the Reichstag was the day Olaf Scholz was inaugurated as German chancellor, ending Angela Merkel’s 16-year tenure.

The culture of Berlin is intriguing, particularly at Christmastime. The streets are beautifully adorned with decorative lighting and there are countless Christmas markets to behold.

The aroma within these markets is nothing short of delicious and the atmosphere is simply magical.

But it was in order to learn about history that I went to Berlin and I certainly did! I visited the infamous Checkpoint Charlie, the most famous crossing point of the Berlin Wall.

I learned about the life of the everyday person living in East Germany in the DDR Museum and, with a fantastic tour guide, even did a tour of a World War II air-raid shelter in Gesundbrunnen Station, a train station that is still operating today.

My favorite place was the Topography of Terror Museum, a museum located at the old Nazi headquarters of the SS and Gestapo.

While some of the testimonies of those who survived the horrific Nazi regime were chilling, I loved the museum, particularly for its first-hand information and the way it skillfully combined this information with observations from well-known historians from around the world.

View of Berlin from the Reichstag dome. (Daniel Cleary/YJI)

Overall, I had an absolutely brilliant time in Berlin learning huge amounts about my favorite subject – history – and really enjoyed myself.

Visiting Berlin will certainly go down as one of the highlights of my time in school. I would highly recommend a trip to the German capital for anyone remotely interested in history.

Daniel Cleary is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International. He also strongly recommends a trip to his own city, Dublin, Ireland.

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