Berlin is Germany’s progressive, forward-thinking capital which endeavours to remember the past whilst not dwelling upon it, mainly due to the negative connotations associated with it. Slightly further afield, however, is a place which Germans will happily flock to and enjoy its history.
Walking up to the Cecilienhof, possibly in the same footprints of the likes of Stalin, Churchill, Attlee and Truman, is a strange experience. It doesn’t possess the grandeur of other locations, such as Versailles, where such meetings had taken place before or have since. Yet this is possibly the point: no one wanted a repeat of that 1919 treaty, after all.
What makes this trip fascinating is that it wasn’t possible 25 years ago because of one of the decisions taken at that 1945 conference. Potsdam, though to the west of Berlin, was actually part of East Germany. Take a second to calibrate the map in your head. Strange, but it does make sense. As a result, Potsdam was inaccessible for Berliners.
The town’s history, however, stretches back much further than 1945. The town itself is over 1000 years old and is adorned with many medieval structures showcasing past grandeur and former glories. After taking the scenic route into town (some would say I lead us all the wrong way), we were able to see the delights of this charming historic town.
The main attraction here, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is Sanssouci Park. The complex, with resplendent gardens and fountains, is a lovely area to stroll through. Sitting proudly in yellow atop a strange tiered section of land is the palace, which struck me as being remarkably similar to Schönbrunn in Vienna.
The aforementioned terraced gardens, to give them their proper name, seemed out of place to me. In particular, the fact that almost every ‘box’ was empty gave the impression that the complex either wasn’t being cared for or was far too extravagant in the first place. Further reading about the inhabitant, Frederik William I, and his demands for trellised vines from the Mediterranean region, amongst many other bizarre requests, lead me to think it was the latter.
Personally, I preferred the Neuer Garten situated slightly away from the town centre, where the Ceclienhof is located. It possesses other lovely (if not-as-well maintained) buildings such as the Marble Palace and the Gothic Library: the latter is over 200 years old. Yet its charm is found in its tranquillity and lush greenery. A beautiful, calming place.
I really enjoyed the short time we had in Potsdam. It is possible to see everything in one day at a reasonable pace. Considering its history, it is unsurprising to state that the town is very different to Berlin. Definitely worth a day trip if you ever visit the German capital.
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