Pouring Rain in Potsdam
Thursday, July 22nd, 2004: Berlin, Germany
The weather today starts a bit overcast, but with sun peeping out from behind the clouds occasionally. We decide to head out to Potsdam, where the Hohenzollerns made their summer homes, and where the Potsdam Conference happened at the end of WWII. We go by S-bahn – we are very impressed with the public transit system in Berlin: the city is vast, much bigger than London or Paris although having less than 50% of their population, but the transit system goes everywhere. (It makes us wonder why we are always told in North America that cities with urban sprawl cannot have good transit.)
Walking Wet, in the Royal Parks
By the time we get to Potsdam, the weather has changed – it is pouring. At Potsdam Station we are confronted with the reality that the day of walking in the royal parks that we had anticipated will be miserable. So onto a tour bus we get, despite the fact that the tour is being done in German only. As we drive along, the tour guide keeps handing out paper towels so that everyone can wipe the fog off the bus windows. We start with the Neues Palais, a baroque structure similar to those we saw in St. Petersburg, built at around the same time. Across the street are the Kommuns, 2 beautiful smaller palaces, that are actually the servant’s quarters and kitchens, positioned here to hide what lies behind them, and now part of Potsdam University. As we drive around the grounds, we realize how large they are. Although the palaces are not as large as those outside St. Petersburg, the grounds are much vaster. And we are glad not to be walking.
Frederick the Great’s Retreat and The Neuer Garten
Finally we get to Schloss Sanssouci, Frederick the Great’s retreat. It is surprisingly small, but with a spectacular garden. We wish it weren’t pouring. From here we drive through Potsdam to the Neuer Garten, the 2nd area of Hohenzollern homes. We are heading to Schloss Cecilienhof, built by the last Crown Prince of Germany to be his home. We find it amazing that work continued on this home, styled as an English country home, throughout most of WWI, and that the home was actually finished in 1916. Surprising because we doubt that many other homes were built in Germany during the war.
Although his father, Kaiser Wilhelm, never returned to Germany after the war, the Crown Prince and his family lived in this home until the end of WWII, when it became famous for another reason: the Potsdam Conference, the meetings between Churchill and Atlee, Roosevelt, and Stalin, were held here. Today, the conference rooms are a museum, and the rest of the home is a luxury hotel.
The tour over, we are thoroughly soaked. We head home, make hot tea and have a quiet evening.