Potsdam and Sanssouci
Today, Tuesday 28, we spent the day at Potsdam and Sanssouci. This involved us leaving home at 8.30 with our packed lunches and getting a couple of trains to take us the 22km. We were at the booking office just after 10am and made our bookings to visit the main palace – the Sanssouci palace. We checked about an hour later and our time slot was booked out by then so we were lucky.
For those who might do this in the future. There were a lot of people around. You can book on line but not for the 12 euro single visit to the palace, only for a 19 euro ticket to it and the Neues Palace – which is always shut on a Tuesday and that was today. It did look as if it would also be good to visit. Anyway, booking at the ticket office was our only option. The other thing about this visit is that opening times change with the seasons, and many of the other places were closed till April or May. This didn’t worry us. We would have liked to visit the Orangerie, a gallery which has a Caravaggio ‘Doubting Thomas’, but not a big deal.
So, having bought our tickets we then had 90 minutes to wander the park before our midday slot. There is a lovely view of the palace with its tiered vines in front. The gardens are beautiful, and with Spring just happening, the flower beds in particular were a real picture, planted out with a huge range of bulbs in multiple colours. The trees are just beginning to sprout as well, so that added to the spectacle. In another few weeks they will be even better and it would be great to visit. One very curious thing was to see all the sculptures closed up into boxes as the marble apparently cracks in the wet and cold of the winter. As well as that we could see trees and plants in boxes which are usually on terraces on closed verandahs at the front of buildings. Again, the winter is so severe here that they would not survive without this care being taken.
We wandered around the closed Orangerie, which is at present undergoing a lot of renovation, but not enough to close it. We spent a lot of time just wandering around the gardens.
The palace was built for the Prussian King, Frederick the Great, sometimes called Old Fritz. He wanted to live ‘sans souci’, the French for ‘without worries’, so commissioned this palace in 1745. He used his favourite architect, but apparently also included were ideas which the King himself wanted. Our tour of the palace went for around an hour. The audio was excellent, covering a great deal of really fascinating detail on the 11 rooms of the palace. All of the rooms are included in the tour apart from the library. Apparently the King had an identical library in each of his 3 palaces, and took great pleasure in his books. We were able to glance in through the door of the library where the books were organised in very low book shelves as he was only five foot two, and he wished to be able to reach all the books.
The rooms are all quite different from each other with an overall Rococo style. A notable room was the concert room in which was the King’s flute (which he played), and a piano. This was played by Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach who was in the King’s household for 30 years. Another beautiful room was one to which he brought guests for serious discussions – one such guest was Voltaire. You may wish to watch a video of the ceiling here. At the very centre was a large hall, very elegant, and used for big occasions. It was designed with the Pantheon in Rome in mind – although the King had never travelled to Rome. Three notable rooms were the guest rooms, each designed and decorated individually. They were apparently frequently used. Each room in the palace was completely different from the next with beautifully decorated ceilings and walls, with many pictures in all of them, and the original very decorative and beautiful furniture. It was a terrific visit.
We found a lovely spot in the sun for lunch, looking up at the palace. We were treated with the visit of a pair of Mandarin ducks. It was a very pleasant interlude.
We then spent several hours wandering to other spots in the park. This involved a lot of walking but it was a beautiful 20 degree day, perfect for appreciating the beauty around us. There are many small palaces in the park, all very charming, with lavish gardens. There was also a university – Al met a woman at the pizza shop tonight who studied law there. It all amounted to a very pleasant few hours.
We walked back to Potsdam – another 5km or so to catch the train at 5pm. This enabled us to get a bit of an idea of Potsdam which is quite a thriving city of 300,000 people. It was once a garrison town but now has its own palaces and old churches. We did not do justice to it and would like to visit again – one day! Because it was such a gorgeous day the people were all out on the river banks, enjoying the sun. We think this probably happens as they are so relieved to see the winter disappearing.
Home with tired feet but feeling very satisfied with the day.