Potsdam and the Two Palaces

I couldn’t leave Germany without visiting Potsdam, and thanks to excellent public transit in Greater Berlin, I didn’t have to.  It was two stops on the M10 Tram from my hotel to Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Berlin’s Central Station), a 40 minute train ride to Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, a short bus ride to the entrance of Neues Palais, and then a 15 minute walk to the ticket counter and on to the palace itself.  The trip took about an hour and a half, and was nowhere near as complicated as it sounds.

I’m embarrassed and regretful to admit that I’m a basically monolingual American.  One of the things I love about travelling to non-English-speaking countries is the strangeness of the place names, and how quickly that strangeness dissipates.  When you first arrive, the names of streets and metro stations seem to resemble nothing so much as jumbled letters on a Scrabble tile rack, but a rack that is 15 tiles long, and contains not only letters, but numbers and what look like signs of the zodiac.  After a day or two, they start to clarify, and before you know it, it’s as if you’d always been able to read them.  If only mastering a new language were this easy.

Anyhow, here’s Berlin Hauptbahnhof, which is sleek and modern and full of shops and food outlets.

Berlin Hauptbahnhof

Berlin Hauptbahnhof

Neues Palais

Neues Palais

Potsdam’s New Palace and Sanssouci Palace were among the Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin that were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990.

The 200-room New Palace, built by Frederick the Great, is magnificent, but a little sad.  From the time it was built, the building has had never-resolved structural problems.  The rooms open for visitors are appropriately luxurious, but you can’t help notice that the paint on their walls is sometimes worn and dirty.  The exterior, which is being cleaned, shows the effects of decades of pollution.  The big, cold, empty building has seen much better days.

Entry to Sanssouci

Entry to Sanssouci

Sanssouci Palace, on the other hand, was everything I’d hoped it would be.  The Pleasure Palace, dedicated to music, art, and science, has only 12 full rooms, but each of them has a gem-like perfection.

Interior photography is not permitted in either palace, but I’ve found some excellent images on the Net:

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My time in Berlin was drawing to a close.   Walking through Sanssouci was another of those unforgettable, once in a lifetime high points.


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