For many DCU students the recent winter holidays seemed to have no end in sight; to compound matters, end of semester exams and assignments resulted in a stressful study-focused few weeks for many. Motivating 30 members of DCU’s Media Production Society (MPS), however, was the prospect of a well-deserved getaway break in Germany’s party capital Berlin, once the exams were behind everyone. Aer Lingus flight EI334 from Dublin touched down on frosty German ground on the afternoon of Thursday February 2nd full of excited MPS members eager to experience all that Berlin had to offer. This initially comprised of chilling climatic conditions, and with temperatures reaching lows of minus twenty degrees at times, hats, scarves and gloves were order of the day. The city glistened later that evening as a blanket of snow descended, yet us DCU students were not prepared to let a little harsh weather threaten our plans for three days of fun and education (of all varieties!).
We stayed in Generator Hostel Berlin, conveniently located adjacent to Landsburger Allee train station. A modern accommodation centre with space-age style décor, we were sorted six or eight to a room; a chance to get to know some new friends. Staff members were strict at times regarding rules such as a prohibition on alcohol consumption in bedrooms, however an extensive and relatively inexpensive bar made for a fair compromise. Breakfast vouchers were included in the low price for accommodation and could be used to redeem a decent cup of green tea, as well as cereal etc.
Society members had been provided with a tempting itinerary, outlining some proposed media-related activities for completion during the trip, before departing Ireland. A behind-the-scenes tour of RBB (public service broadcaster for the Berlin / Potsdam region) studios was a particular highlight. A friendly guide gave us an overview of the structure of the German radio and television broadcasting sector, including some interesting points such as that German public and private service broadcasting institutions roughly equal each other in number, a unique system. We visited radio and television studios and gained an insight into the set-up of such places, as well as spotting some incidentally interesting mechanisms such as special lifts which operated without doors. Other media-related locations visited included the TV Tower near Alexanderplatz in downtown Berlin, and the Berlin Film Museum, where informative and revealing stories charting the history of German film were heard.
Those organising had thought of everything, including not scheduling events before midday. This allowed time to soak-up the night-time atmosphere of downtown Berlin, and sample a number of the city’s hottest clubs. Techno-haven nightclub ‘Tresor’ was a hit with members, while on the Friday night everyone partook in a ‘Berlin Club Tour’, which for a mere €12 gave access to three top clubs culminating in famous (or should that read infamous) club ‘Matrix’. Berliners certainly know how to party long into the night; MPSers who decided to return to their beds at 1am were greeted with comments expressing surprise from locals who knew the night was only getting going at that stage. Cheap club nights out can certainly be enjoyed in the city, however the real value on alcohol is to be found in the Berlin supermarkets, where a sizeable volumes may be purchased for under €5.
The modern vibrancy of the city by night perfectly complemented its beauty and historical essence displayed by day. There may be signs everywhere of the presence of the 21st century in this town, yet one does not have to scratch too deep under the surface to realise the turbulent history it has quite recently endured. In one part of the city slabs of the existing berlin wall stand within a few hundred metres of an ultra-modern shopping centre. It is hard to think that, less than 25 years ago, a solid wall divided this city, and, in effect, Europe, on this site. The Tiergarten, Reichstag and Brandenburg Gates district provided further highlights along the sightseeing trail.Three action-packed days of traversing the widely-spread city (a three-day card valid for use of a variety of modes of transport costs €23), of sight-seeing both in a historical sense as well as in our capacity as students of media, and of partying German-style, had everyone exhausted but satisfied as we boarded the Dublin-bound plane on Sunday afternoon. We were refreshed and ready for the start of another sensational semester.