Thursday, August 4, 2011

Berlin Excursion - Day 4

Sunday, 3 July 2011

This morning we said an early goodbye to Prof. Chamoni who had to return to Duisburg straight away on business.

Ivy, Lena, Meruyert, and Kylace are ready to go! (Check out Dr. Klein on the far left!)

For the last day of our Berlin excursion, we took a trip to nearby Potsdam to visit the summer retreat of Frederick the Great.  This palace, one of 15 in Potsdam built by successive local rulers, is known as Sanssouci, or French for “without care”.  Prussian King Frederick the Great (1712  – 1786) built Sanssouci around 1745 to escape the pressures of courtly and married life (his wife was specifically forbidden from setting foot on the palace grounds).  The king enjoyed spending time here with his hunting dogs and numerous philosophers.  He even requested to be buried in a simple grave on the grounds near his beloved hounds.  He loved this relaxed lifestyle after suffering through a rigorous upbringing in his youth.  Our guide must have repeated a hundred times during the tour that Frederick’s father and the young prince had “a bad father-son fight”.  Still, Frederick the Great went on to become a famous, though controversial, leader and military strategist who introduced numerous reforms throughout his territories (regardless of whether they were necessarily good ideas).

Sanssouci Palace.

The grave of Frederick the Great. Visitors often leave potatoes (a crop introduced during his reforms) on the grave as a tribute to the king.

Located in the former GDR, the palace fell into disrepair during the Cold War, but has since been renovated. Great pains have been taken to return much of the looted artwork to maintain the building’s original interior.   Still, one can sense that the building has seen better days.  It is kept very dark to preserve the interior decorations and seems rather musty.  However, it must have really been something in Frederick’s day. 

The grounds, however, are very nice with extensive gardens and fountains.  Visitors may walk to the nearby surrounding palaces and tour them as well.  We wandered around for a while with our guide before being seen out near a small chapel.

BEST group at Sanssouci.

A Japanese-style pavilion on the palace grounds.
We were now in the old main shopping street of Potsdam called Brandenburgerstra├če and decided to walk along and find some lunch.  At the far end of the street, we finally settled on a Thai restaurant where I enjoyed a plate of yellow chicken curry.  Ryan and Clo chose the sushi and waited nearly twice as long as the rest of us.  Clo accidentally received Ryan’s plate but didn’t realize it at first, starting to eat and leaving Ryan to wait another 15 minutes!

Siam Sushi, a Thai restaurant where we stopped for lunch.

After lunch we explored a pair of nearby churches and Malte mocked the local university’s library, built in an ugly, distinctly-Soviet style.  The building will soon be receiving a much needed renovation.  The nearby Landtag, or state parliament, is being rebuilt after lying in disrepair since the Second World War.

interior of St. Peter und Paul Kirche. Note the floral arrangement running the length of the aisle.

The Nicholaikirche in downtown Potsdam.

Future site of the new Brandenburg Landtag.

We then found a tram back to the Potsdam Hbf, then a regional train back to Alexanderplatz.  We picked up our luggage from the hotel and then headed off to the Berlin Hbf to catch our evening ICE back to Duisburg.
We arrived in Duisburg around midnight, saying goodbye to the university staff before taking cabs back to the Kanu-Club and a good night’s rest.

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