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Somersfield Academy road trip

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European history: the tour included a football match and visits to the Olympiastadion and Dachau Concentration camp

During the October break, 33 Somersfield Academy MYP students from M3-M5 travelled to Germany, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland to experience the rich history and culture of these incredible countries.

The highlights included trips to the Olympiastadion and the Reichstag building in Berlin, a Czech Premier League football match in Prague, a visit to the Dachau Concentration Camp in Bavaria, and an excursion into the Swiss Alps. Here are excerpts from the student travellers’ journals.

Sanaa Morris, M4

On October 19, 2018, I had the honour of standing in the stadium that held the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Nazi Germany at the time. This was a trip of a lifetime for me, as I love track and field and one of my goals is to qualify for the Olympics and win the Gold!

From 1934 to 1936, during the Nazi era, the old stadium was demolished and architect Werner March developed a new stadium and sports complex able to hold 100,000 people.

The new stadium was known as the Olympiastadion and is now the home to local football fans. It has hosted a number of events. The most controversial one was when they held the 1936 Olympic Games. This was during a time when Hitler was in power and the Nazi movement was on the rise.

There was a lot of debate about boycotting the Games because of the racism against Jews and people of colour.

The Games were allowed to proceed once the International Olympic Committee agreed that all qualified athletes would be able to compete.

America sent the famous Jesse Owens to compete, where he won three gold medals in the 100m, 200m and long jump, and one gold medal for the 4x100m relay.

This stadium is also where Usain Bolt, a Jamaican track star, more recently broke a world record.

On August 16, 2009, Usain Bolt ran the 100m in 9.58 seconds in the World Athletic Championships, breaking his own world record of 9.69 seconds that he had set a year earlier at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Today the stadium is still used for many events, including the 2006 World Cup Finals. We were lucky to tour this national site and one day I imagine I may be a part of the history of this stadium.

Thibaut Stefani

Day 5. After enjoying being tourists visiting Prague in the morning, we transformed as supporters and watched a football match.

All football fans of the group hoped to see Sparta Prague, the most well-known team in Czech Republic.

But no. We were going to be the fans of Dukla Praha (Praha meaning Prague).

After some research, we realised that Dukla Praha was not the best Prague football team, not the second best, not the third, but the fourth best.

Unfortunately, they were last in the Czech League. The level will be good, but not like a Champions’ League Final.

2pm. We arrived at the Stadion Juliska, Dukla Praha stadium, that seats 8,000.

The stadium was small compared to the Berlin Olympic Stadium which can host nine times more people, but the excitement of all the supporters was very enthusiastic.

The referee whistled the start of Dukla Praha-SFC Opava.

The game was tight and at half-time, while there were no goals, great action from both teams made it very enjoyable.

Many of us bought scarves, T-shirts and other souvenirs for the game.

3pm. The second half started, and goals still didn’t come.

In the 89th minute, there was a last hope to see a goal with a corner for Dukla.

The speaker made the supporters’ voices rise.

The teachers took the last few pictures before the game ended.

The corner is taken, and Jan Durica (#44) heads the ball in under the outstretched arm of the keeper.

GOAL! Dukla Praha 1, SFC Opava 0. All the supporters (and us) were jubilant!

Kate Tobin, M5

On October 22, after spending time in Prague and Berlin, we arrived in Munich and visited the Dachau Concentration Camp.

I had been anticipating this experience with very mixed emotions for some time.

I was unsure of how I would react being in the place where thousands of innocent people had their lives extinguished.

Having previously visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, I had an understanding of the brutality of the Holocaust and what the concentration camps represented.

I knew what Dachau was like as a historical site and had done significant research prior to the trip, however nothing could prepare me for the emotions I felt actually entering the camp.

In the Dachau camp, I had the opportunity to visit the indoor museum which outlined Hitler’s rise to power and the Nazi master plan.

I was also able to learn additional specifics about life in Dachau.

After our time in the museum, we began our tour around the camp stopping inside the barracks.

Here we discussed the rules set out by the Nazis that the prisoners had to comply with.

They were numerous and exacting. If prisoners didn’t comply with these rules, many of which were designed to be impossible to adhere to, they would be harshly punished.

In spite of my research and prior understanding of the camp, it was impossible to comprehend the extent of the inhumanity to which the prisoners were subjected, not only physically but also psychologically through this depletion of spirit.

We subsequently visited the crematoriums and gas chambers.

This was definitely the hardest part of the trip as I was struck with the realisation that thousands of people had taken their last breath right where I was standing.

Even in death, the prisoners were seen as animals with no dignity, as their lifeless bodies were piled on top of each other awaiting cremation.

Their deaths were seen as a task to be accomplished, nothing more, nothing less.

Standing there, it was inconceivable that we as humans could have such detachment from what had happened in those rooms.

Dachau represents the very worst of what humans are capable of. Today, Dachau has a parklike setting and also houses a synagogue for prayer and spiritual renewal.

One can only hope that the remaining survivors and families can find some degree of peace.

I am incredibly appreciative that I was able to visit a place with such historical significance and a place of such loss.

It was incredibly grounding and definitely helped our entire group to recognise our privilege and the opportunities we have that so many others lost while dying in the camp.

J’Maya Rajeh, M3

Along the way to Switzerland, we made a stop in Schwangau, Bavaria, about 60 miles southwest of Munich, to visit the world famous Neuschwanstein Castle.

The castle was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria and built on September 5, 1869. The design was inspired by his father’s castle and he decided the palace would be his little escape from public life.

Schwanstein translates to swan stone. Swans were very significant to Ludwig’s castle as they were a main theme of this father’s castle, which influenced his personal artistic taste. Also, swans were the knight’s historical heraldic animal of Schwangau.

Just seven weeks after Ludwig’s mysterious death in 1886, his unfinished castle was opened to the public and over a million tourists visit the palace every year.

The Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most visited castles in the world, as it looks like it was taken straight from a fairytale.

It is even rumoured to be the real-life inspiration for Disney fairytales.

Walt Disney was actually inspired by Ludwig’s castle for Sleeping Beauty’s palace after taking a trip to Germany and visiting the castle.

When we visited, it rained the whole day, but we all persevered and walked up to the castle and back down.

We were given a tour by an excellent tour guide, who showed us 14 rooms in the castle, including: the King’s bedroom and his throne room, the Singer’s Hall, and the cavelike grotto.

These were the only rooms that were completed and showcased to visitors, but the many other rooms were still under construction until Ludwig’s death.

We really enjoyed our visit to the Neuschwanstein Castle as it looked like a storybook illustration with its towers and blue turrets.

It was a fabulous experience and a must-see if you ever fancy a trip to Germany.

Niel Varwandkar

During the Pilatus mountain excursion, the view from the inside of the slowly ascending train is absolutely breathtaking.

The ruckus caused by the hyper children and chaperones can’t distract from the fact that we are on the steepest, single-cogged railway, going up the Pilatus mountain in Lucerne.

The view is stunning and we all reach for camera’s to capture the scene. This picturesque view looks like it is straight out of a professional photo book.

The frosted tips of the faraway hills glisten in the bright blue sky, lit up by a bright yellow orb. We are almost at the top.

Ten minutes earlier, you could feel the excitement of the hoard of excited Somersfield students and teachers. Although some had a fear of the sky and the height, that fear was thrown away as we prepared for the mountainous ride.

The train had an old rustic look, but parts with a sleek finish. It was folk-like, welcoming. As the doors opened, the students rushed in, all looking for the best seat for the view and to be near their friends. I boarded the train and looked back at the Lucerne village laying below me.

A pristine, blue lake sparkles in the golden light. I can see mini Lucerne houses in neat little rows, in beautiful order. Just a brilliant picture. It occurs to me that the view of the mountains in the distance make for perfect pictures on those magnets.

As we reach the top, we are well above the sea, overlooking the whole of Lucerne. We go into our little cliques, scurrying off to the gift shop, lined with stuffed mountain goats and teddy bears.

However, for me, the best part was hiking up to the highest point that is available.

Some of us decided on this and it was truly worth it.

As our tired legs took us up the mountain, we knew we should keep pushing to see that beautiful view.

When we reached the top, it was truly an amazing sight; lakes, countryside and the alps.

The best view ever.

It was worth it. We loved this excursion, and I loved this part the most. It was a great experience.