Monday, 15 December 2014

Pottering around Potsdam

Saturday was spent travelling: after breakfast at a local boutique bakery in Blackheath, a long train ride to Heathrow, a longer wait at the airport, a comparatively short flight to Berlin and short trip from the airport to Tegan and Andy’s apartment. 

I arrived to be greeted by a gaggle of their  friends who had been invited over for a roast dinner of beef and veggies, the remnants of which were left for me. Yay!!

Sunday was spent relaxing and doing a proper load of washing (as opposed to the frequent washes that occur in the hotel basins of an evening. We then headed out to a Christmas afternoon tea at Tegan and Andy’s friend’s where we were treated to gluhwein, puncsh, all kinds of German Christmas biscuits and traditional stolen from the woman’s home town. Rather enjoyable, particularly as they also had a beautiful cat who was very interested in the new born baby who was also there. 
When Tegan and Andy headed off to work on the Monday morning, I decided to spend the day roaming around Potsdam. The one place I needed to see in Berlin itself was closed on Mondays whereas one of the palaces in the area (that i hadn’t yet seen) was going to be open. Besides that, there were some beautiful parks and gardens to wander through and as evening fell, yet another Christmas market.  

Although Tegan had kindly left me a scrawled message of which tram/bus to catch to get to Parc Sanssouci, I decided to spend the day walking around instead.
Crossing through the station towards the river, I grabbed a breakfast of quarkballchen and headed into town. 
Now in explaining the location of Alexanderplatz in Berlin city centre, Tegan kept referencing the famous TV tower, the landmark of Berlin (though I’ve seen similar ones in London and Cologne at least). So, this photo is for her. 

Typically, the first (decent) thing I stumbled upon was some Roman style ruins. They decidedly aren’t Roman, being in completely the wrong place for that to be likely, but were instead the remains (as I later discovered) of a stylish colonnade from the garden of the City Palace. 

Delightfully, documentation does not seem to have kept up with the reconstruction of this old Palace as I am told that only the Fortuna Gate (sans wings) has been rebuilt to date. 

I think this building says otherwise. The Grounds of this used to stretch out to the river, with a colonnade running around its edge , enclosing a Neptune Fountain, parts of which also remain, the ruined bits having been filled in with modern metal swirls, which vaguely followed the lines of the original sculpture.  

Wandering into town I passed a beautiful building that turned out to be the Royal Stables of Friedrich Wilhelm, Elector of Brandenburg, the oldest surviving building in Potsdam, now the Film Museum. 

Beside it, bearing in big gilded letters  Ceci n’est pas un chateau was a palace looking building that is the reconstructed City Palace.

It not stands in its original spot, across the alter Markt from the Altes Rathaus and the Nicholaikirck. 

The next landmark on my journey Northeast was the Church of St Peter and St Paul, not exactly my favourite people, so fittingly, definitely not my favourite church. 

Weren’t even allowed to take photos of the mediocre interior. There was however one very strange carving near the door. It was titled Schmerzenamutter and was of an upset woman with a dagger sticking out of her heart. 

My limited German vocabulary does contain the word ‘mutter: mother’ due largely to the undue influence of my sister, so I assumed it was the Virgin Mary. However I required the biblical passage to explain why this Mary was not destined to die in old age or rise up to heaven eternally young (she’s almost always depicted as either young and virginal or the same age as her son). It seems it relates to Luke 2, 34:35, 
34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed   
35(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
...though why a physical representation of this is necessary or required (what with their delight in the torture of the saints) is beyond me.
These Catholics are crazy!! Sorry Granddad.
Behind this church was a Soviet cemetery/memorial (I worked out that much from the script on the tombstones)

My ultimate destination that morning was the Neuer Garten where just inside the gates was the prettiest little folly overlooking the Heiliger See. 

Turns out its actually a Gothic Library and until recently housed 1000 books. I wouldn’t mind one of these in the bottom of the garden. I’m sure we already have something that could substitute for the lake. 
Further round there were ducks, 

fields of leaves, 

ducks I wouldn’t mind having to decorate a hat (but which I was unable to photograph, the Dutch Quarter, 

and pretty fungi, 

before we arrived at the kitchens. 

The palace in the background of the first photo is the Marble Palace. For the purpose of keeping the noises, smells and hazard of fire of the kitchen away from the important guests the kitchens were usually at some distance from the main house (wait till you see the ones at the New Palace). So this delightful building is them. 


A cross between a Classical temple and the shifting sands of time I would associate with Egypt.
That’s alright though as there is an Egyptian doorway attached to another building. 

The Marble Palace was built by Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia in retaliation to the outdated Rococo style preferred by his predecessor. Since then, it has been expanded, updated and modernised by each of the successive generations of Crown Princes who has lived there. It seems also to have been a bit of an intermittent house, inhabited by Wilhem I and Augusta as they waited for Babelsburg Palace to be built for them, and by Crown Prince William and Cecilie as they waited for Cecilienhof to be built.  

Strangely, though it wasn’t the preferred or final house of many couples, it sounds as though it still got far more use than all of Ludwig von Bayern’s castles and the Neues Palais in Sanssouci garten. 

Being by now cold and hungry (chocolate had only sated me so long) I turned on my toes and headed back into the town centre, this time coming via the Nauen Gate of the city. In the main shopping street there was a Christmas market complete with more Quarkballchen.

Truthfully I can’t remember what else I had for lunch that day as by now I was aware of how quickly time was ticking away and I still wanted to see the New Palace, at the other end of the Sanssouci gardens. The gardens close at the respectable time of Dusk, which is only respectable at every other time of year when the sun isn’t setting at 16:00 or earlier. This gave me scarcely one hour. 

Photo from 2007/8

Photo from 2007/8
Last time I was in Potsdam it so happened to be a day that Sans Souci was open but the New Palace was not. Chloe and I had wandered around the gardens in the sunshine photographing the various follies and terraced gardens. Today it was the Neues Palais which was opened (unlike most other things in Berlin). 

Typically part of the building was under restoration. I think it was my darling sister who cynically said this was so tourist’s photos were never perfect thereby encouraging them to buy the postcard.  
What I hadn't realised last time I had been here was that there was an entire other building behind the New Palace which was invisible from the direction of the Sanssouci gardens. 
These, were the service wings.

Delightfully, our little tour group of three were all English speakers (on a German speaking tour) so the tour guide would let us into a room, tell us which number to listen to, wait quietly, then get bombarded with questions from me. He was very good and very patient, so it worked well. And he didn’t think it at all strange when I started examining an emergency escape map of the palace (sometimes the easiest and only way to get a map of the place). 
(From the Internet)
(From the Internet)
(From the Internet)
(From the Internet)
(From the Internet)
Having finished that tour with the closing of the park (goodness knows how long the tour was supposed to last) my feet were disinclined to walk back into town so I hopped on a tram and met up with Tegan who a) needed to buy new shoes and b) felt I needed to experience more of the food of the Christmas markets. 

Several hours and lots of purchases later we hobbled home to bed.

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