On Sunday September 6th a group of berliner ID students took a trip to Potsdam. Potsdam is the capital of the German state Brandenburg, and is a 40 minute train ride southwest of Berlin. The city is home to many rich people and many old palaces, as Potsdam was the primary residence of the Hohenzollern dynasty. We started at Cecilienhof, where the Crown Prince Wilhelm lived with his wife Cecile. This was also the sight of the Potsdam Conference in 1945, where Truman, Stalin, and Churchill met to decide the future of Germany and how it would be split after World War II. There is a large red star made of flowers planted in the middle of the main courtyard to commemorate this meeting. Our next sight was Friedrich the Great’s springhouse. It is shaped liked a pyramid and has Egyptian hieroglyphics on its base. (Friedrich was a little unconventional.) The next stop was the Marble Palace, which was Friedrich’s summer home. It is right on the Heiliger See, which is a beautiful lake in Potsdam. The Marble Palace features gorgeous marblework in different types of marble as well as some intricate paintings on the outside. I could totally live there. Here we also learned how the potato was introduced to Germany. Per Gloria, our tour guide:
“When the potato was first introduced to Europe, people didn’t think to eat the underground part. They tried eating everything above ground, including the fruit, which was toxic. Many would not eat the potato because it wasn’t in the Bible. Friedrich understood that the potato was a good source of energy and nutrients for his people. He planted a field of them, and had his soldiers guard it. Everyone thought that there must be something very valuable underground, so they stole the potatoes and grew to accept them. ”
We stopped for lunch on the main street of Potsdam, where I had my first döner. Döners are similar to gyros but ten thousand times more flavorful and awesome. They are also inexpensive, which could lead to some problems. My döner was everything I hoped it would be and more. We saw a couple of the old city gates, including the Brandenburg gate, which is older but smaller than the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. After lunch we headed to the Church of Peace, which was absolutely stunning. Europeans just build nicer looking churches than we do. The building itself invites reflection and remembrance and instills a sense of awe. Someone built this intricate and complex building to honor a power beyond our wildest imaginations, and this building is a place to worship that power. Somehow the chapels in these churches come off as rich but not gaudy, and in any other setting besides a church they would be tacky.
Our last sight of the day was Castle Sans Souci. I just want to live in the garden here. It is by far the most beautiful garden/park I have ever been in. The six terraces build to a very regal palace, and the gardens below are so regal and classical. There is just the right amount of color in the flowers, the statues are not too big or too small, and sense of order is well blended with the natural spectacle. This is definitely a good place to propose to someone, especially if you can offer them the palace as well. Friedrich the Great is buried here, next to his dogs, and people leave potatoes on his grave. I’ll have to back to Potsdam for more exploring, but the first taste was incredible!