Are you in Berlin for more than a few days? Do you have a whole week? If so, are you looking for something a bit different to do and maybe get out of the city centre? If so, then following on from my Berlin post, these are my favourite day trips from the city. Both are accessible by train from the main station.
ONE. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
The best way to get to Sachsenhausen from Berlin is by train. You can either get the S-Bahn S1 to Oranienburg and takes about 45 minutes. You could also get the regional RE5 train which takes only 25 minutes from the main station, but does run less frequently at once an hour. It’s then a 20 minute walk from the station to the camp.
The camp is a sobering, horrifying place which won’t be for everyone. I’m a strong believer that we should understand our past to ensure it never happens again, and I do appreciate that Germany has memorialised and not forgotten its past, something which a lot of countries choose to ignore in spectacular fashion. Strong nationalist views are on the up in Europe, and places like this remind me why it’s so vitally important that we don’t fuel hatred. A person is a person, no matter where they are from, what they believe or what colour their skin. It is truly horrifying seeing what one human can do to another. Give yourself enough time here to really read, walk round and reflect on what went on here. I recommend at least 2.5 hours. Information is in English and German and all of the boards around the site are well worth reading.
Sachsenhausen was the first concentration camp, designed as the model for all future camps. It was used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the second world war in May 1945. Around 30,000 people died here – that majority of which were Soviet prisoners of war. There wasn’t a high Jewish death toll at the camp as the majority of Jewish prisoners were transferred to other camps and murdered.
After World War II, Sachsenhausen was in the Soviet area of occupation and was used as an NKVD camp until 1950, since when it has been a memorial. It’s a sobering place, that makes you appreciate how lucky we are to live as we do. The suffering is incomprehensible.
I didn’t take many photos of the site as I was pretty lost in my thoughts. I was also totally shocked to see the amount of people taking selfies at the site!
If you’re looking for a slightly less intense day trip from the City, then Potsdam may well be for you. Again, I recommend travelling there by train and you can get the S Bahn (line S7) directly from Berlin centre to Potsdam in around 50 minutes.
Once there, you can reach the main sites of Potsdam on the site seeing bus which leaves from right outside of the train station. Alternatively, you could get a taxi, or walk it in about 30 minutes and take in the main town as you’re doing so. We chose the sight seeing bus and were glad we did.
Potsdam is home to a lovely town, and is home to Sanssouci Palace which was once the summer home of Frederick the Great, former King of Prussia. The Palace is beautiful and comes complete with stunning gardens which are nice to walk around. The inside of the Palace is also beautiful too and to me is a definite rival to Versailles!
In addition, you can then walk from Sanssouci to Cecilienhof (or get the bus again as it takes about 35 minutes) to visit the site where the Potsdam Conference took place – between the United Kingdom, Soviet Union and United States of America. They decided how to divide up post war Europe and drafted peace treaties after the war ended in 1945. We’re still feeling the impact of some of those decisions today. You can visit the exact room where it happened, and visit a museum at the site explaining what was decided there as well as the story of the end of the war.
I recommend spending at least a few hours discovering the Sanssouci site and another hour or so at Cecilienhof. We spent about 5 hours in total in Potsdam, so with travel either side this made for a full and busy day out.
If you have any questions, or thoughts from your own Berlin day trips, please let me know in the comments below!