A bracing Thursday morning, we set our scene. The time is 2:30am and 3 rather chilly History teachers are kerbside in front of the school await our merry band of travelling companions’ arrival. Without a hitch we set off for Gatwick with our group; destination – Munich.
A short flight, a brief coach transfer and we are in sunny Bavaria. After a brief shopping pitstop to grab snack-based essentials for the day we set off on the train for the short journey to Marienplatz in the centre of Munich. Our charming Irish tour guide, Kevin, proceeded to inform us of the rich culture and history of the city, from the role of the 6 major breweries in land ownership, the flip-flopping history in the Napoleonic wars, the trials and tribulations of 1860 football club, to the city’s dark links to the Nazi party.
Concluding our tour by witnessing some city-based surfing, a quick tram and train journey and checked into our accommodation for the evening. (Some were certainly glad to see freshly made beds and having an opportunity for a quick power nap).
We awoke well refreshed for a day of two halves. We boarded our coach for the journey to the Dachau memorial, on the preserved site of the concentration camp established in 1933. Students explored the sombre exhibition halls, set in the main administrative block, seeing the evolution of persecution under the Nazi regime. Dachau’s primary early role was to isolate and remove political opposition, whilst also using prisoners as forced labour to further the war effort. It was not until far later in the war that its role was expanded to cope with systematic persecution of the Jewish populace. Students were highly reflective and curious during our time here and dealt with the stark realities of seeing a preserved gas chamber and crematorium in a mature and considered manner.
In a contrast for the afternoon, we set forth to the Allianz Arena, home of Bayern Munich football club, for a stadium tour. Our guide showed us the highly impressive stadium, showed us the backroom operations (including the press conference room, player changing room, and the walk out tunnel) alongside gave us the opportunity to sit pitch side in the player dugout. It may interest you to know that on match days the grass must measure between 2.3cm and 2.4cm! After a quick visit the club shop, and perhaps a few new fans converted to Bayern football (especially considering how reasonable the season tickets are!), we headed back for an evening of relaxation, games and conversation.
A slightly longer coach trip north took us to the historic city of Nuremburg. This walled, fortress city famed not only as the site of Nazi rallies, but also having a history pre-dating the Holy Roman Empire, it being an essential node of the Silk Road. Our guide, Charlotte, facilitated our exploration of this sizeable city, which in one night sustained 90% destruction during Allied bombing raids of the Second World War. After a comprehensive tour and the sampling of a few local delicacies (gingerbread and currywurst being two strong contenders) we set off for Courtroom 600 – the location of the Nuremburg trials, where senior Nazis were held accountable for their actions during the war.
Our last day started with a visit to the Munich Documentation Centre; built on the site of the former ‘brown house’, the political home to the Nazi party, students were able to explore the exhibition on the impact of the Nazi regime on Munich. After which we headed back to the city centre to discover, much to our delight that Munich was in carnival spirit with the ‘Damischen Ritter’ parade (the parade of Silly Knights) which forms part of the wider celebrations before lent. Students were pleased to do a little dancing and be inundated by free sweets falling from the sky!
A final quick exploration of Schloss Nymphenburg, a beautiful palace with exquisite gardens before we then embarked on the coach, heading back to the airport. Our only issue with transport of course being a cancelled train from Gatwick to East Croydon, just to push our arrival into Monday morning.
In all, a fantastic trip and one that we as staff would not hesitate to repeat. The students were excellent, it ran somewhat seamlessly, and it is delightful to see History at the heart of extra-curricular provision.
A Future Trip…
This is thus perhaps the perfect opportunity to say that we are running another trip, the same time next year, to Ypres in Belgium. At the heart of the World War One battlefields, it will serve as a base for us to explore the rich history of the First World War, from preserved trenches to war memorials and how remembrance still works to this day.
Places are available on ParentPay – with only 16 spaces remaining (with many already gone), at a cost of £315, broken into instalments over the rest of the year. We look forward to it!