We boarded a train which looked a lot like a Harry Potter train and found our compartment and slid the door shut. I think all trains should be like that one! The countryside heading towards Germany was stunning, There was a river that ran all the way through and mountains in the distance, it was ridiculously picturesque and right then I wanted to move and have that view every day, maybe I will retire there!
We pulled into Berlin station and caught the bus to our hostel. It was so hard to believe that this was our final stop, the 2 and a half weeks had flown by. We found our hostel and what a hostel it was! If you go to Berlin stay at the Grand Hostel Berlin, it was fantastic there. Upon arrival we were given a drink and the guy in reception sat with us and went over a map of berlin showing us where everything we might need to see was. We then went to our room which had lovely high ceilings and massive pillows – we had to make our own beds by then but I suppose at least you know then that the bedding is clean!
We had all afternoon to kill so we headed out in to Berlin getting very lost and confused although finally finding our way to the Berlin Wall. We spent about an hour walking along and reading all the history behind it before heading over to Checkpoint Charlie. It is so strange to imagine that all of this happened not so long ago at all. It happened in my parent’s lifetime for goodness sake! We walked back then to get something to eat, we had been shown on the map where was good and headed towards that district. We had a bit of a wander around but in the end decided to go to a restaurant that look quite popular. Turns out it was an Italian restaurant and the waiters spoke Italian and the menu was in German and Italian. It meant that we switched back to saying thank you and please in Italian rather than German, quite crazy. I had a lovely pasta dish and Leigh had calzone which I wish I’d chosen – it was massive and had a really lovely filling, we ordered a 1 litre bottle of wine to go with our meal too which was well worth it, it was also the last bottle of wine we had with a meal.
When we got back to the hostel there were loads of people in the hostel bar and I wanted to go and join them but money really was running out – we had just enough to get us by and not much more. We also had to be up early the next day as we were going out of Berlin and to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp on a day tour.
We woke the next morning and walked to the nearest tube station which wasn’t very far at all before going to the meeting point and joining the group heading out. We then spent 45min on a train out of Berlin before we arrived and caught the bus over to the camp taking the same route the prisoners would have done.
**Warning – upsetting content**
Nothing I say is going to be able to describe the complete devastation I felt in myself that something like this could ever have happened. Nothing will describe to you what a God awful day it was, you need to go and see. Every single person needs to go and see what other people can be capable of so it doesn’t happen again. This must never happen again. I’m going to try and tell you about everything we saw and all the stories that we were told but I will not to it justice. I spoke to the girl running the tour and she goes out there 3 times a week to take people round and show them, I asked her how she did it, and she said she hates it so much but it needs to be done.
We walked through the main gate where the clock at the top of the building was set to the time that the camp was liberated. The main office above our heads was the tallest building and because of the formation of the camp the guards were able to see every single part of the camp. In the ground laid out around you are what look like large empty flower beds filled with gravel but these are to mark the places that the barracks stood, each barrack should of housed 146 prisoners, at the worst point several of them housed 800 Jews. We stood in the same spot that they would have done roll call everyday twice a day, and we passed the gallows where bodies would have been hung in front of all the other prisoners. We walked around a wall and there was Project Z, the later attached extermination section. Sachsenhausen was a concentration camp not an extermination camp. It’s primary function was to house Jews, the word the Nazi’s used was rehabilitation centre. They were lying. We saw the ramp leading down into the ground and at the end logs stacked up so when the Jews stood in front of them and were shoot the logs absorbed the bullets, you can still see the holes. We were led to the foundations of the furnace rooms and holding rooms where there was a gas chamber but also an extermination room, they told them they were getting their height checked, a wooden post was brought down on their heads which opened a hatch to conceal a guard who shot them in the back of the neck. I got the most upset about this part. Its horrific and I cant believe that it ever happened. There are so many stories that I could tell you that I was told but even writing about all of this is upsetting me, we got shown the medical centre where they used to pick a death cause off a list to justify why they were dead, we also got shown the fence a section of which remains, barbed wire, electric fence, brick walls topped with more barbed wire, it was a fortress. We also got shown some reconstructed barracks as they would have been with their cramped beds and cold bathrooms. Some neo Nazis got in a few years ago and tried to set fire to it, this burnt wall now sits behind glass as a reminder that there are still pockets of people out there that have this disgusting view. That people aren’t all just the same no matter what your colour, religion, sexuality. It makes me feel ill. Leigh and I both came away from that day quite shaken with what we had seen and I mean it when I say go and see for yourself. You need to, this cannot happen again. Ever.
We needed a drink after everything that we had seen and it was happy hour even if we didn’t feel very happy. We ended up staying for 3 massive pints before following the advice of the barman and going to find the holy grail of kebabs. We had passed the queue the night before and couldn’t understand why it was so long but apparently people came from all over Berlin so down we went to join the queue. An hour and 45min, 2 new Spanish friends, lots of rain later we finally got to the front of the queue. That’s right, we queued nearly 2hrs for a kebab! But it was worth it, very cheap indeed – chicken donor in pitta with potato wedges and feta cheese on the salad we washed it down with a few shop bought beers and we headed back promising to keep in touch with the Spanish couple of very generously had let us borrow their umbrella in the queue. We went back to the hostel and to bed then, it had been a long day and we were still broke.
We woke up on our last day in Europe feeling quite sad. We dropped our bags into the luggage room with a long day ahead of us, our night train to Brussels wasn’t until 11.30pm. We stopped at a sandwich shop right next to our hostel and had a cup of tea and a pain au chocolat for breakfast and managed to kill a few hours discussing our plan for the day. We got the subway over to our first stop the Holocaust Memorial Site, there are 2,711 slabs of stone all at different heights and as you walk into it they tower above you. It’s quite extraordinary. We both got annoyed though because there were people posing by them, children playing hide and seek and people clambering all over them. I thought it deserved a bit more respect.
From there we moved on to view the Brandenberg Gate and stood taking it all in, we walked through the park then and found a lovely secluded area to eat our lunch and drink one of the beers we had bought along. It turns out we were right next to a Soviet memorial so we walked through and across a main road which had been shut off, we wondered why but there wasn’t anything there so we carried on into a lovely wooded park with a lake in the middle and found a spot where we stayed drinking our last beer for an hour or two.
Then the maddest thing, we could hear music from somewhere and as we came out of the park we found a massive rave happening, with hardcore techno music pumping out of these vans with loads of people dancing – it was a legalise cannabis rave and we had stumbled into it. We had a bit of a dance for a while and it was really great. One of the things that we both regretted was not having enough money to be able to go out in Berlin so we kind of got a free night out in the middle of the day. We then went and stood outside the Reichstag but you have to register to be allowed in and we couldn’t be bothered to join the massive queue so we viewed from afar instead. After all this walking we were starting to get a bit hungry and it was nearly dinner time so we headed back towards the kebab place but instead I got noodles and Leigh had a currywurst. No more restaurant dinners for us :(
It was about 8pm by this time and we still had so much time to kill so we went back to our hostel and sat in the bar watching the Olympics and Mo win his gold – the only part that we actually saw the entire trip! 10pm crept up on us and we said goodbye to the hostel staff and headed towards the station we needed. It was a different one to the one we came in from and we got lost on the metro, we went the wrong way twice and all we were getting more and more worried as the time started to fly by. We finally made it to the station but couldn’t find the platform and really we should have known this was a test of things to come. We made it on the train and found our way to our beds – we were in the middle this time and settled down almost straight away and drifted off in another restless sleep, this time we weren’t the last stop and although we had been told that an alarm would sound it meant that the 4 other people in our room were going to be woken up as well.
Then the nightmare started…we got woken up at 6.15 which was when our train was meant to be pulling into Koln, after a very confusing and unhelpful conversation with the train guard I managed to figure that for some reason our train hadn’t stopped there, I still don’t know why to this day! Anyway it was going on to another station about an hr and a half from Koln, we would have to change there and come back. We were fuming and we couldn’t go back to our carriage as everyone was sleeping so we had to sit on the floor reading until we got there, when we did we went and got our tickets stamped so the train guard would know and we boarded a train back the way we came to Koln. From there we got our tickets stamped again and we were given a letter,we had to wait an hour for the train to Brussels to show up but it wasn’t all bad as the lady who had stamped our tickets had told us to go to carriage 28 which turned out to be first class and the letter we believe say it was because of the confusion so we sat in very comfortable reclining chairs all the way to Brussels. When I booked the Eurostar back from Brussels I gave us enough time to have breakfast there, 4 hours. With all the delays and changes we had even managed to miss our Eurostar. On that Sunday we went to 3 places in Berlin, Brussels and London. It was a very hectic day! The very nice lady at the gate said it was all fine and booked us on a Eurostar that was leaving in an hour .
It’s a shame it was such a hectic end to an otherwise fine use of the train system around Europe.And that concludes our Europe trip! Berlin was suprising actually, after Venice and Prague I found it very grey and quite ugly but then it is building itself back up again. I am also pleased that I found Berlin to be a city that doesnt hide from what happened there, they openly hold their hands up and say ‘Yes this happened, it never will again.’ I am glad we went there even though I orignally didnt plan to.
I have another class tonight :)
The last one was really interesting - have I already posted about this? I seem to have lost track of my tumblr recently.
If I haven’t written about it, we discussed Cleopatra and her reputation. How reputation can be built and changed and how actually she was probably a very nice woman who was unfairly portrayed by the opposing side.
If I have written about it ignore the above!
It was actually really enjoyable to be learning again and I’m looking forward to getting to grips with Dr Faustus tonight.
I do need to make a start on my essay though - it isn’t awful, 500 words on Cleo and 500 on Faustus. It’s just writing that first sentence and getting started.
Have my first class today, I am officially a student again, which has its bonus/negative points.
Bonus: I’m working towards a degree and studying a subject I am interested in
Negative: I have to study, and do essays and basically meet deadlines, which I am ridiculously bad at.
I have just started reading my set book (which I should have already read probably) for this section and it’s Dr Faustus. Which is a play. Which is written in Shakespearean English. Which is bloody hard to read. In fact it’s my least favourite form of text and here I am trying to make sense of the bloody thing. So I did what every person with a brain would do and I googled the Synopsis. Apparently it’s about a man who turns to magic and sells his soul. I just hate the stop and start effect reading plays has, it makes it hard to get into.
My first essay is going to be so hard to get into after a 6 month break from learning, but I’ve got all my course books so I’m set up to be a model student. Ha!
Busy girl this evening with work, gym and then school. I feel good about filling my life with things and I’m even starting to not hate the gym as much! I had a personal trainer session the other day and he talked to me about what’s best to do for what I want to achieve. Rowing is one of the main things, although not rowing like I would do it, actually setting a pace boat and trying to go as fast and hard as possible, I think he took glee in every drop of sweat, evil man! But it will be worth it.
My OU course website has finally opened!
I have been looking at all the work that needs to be done and feeling apprehension but looking forward to certain chapters as well, especially the History.
The worst thing to happen is a deadline for the 10th August – I will be in Berlin then! I have an essay deadline for the 6th July so once I’ve completed that one I will have to get my essay done and sent off before I go to Europe which is going to be a pain.
Overall though the course seems to look good and it will get me one step closer to that degree so I just need to buckle down and get on with it, making sure I’m not rushing the essays in the last 2 days. Having said all that it’s what has happened for the last 2 years so my good intentions always go flying out the window!
I received my books in the post a couple of weeks ago and they smell so lovely and new, soon (hopefully if I’m good) they will be covered in my scribbles J
The first tutorial class is going to be exciting – I’ll be interested to see the age range of my class as in previous years they have always been slightly older. Hopefully there will be a few people my age as it would be nice to meet some more people in London. I don’t have to go every week either, like I thought I might have to.
Just waiting for my set books to arrive now and then I can get started swotting up!
I swear this is the best scheme ever to come about.
I just found out that I have a place on the ‘Arts past and present’ course which starts in February and will count as 60 credits towards my degree.
Not only do they pay for the £700 course fee but I will get a small grant as well :)
Really quite excited about this course - its not just literature but history and art as well which are two subjects I love.
Thought I’d share the course plan with you too. Cant wait for this!
Book 1: Reputations Why are some individuals famous? What is it about Cézanne’s paintings or Cleopatra’s life that makes them so well known? This book takes you from the distant past to the contemporary world to consider these questions in the light of the famous, the infamous and the unjustly neglected. Case studies of significant figures (Cleopatra, Josef Stalin, Michael Faraday and the Dalai Lama) introduce subject-specific skills such as differentiating between primary and secondary sources, and understanding and interpreting varied points of view. This will enable you to develop an understanding of how we construct ideas of the past. Chapters on Christopher Marlowe and Paul Cézanne consider artistic reputation through the works that made them famous: Marlowe’s Dr Faustus, the absorbing, tragic story of the man who sells his soul to the devil; and Cézanne’s mysterious, beguiling paintings of bathers and the Mont St Victoire. You’ll acquire competencies in visual analysis and the critical reading of literary texts. A chapter on the musical Diva explores artistic reputation from a different perspective and investigates why some performers become famous. The same chapter also introduces varied musical repertoires and develops your close listening skills.
Book 2: Tradition and Dissent Tradition is a widely used word, particularly in academic contexts, but what do we mean by it? Why is it important to an understanding of the arts? What does it mean to dissent from tradition? This book provides some answers while extending the range of your skills. We begin with Laches, the work of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, which raises questions about how reliable tradition is as a source of knowledge. This is followed by discussion of tradition in relation to poetry, centred on an attractive anthology of poems about animals. Linked chapters explore religious dissent in England (including the cataclysmic story of the Reformation in England), and the gothic revival of the nineteenth century, concentrating on the work of the revolutionary architect Augustus Pugin. Ideas of tradition underpin the formation of nation states: by looking at the invention of tradition in Ireland, you’ll examine this historical process in action. Finally, you’ll listen to the string quartets of the controversial Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich, which raise fascinating questions about the importance of tradition to music and the extent that musical works might act as a form of political dissent.
Book 3: Cultural Encounters Cultural Encounters addresses questions that are pertinent both to the changing world we live in and to all arts subjects: what is the relationship between works of art and colonial history? To what extent can objects and texts be translated from one culture to another? There’s more interdisciplinary work in this part of the course. The book begins with linked chapters on the art of Benin – these are extraordinary sculptures from West Africa, which were taken by Britain and other European countries in the late nineteenth century. The chapters consider this encounter between Europe and Africa from both historical and art historical perspectives. The book continues by examining the philosophical tension between liberal ideas of inclusivity and the pressure for exemptions for minorities in contemporary society. You’ll then read a collection of modern short stories from around the world that explore the ways encounters between different cultures shape ideas of identity and belonging. These short stories are followed by an epic of the exchange of knowledge between cultures: the transmission of medical knowledge from Ancient Greece to the Arabian world and then back to medieval Europe. The book ends with another ancient text – Sophocles’s seminal tragedy, Antigone. You’ll study this play in the Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney’s 2004 translation, The Burial at Thebes. Cumulatively, these individual case studies enrich and complicate our sense of the interplay and exchange of ideas from one culture to another.
Book 4: Place and Leisure The final book explores ideas of place and leisure: how should we interpret sacred spaces or Roman villas? What is the meaning and history of leisure? As well as these thematic questions, the end of the course prompts you to consider what you’ve learnt and what you’ll want to study in the future. With AA100 as the basis for your studies, you will have a good grounding in a range of subjects and their methodologies. The book has two related concerns, outlined in the opening chapters. First we consider leisure as a philosophical issue: what is the purpose of life, and how does leisure fit into broader accounts of what its purpose should be? Secondly, we look at how we interpret the human environment, from ancient monuments through to twentieth-century cities, by interrogating what we mean by the idea of sacred space. These concerns are joined together by focusing on Roman ideas of leisure, both in the evidence of Latin literature and the archaeological remains of villas from across the Roman Empire. The course concludes with a multidisciplinary study of the seaside. This material combines social history of the development of the British seaside resort in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including work on the changing technologies that fostered seaside holidays, with analysis of different representations of the seaside phenomenon in film, music and visual art.
My set books are:
Heaney, Seamus (tr)The Burial at Thebes
Marlowe, Christopher: O’Conor, John (ed)Doctor Faustus the A text
Muldoon, Paul (ed)The Faber Book of Beasts
Prescott, Lynda (ed)A World of Difference: an anthology of short stories from five continents
This is going to be so much fun!
I just finished reading a novel called ‘War on the Margins’ by Libby Cone based in World War II. I was shocked to discover that the British Channel islands had been under German occupation during most of the war!
I studied History for my GCSE’s and my A Levels with particular focus and I had no idea that there were Jewish Labour Camps on the channel islands! I think this is appalling, the whole of the war was. This book made me think so much and although shocked I really enjoyed how gritty it was, I felt for all the characters.
I really love to read diaries, and novels about World War I and II If anyone has any they would recommend I would love to know.
An update on my weekend, it seems recently that not much goes on at all during the week and so all my blogging is about the weekend. I feel like I haven’t been blogging so much recently as well, I don’t know if anyone else finds this to be true?
On Friday I went out with work friends, and it felt like I was a proper Londoner! Going out for a meal and drinks and then getting the last tube home. It was so lovely to feel quite accepted as someone who lives here!
I managed to venture out of the house on Saturday for a little while despite the overwhelming desire to do nothing and just sit on the sofa with a duvet and watch films.
About a month ago I received a newsletter from the Tate Modern stating an event that required 80 amateur/professional artists to take part in an exhibition. I forwarded the email to a friend of mine who draws beautifully and told her to enter, which she did, managing to secure a place. We decided to go down to see her and also pop in on the Tate Modern while we were down that way.
Circle line was, of course, closed – so we went in search of the replacement bus stop. We passed a group of Zimbabwean protesters outside their embassy, singing and drumming and asking for people to sign petitions against Robert Mugabe. I quite readily signed my name; he is a horrible man who deserves everything that is coming to him.
We eventually managed to get a bus, an old one with the entrance at the back – which was fun :) It dropped us off outside St Pauls, which is magnificent. Leigh and I were discussing how it was left standing after the Blitz and what a triumph it must have been, and it awes you to be near something that has survived so much. A real piece of London in front of you.
We walked down to the river, where my friend was drawing and had been all day, had a talk with her and walked along some more looking at other peoples pieces. The general consensus was that it had been a long day. These people had been drawing and painting from 10.30 until 8. But it was a chance to have their work displayed and that is important.
Leigh and I decided to walk over to the Tate Modern while we were in the area and spent about an hour walking round. We didn’t go to the pay exhibition but still had a nice time feeling cultured. I took some pictures of a few pieces that I liked but I forgot to take down the names of a couple which was very thoughtless of me. I was wondering about security though. There was a Monet there and although there were security cameras if someone wanted to slash through the picture they could have done it before anyone was there to stop them. Art work of that magnitude needs to be protected, it is important to save all pieces of art, scripts, novels, ideas for the future.
When we left and started to walk over the bridge I looked at the skyline of London, with Tower Bridge to my right, and St Pauls and the Gherkin in front of me and I was hit with an overwhelming sense of happiness that this is my home, and it’s so exciting and new with so much possibility. This is where I always dreamed of being when I was younger and coming to London used to make me do a happy dance and feel so small. I felt a part of it all when I looked over and saw the Thames beneath my feet.
London is my home :)
Open Uni news! After finding out that I cant apply for funding anymore this year, I had a look at my choices. I have to complete a compulsory ‘The Arts – Past & Present’ course to gain my Degree. This wont just be focusing on Literature, but History, Art, and Music. I know what I want to do but this course is a Level 1, that I should have taken first but bypassed as originally I just wanted to do a Creative Writing course and I wasn’t interested in the degree.
So I am going to do this course in Feb, which means that I can still apply for funding which is good news! And it might get my brain working again, can’t have it turning to mush!