It was really good to meet up with our friends from Philipp-Melancthon Gymnasium today.
The PMG students had prepared a tour of Berlin for us, and all students drew on the stories of some Berlin women to help us view the city from different perspectives. We started our walking tour of Berlin right outside the hostel door. We’re in Rosenstrasse, the place where German-Aryan women protested successfully for the release of their German-Jewish husbands in 1943 (sic!). Wending our way via Rosa Luxemburg Stasse and through Alexanderplatz, we visited the Humboldt Box to find out more about the reconstruction of the Kaiser’s Palace, where Princess Victoria was briefly Kaiserin. It was the site of the Volkskammer and Margot Honecker (wife of the DDR leader and politican in her own right) also featured here, as a woman of the DDR era. Quite a different woman from her DDR compatriot Katja Havemann, who helped to found Neues Forum in 1989 and endured house arrest with her husband Robert for opposition to the regime.
Having learnt about the story of Kathe Kollwitz and seeing her famous pieta at the Neue Wache memorial, we made our way to the government quarter. At the Kanzleramt we shared views about Angela Merkel from our different countries and across the generations.
Then, after pausing to reflect by the tributes to the victims of the Paris attacks outside the French embassy, we had our customary group photo at the Brandenburg Gate and made our way past the Holocaust memorial, to Potsdammer Platz. The stories of Marlene Dietrich and the anonymous Woman of Berlin completed our walking tour. We had been fortified by snack bags put together for us by our German friends, but were still very much in need of food back at Alex, before heading to Bernauer Strasse to learn more about the Wall. It’s been a really good first day together, and we are looking forward to the Bundestag in the morning.