On Sunday, 25th Ballinasloe by bus for a trip to Berlin. Our journey, though tiring, was most enjoyable. Transfers went without a hitch.     On arrival, food was welcome and we were glad to get to bed in the comfortable Grand City Hotel Excelsior.                                                                   On Monday morning 8 am, another bus complete with a “Berliner” guide, took us on a tour of Berlin both East and West.                     The Branderburg Gate was the focal point and the history of the “goings on” since the 11th Hitler,Adenaur, Kohl and on to Angela Mercel was presented from the West German perspective by a guide who learned his perfect English initially from American comics and then by his association with the American residents in their region of West Berlin. He spoke with an American accent. The recovery of Germany from the disaster of war is phenomenal. The industry of its citizens, impoverished by six years of bombing, loss of life and their commitment and love of Fatherland has set them on the road to economic recovery. It was interesting to note that the workers have not yet had the basic wage of €8.50 per hour available.    One got the impression that the Holocaust and other tragic events were very distressing and embarrassing for the Germans and not to be dwelt on. Emphasis was put on the present and the future. The first day ended with a short opportunity to “ see the shops”.                                    On day 2 we were on the bus again at 8 am.for a trip to Coltitz Castle and Leipzig. In pouring rain, we travelled through low-lying flat country side growing various cereal and root crops. We were lucky the skies cleared when we arrived at Colditz Castle. It was built in 1065 on 40 ft. of solid rock. It was used during the ‘39 – ‘45 war by the Germans as a detention centre for army prisoners of war. There were many stories of attempted escapes. Our guide, who spoke with a distinct English accent, indicated that a section of the Castle was now used for music lessons and concerts. A section is being used as a Hostelling facility – what a contrast!                                                Back on the bus again in the rain and on to the beautiful city of Leipzig, the home of Bach, Wagner, Mendelssohn, etc. As we drove through the city, this time with a lovely German girl as our guide, we were in awe of the beautiful architecture. The old was complimented tastefully by the modern. One of the most interesting development was the digging out of a new river to relieve the flooding. One could identify with it because of the flooding problems at home in recent years.
 We returned to our hotel base in time for dinner where most of us got together to relax, celebrate and bid farewell to this historic and beautiful city of Berlin. On the following morning it was up early once again, breakfast, pack and reluctantly set out for the airport for our flight home , Wonder of wonders, the sun was shining when we arrived in Dublin. Having enjoyed a lovely meal in the “Shamrock Lodge” in Athlone on the way home, we arrived safely in Ballinasloe tired but satisfied. The trip was intensive, enjoyable and educational. We must now decide where our next destination will be for our 2015 European city break.

 Michael Walsh.