GDT20: Berl-interesting!

As the cities seem to fly past us on our tour, we make our next stop in Berlin. We were very happy to arrive in such a vibrant and interesting city, and our delegates made the most of it. We had walking tours, visits to prominent buildings (like the Reichstag), and of course educational meetings like UNHCR and GPPi. Here are the things our delegates had to say about our visit:

IAN QIU – City highlights and landmarks

After a rocky journey from Vienna International Airport, including a 4(!!) hour delay, the team arrived in the German capital of Berlin on the 30th of January. 

With most of the city being destroyed in the bombing campaigns during the Second World War, Berlin was a relatively young city, a contrast to everywhere else we had been on the rest of the tour. Built on a marsh, there was also a distinct lack of high rise buildings, as heavy buildings run the risk of sinking into the ground. 

Reminders of Berlin’s history could be found everywhere we went. Checkpoint Charlie, the famous symbol of the cold war, was located just outside our meeting place with the UNHCR. The Reichstag building, the centre of German power, beautifully synthesised Germany’s past imperial power with its present day transparency and democratic values. The Brandenburg Gate was a personal highlight of mine; an iconic part of Berlin, it was amazing to see in person this grand majestic feat of the neoclassical architecture, site of many historical events, including John F. Kennedy’s ‘Ich Bin Ein Berliner’ speech. The delegation also visited the Sachsenhausen concentration camp which was about a 45 minute train ride from central Berlin. This, alongside the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, were sombre experiences, and acted as powerful reminders of man’s capacity to mistreat his fellow man. 

Nonetheless, we all thoroughly enjoyed everything Berlin had to offer, and appreciated the complexity that lay behind the history of this city. 

ISABELLA VAN STIPRIAAN-HUIK – Non-educational meetings

Using education as a tool to acknowledge and learn from the past in order to move forward is a prevalent part of German society. Berlin, a city rich with culture and history, our activities included visits to sites such as the East Side Gallery, Checkpoint Charlie, Sachenhaussen Concentration Camp,  Gendarmamarkt, Reichstag and Topography of Terror Museum.  

The walking tour by guide Carlos was a highlight for many, giving an in-depth insiders scoop on life in Berlin both past and present. For instance,  we were all quite shocked to learn that in German clubs, they will give you a sticker to put over your camera or that many shops rely on cash payment rather than card. This is due to the fact 1 in 17 people were spies during the Soviet communist rule and the government kept files on all your transactions and movements etc. 

The Berlin Mall was also a highlight for those that did manage to get some shopping in! Not only because of the sales but because of the slide, extending from the third storey to the ground floor – something unheard of existing in New Zealand! Whilst everyday was jam packed and free time often spent snuggled up in a cafe, brushing up on our German, trying German coffee and nibbling on a sweet treat, it was important to take time to sit and process all the things we were learning about. 

One of the best cities we’ve been to so far, I’m sure we will all treasure our short but meaningful time in Brrr-Lin! 

AMY XIE – Educational Meetings

Our first meeting was with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees). The organisation works to ensure that people displaced from their homes can safely seek refuge, and are equipped with the resources to resettle or return home if appropriate. 

Located beside checkpoint Charlie, the UNHCR building was a part of the Berlin Wall that previously separated East and West Berlin. Here we met Chris, a spokesperson for the UNHCR. An inspiring speaker, he shared his story of living in a divided Berlin and how his mother was a refugee. We had many thought-provoking discussions such as the living conditions of refugee camps, the legal status of climate refugees and the integration of these displaced peoples in society. Without a doubt, this meeting was a favourite of the delegation. Shout out to Chris for going the extra mile and giving us a tour of Checkpoint Charlie!

Next, we were welcomed by the GPPI. GPPI (Global Public Policy Institute) is an independent non-profit think tank that conducts research on pressing international issues. These include topics on warfare, migration, inequalities and the impact of global powers. This information is released through articles/podcasts and is used to advise policy makers. 

What made GPPI stand out from other meetings was the interactive game we played. Putting ourselves in the shoes of the German government, the aim was to utilise internal and external naval ships to combat pirates in the Red Gulf. The challenging part was balancing internal and external costs and at the same time making sure the pirates were eliminated. Surprisingly, they also challenge diplomats and government officials to play similar games. These facilitates a different approach to tackling international issues.

Overall, the delegation has fully enjoyed the meetings that Berlin has provided and is looking forward to what Paris will bring!

EMILY GOSSEN – What’s next for the tour

Paris awaits us as our final city of what has been a whirlwind tour. The setting of literature, romantic films, and rich history. Images of Paris instantly fill your head before you’ve ever been there.

SDG 8: decent work and economic growth, is the sustainable development goal focus surrounding our trip to Paris. A goal applicable to us as young adults, soon to enter university and join the workforce. We will be meeting with the Organisation for Economic Co Operation and Development, the NZ embassy, and the International Federation for Human Rights. It will be fascinating learning not only about economic development, human rights, and New Zealand’s role in Paris and the OECD, but to apply takeaways from our meetings to issues back home in Aotearoa.

Of course, what’s a trip to Paris without a touristy photo in front of the Eiffel Tower? The city is embedded with history, beautiful architecture, and art. With the Arch De triumph, Lourve, and the odd Patisserie awaiting us. 

Having a final city around the corner is bittersweet, with the end of GDT in sight. Not only will there be a lot to look forward to Paris, but also a time of reflection, as we look back on our time on tour. Although last on the list of cities, Paris will certainly not be least.