On Sunday I received a surprise invitation from my cousin asking if I had any spare time in June to go and stay with him and his family in Berlin. It reminded me of a similar call between us six years ago, when I was already in Berlin with 30 A Level Photography students trying to work out if there would be any chance over the three days I was there if I could grab a quick coffee with him.

Coincidentally the photos from this trip came up in my Facebook ‘On this day…’ reminders yesterday and it was great to reflect on what was my first experience of Germany. We stayed in A&O Friedrichshain, a hostel in the east about five minutes walk to the Ostkreuz train station. The itinerary was fairly packed and included a trip to the Berlin headquarters of Mercedes – a building where in the internal architecture allowed you to drive the cars from floor to floor, resembling a mix of a race track, car park and the poshest of office spaces. We enjoyed a trip on the river. Our visit to the Reichstag was a security filled experience.


My favourite day involved a visit to the East Side Gallery. One of my earliest memories is watching the television as the Berlin wall came down. My grandfather was Polish so I have grown up knowing that WW2 had a direct impact on my existence and it is hard not to feel a connection to this thing that was an object of division and displacement. But the East Side Gallery itself is special, over 1316 metres it is filled with restored hopes and dreams from 101 different artists from around the world. It was a point in the trip where the students with me seemed to really connect (even though the rain was falling) with what they were seeing, we had open and frank discussions.

The rest of that day was spent inside, and was a perfect way to end our trip. We made our own chocolate at Ritter Sport

My overriding feeling of Berlin is that it is a city of renewal, filled with makers and doers. In 2013 you couldn’t turn 360º without seeing a crane on the skyline somewhere. I learnt one word of German when I was there and it seems to be very apt now I reflect. That word is schmetterling.

I have been back once since, the itinerary that time involved a few different venues for my cousin’s wedding, and when I return in June I will be taking on childminding duties for a week, and hopefully I can explore the wonderful city of Berlin more with a one year old in tow.


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