Saturday, August 27, 2016

To Potsdam and Sanssouci

IFor many years I have wants to visit Frederick the Great's famous palace named Sanssouci. I ink that part of the fascination is the name. What a choice for a summer home-"Not to Worry."  There are stories of the music played there, of Voltaire's visit, of Mendelsohn's friendship with Frederick.  All of these stories drew me here.  And to top it off, this place was inaccessible during the Cold War.  

Today the sun smiled on Sanssouci and we exhausted ourselves taking it all in. When we had dinner with Robert and Alex on Thursday evening, they offered to buy us tickets for Sanssouci when they went on Friday. Kate arrived on Friday afternoon so we planned to visit the palaces on Saturday. 

We took the S Bahn to Potsdam where we met Robert and Alex in the train station. They pointed us to the right bus and we were off. Our tickets to Sanssouci were at 2:20 so we started at the Neue Palais.
Sanssouci was where Frederick lived, and it did include some guest rooms, but he had so many visitors that he built this second palace as a guest house for all those friends. Later monarchs actually lived in this palace, and had parts of it modernized with bathrooms, electricity, and a tunnel to bring the food from the kitchens in a separate building on trolley carts instead of walking it on platters. 

The first room in this palace was the most stunning. It was called The Grotto, and was covered with shells and underwater designs.

Frederick's style was Roccoco, and he even had his own special version of that style. In the mid 18th century it was a bit old fashioned, and his successors chose the neoclassical style in their renovations, but compared to the profusion of Roccoco, those revisions were relatively minor. 

There were bedrooms, study rooms, a spectacular ballroom, music rooms, filled with porcelain, crystal, mirrors marble and gold.

After a good audio tour we started on a leisurely walk across the grounds to the Sanssouci palace.
On the way we stopped at the Chinese House, a relatively small, but extravagant spot where we found a shady bench for our picnic. The theme of the house was Chinese, but it reflected more fascination than knowledge of Asia, which was an exotic and far off place in 18th century Europe. 

As we finished our sandwiches, we were treated to an amazing improv moment. There is a low chain covered by vines that guards the gilded porch and statues.
As we watched, a laughing family group approached with cameras in hand. These folks were Mediterranean in language and temperament. They decided that this spot would be great for a group photo. No sooner had they spotted the location, than someone decided that they should step over the barrier and gather on the gilded steps. So they proceeded to gather. At first it was a small group, but gradually everyone took their place in a group photo in this off limits spot. More and more joined. There were children too, all laughing and having a wonderful time.  There must have been twenty people in the group.  We kept waiting for one of the German museum guards to notice and shoe them away, but no one came. They got bolder, and soon small groups were posing with their arms around the gilded statues, as if they were bronze figures intended for the purpose.

Still no guards came. Finally the jolly band departed and a Russian family posed, straight and formal in the same place. Finally a guard inside the house noticed and rapped on the window, but the anticipated chasing of the tourists never happened and we wished we had taken a few photos of those happy people ourselves. It was an unforgettable moment. 

From there we walked to the famous palace of Sanssouci. We approached from the fountain, climbing the cascading steps through terraced vineyards to the long yellow building with the green dome. We arrived a few minutes early,  

This was a smaller place and bore the stamp of Frederick's personality in every room.  He was a man who loved nature and music and books. The vines and flowers and animals depicted on the walls, in the furniture on the porcelain were omnipresent.

There were a number of portraits, and the chair where he died is displayed prominently. This was a place where Voltaire and other figures of the enlightenment visited, and where musicians played each evening.  

By the time the tour was over, however, we were hot and thirsty, so we headed to the nearby cafe for refreshment.

We took a look at the art gallery before we found the bus and S Bahn connection back to our apartment in Berlin. We dined at the welcoming Italian restaurant outside our building and walked the street with cones before turning in.  Finally I have seen Sanssouci Palace. 

1 comment:

  1. Beauty certainly abounded yesterday on the interior and exterior of these architectural wonders! Wow! Thanks for capturing the beauties for us too. Happy to see Kate enjoying it all with you. No doubt you'll cap it off today with some thick icing. We'll be waiting. Weather beautiful here with the promise of welcoming you home to a good week of weather. On this beautiful morning the Colin Harpers sail back
    to Boston from Beverly. Eliana keeps us company, Sunday-go-to-meeting time for us! See you at Logan. Enjoy your day. Love, Lillian