A Day with Frederick the Great aka Old Fritz

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Living in Berlin city centre can be so comfy and so nice-especially with this exceptional sunny winter-that I rarely leave my huge comfort zone.

Last week, I made an exception so I took my daughter on a daytrip to Potsdam, bus tour included.

We dressed up as tourists (camera on the belly, map of the city in one hand and a vegan currywurst in the other) and took the S-Bahn to Potsdam Hauptbahnhof. It takes about 45 minutes from Haeckescher Markt.

Potsdam is now the capital of Brandenburg, it’s a relatively small city (158 000 inhabitants) but the historical importance of this place is enormous.

If you are interested in Cold War history (like I am) you go completely nuts.

I personally find this city particularly interesting because of the fact that it was until 1989 an Eastern German town, with lots of typical DDR buildings still standing. Their ugliness against the glamour of the Prussian baroque is extremely interesting.

Anyway, we take a green bus tour that will lead us to a couple of interesting sites.

First stop is the Glinieckerbridge. Incredibly beautiful. It’s connects Potsdam with Berlin and was until 1989 a point of (often spectacular) exchange for secret agents of the East and the West who had been taken prisoner.

The bus takes us then to the Cecilienhof Palace; build in Tudor style from 1914 to 1917 for Crown Prince William and his wife Cecilie von Mecklenburg-Schwerin. It is the last construction of a castle of the Hohenzollern dynasty.

Cecilienhof

This castle is today an historic memorial because of the Potsdam Conference of 1945. Churchill, Truman and Stalin wrote world history here.

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On our way to the Sanssouci palace, we admire the Russian colony called Alexandrowka. It is fantastic: it was a gift from Frederick William III to the Russian Czar Alexander who was a close friend. The entire area of green spaces, orchards and wooden houses is part of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.

But the biggest World Heritage Site in Germany is the complex of parks and palaces of Sanssouci.

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The famous mini Versailles, the actual Sans Souci Palace, was the home of Frederick the Great, the great and ruthless Prussian leader but also a musician and a friend of Voltaire He wanted to be buried like a philosopher but he had to wait until 1991, on the 205th anniversary of his death and in a controversial ceremony, to see his final wish granted.

2014-03-14 13.29.43It’s a beautiful small grave. And 11 other graves just near him: the graves of his beloved Italian greyhounds.

Frederick the Great had a terraced garden designed in 1744 so they could cultivate plums, figs and wine. But as the view was so lovely, he decided to make a large and pompous summer residence above the terrace. He actually never stayed there while he preferred the smaller Sans Souci castle. Our guide emphasised the fact that Fritz used to dump his guests here, so that he could be alone and quiet in Sanssouci.

Our last stop is city centre of Potsdam, which is a little too clean for our taste. So after a stroll through the baroque houses of the Brandenburger Strasse and the Dutch quarter, we decided it was time to go back to fuzzy Berlin. On our way to the station, we enjoyed the mixture of DDR architecture and the perfectly renewed historical buildings.

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All photos (except for the historical ones) taken by Nathalie Dewalhens or Louise Vangilbergen.

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