The Berlin Travel Seminar
The Berlin Travel Seminar provided students in Denison Seminar 251: Divided Cities with the opportunity to explore the legacy of urban division in the European context.
From January 4 - 11, 2015, fifteen students had the opportunity to apply course themes to lived experience and commemorative practices. The travel seminar also engaged with aspects of German history that extend beyond the period of division. Core questions that guided the travel seminar included: In what ways does contemporary Berlin still exhibit the markers of the twentieth-century era of division? To what extent did the German Democratic Republic disappear along with the eradication of the Berlin Wall? Has “reconciliation” occurred? What insights does the Berlin case provide into other cases of urban partition? In what ways do both the tourism industry and the tourist negotiate the German past?
The travel seminar to Berlin was the perfect capstone to our semester long study of the nature of division within cities spread throughout the world, and the travel component really allowed us to live and feel a small sliver of the experiences of division. It provided a poignant and colorful personal perspective of what had been a purely academic exercise up until that point. As Joachim Gauck, the President of Germany, so eloquently put it, “We find it very difficult to comprehend fully the history of individuals who have had different experiences of suffering and alienation.” By seeing and experiencing the scars, the memories, and the experiences of everyday people as they have coped with divisions, which remain until this day, we have gotten a small, but important glimpse into the experiences of Germans in both the former East and West. It has only made me hungry to see, experience, and understand more. This travel seminar was an invaluable experience, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in it. I hope to one day soon see the TV tower spread across the skyline, and to delve deeper into one of the most amazing cities I have ever seen.
- Steven Birch `16