Day 13 – Sun 18 Apr 2010 – The Palaces of Potsdam

I caught the train out to Potsdam to view the famous palaces. From Charlottenburg out it was very crowded; obviously a popular Sunday destination. Potsdam itself is quite a small city, although the station still has 10 platforms and a major shopping complex with buses running extensively around all the historical sites. It’s the seat of the old Prussian aristocracy and has numerous palaces set within large parks and gardens called Sans Souci (latin for ‘carefree’). It’s also one of the few German places after which an Australian town or suburb is named.

Some of the palaces of Potsdam

Some of it is UNESCO listed and there is a slow but extensive renovation of many of the buildings. In Britain such parks are considered ‘Royal’ and the ‘great unwashed’ are sort of allowed entry as a privilege, but there is no such feeling in Germany. There is little sense of class and the place is treated as a historical site providing common enjoyment.

More gardens and palaces over a huge area

I hired a pushbike; a European style machine with a back pedal brake and three gears. The guy hiring them did a quick check I could ride, gave me a map of the route and a bike lock. The hire is good until 7 PM and cost €11. The standard route is 18 km and fairly flat. The riding conditions vary a bit and include bike lanes, shared pedestrian lanes, on-road and cobblestone lane sections. It’s a bit difficult to follow at times, but a nice ride.

A friendly lunch and beer spot (Germans love to drink, but I never saw a drunk)

More gardens and views over the lakes and waterways

The palaces are still magnificent and when fully restored will be marvelous. But they are spread out over a very wide area of parkland that is not really all that spectacular. Two interesting touches are the building in which the Treaty of Potsdam was signed and the old East-West border at a bridge on the route.

Where the Treaty of Potsdam was signed in 1945

The Glienicker Bridge – the old border across which spies were once exchanged

The old border sign – the Glienicker bridge is just behind us

I’d have to say Germans are very organized, yet a very relaxed lot. They tolerate a variety of opinions and lifestyles easily, but not obnoxious or stupid behaviour. And they are obsessed with dogs. Lots of people have taken one with them on the train. There were five bikes and four dogs in the carriage on the way out for example, and they were all very well trained animals. I never saw a dog even look like wanting to chase a bike at Potsdam and they seem very obedient to their owner’s commands.

 

The pretty river and lake waterways towards the end of my bike ride

Along the river towards the end of the ride was a set of buildings owned (or maybe squatted in) by alternative lifestylers. Lots of signs up declaring a strange concoction of wanting to reclaim Potsdam’s nostalgic socialism, rampant feminism and hawking a range of new age products!

In Potsdam even the sewerage management facilities look classy

Went back to the hotel for a siesta then out to do a circuit of the S41, the clockwise version of the ’round the city’ S-Bahn line, sometimes called the Hundskopf (dog’s head) line as it has that shape on a map viewed from above.

On the around the city S41 Hundskopf line – glimpses of Tempelhof airport

It’s an interesting contrast between East and West along the line. The East has some ‘heroic’ buildings, but also lots of Surrey Hills style flats, and industrial and residential wastelands. The train also goes past Templehof airport, sort of Essendon-like in scale, with a great view of the famous huge curved terminal. Had a light dinner at Berlin Hauptbahnhof then back to the hotel for zzzz.

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