One of the highlights of my year so far has been finally going on a society trip to Europe. I’ve wanted to visit Berlin for years but every attempt I made to organize to go had fallen through for one reason or another. When I saw that DUPA (Dublin University Photography Association) were travelling to Berlin in November, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and go. I didn’t know anyone in DUPA so I was a bit nervous about signing up, but I had just bought a new camera and thought where better to learn how to use it! At 35 euro for the trip, plus relatively cheap flights, I figured I couldn’t really go wrong.
When November 1st came around I was really excited and, as per usual, vaguely terrified of airports (which I feel are generally far more stressful than flying itself). After a three hour flight, I met with the rest of the group, who were a mix of DUPA, Vis Arts and DUDJ (Dublin University DJ society) members in the arrivals area of Schonefeld Airport. Our first task was to decipher Berlin’s public transport – which was very hit and miss, not only because of our collective lack of German but because the connecting train we needed to get had been replaced by a bus. After a good hour of wandering around the station examining every sign closely for words that looked vaguely like their English counterparts, we eventually figured out where we needed to go. I had hoped that some of my Junior Cert. German would return to me, but all I could remember were translations for helpful words like ‘skirting board’ or ‘potato salad’ (nothing to ask for directions unfortunately!)
The first day was spent mostly exploring. I have a habit of wandering off from the group and I enjoy a bit of an adventure, so I spent the day getting to grips with the UBahn and visited Kreuzberg, which had amazing street art and restaurants. I also explored Alexanderplatz, the main shopping district. I hadn’t expected that the stereotype of German punctuality would be so accurate, but safe to say since I’ve returned home Dublin Bus has seemed very frustrating by comparison.
That night, after the second group had arrived off the later flight, it was time to experience the main attraction in Berlin – the nightlife. We split into a number of smaller groups and exchanged various tips we had read online as to how to look suitably apathetic and not tourist-y to get into the clubs (which are notorious for strict door policies). We ended up in one of Berlin’s enormous electronic nightclubs, which was amazing purely for the sheer scale of the club which was in a warehouse. Keeping track of anyone was virtually impossible because of the number of tunnels and dancefloors, not to mention the basement which was full of smoke and strobe lights. It was a huge contrast to anything I had seen in Dublin (and the music wasn’t bad either!)
The following day we visited all of the main tourist attractions – The Brandenberg Gate, The Reichstag and the Holocaust Memorial, which were all very impressive. After taking our fair share of photos, we went looking for somewhere to eat. A word of warning to anyone planning to visit Berlin – plan which restaurant to go to and where! We spent about 40 minutes trying to find somewhere to eat (which in the end we really enjoyed, hunger is the best sauce after all!)
On my final day in Berlin we visited the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, which was by far the most moving and fascinating part of our trip. While many of the camp buildings had been destroyed in the years after the war, a number of displays explained not only the history of the camp itself but its relationship with political struggles in Germany (during its time as a prisoner camp under the Soviet Union). With extensive walls explaining the stories of both individual and groups of prisoners, the camp provided an insight into the personal stories of those who were detained or died in the camps.
It was an amazing trip, and DUPA were one of the friendliest societies I’ve ever encountered. My advice to anyone debating whether or not to go on a society trip during their time in college, even if you don’t know anyone else going, would be to take the chance!
Elaine is law student and student ambassador in the Trinity Global Room.