Visit Potsdam

4 03 2007

After spending four days in Berlin Darryl and I reached Potsdam by car, managing to park quite close to the Palace Sanssouci. In the 17th and 18th century it was summer residence of Prussian Kings and German Emperors. On their orders the best architects and artisan-craftsmen of their era produced outstanding pieces of art, whereas Sanssouci is the most famous one – an ensemble of baroque castles and marvellous buildings in a huge park complex.

Potsdam is an amazing, vast complex and we were staggered as we wandered from one idyllic corner to another. In truth we barely scratched the surface of this amazing haven of the muses and one day I may just find my way back to soak in some of the beauty and remember.

The lay-out of Sanssouci Park followed the same principle as the design of Sanssouci Palace. Frederick II wanted to create a place where he could spend his time ’sans souci’, in other words carefree, and dedicate himself to the Muses. In 1744, he ordered the cultivation of the ‘waste hill’ in the north east of Potsdam, building six terraces to grow wine and fruit. A year later, the foundation for his summer residence was laid. Following the terracing of the vineyard and the completion of the palace crowning the hill, Frederick also paid attention to the surroundings.

Contrary to the classical organisation of Baroque parks, the central avenue did not lead directly to the palace, but was built parallel to it, thus creating a more casual “en passant” atmosphere. A Baroque flower garden with patches of lawn, flower beds, hedges and trees was laid out at the foot of the hill, while the slopes were used for fruit and vegetable gardens. This horticultural theme can be found in all the park. Over the years, more palace buildings arose in the gentle hilly landscape. The park was expanded over the next one hundred years. Under Frederick William IV, the completion of the park proceeded. Charlottenhof Palace, the Roman Baths, the Orangery Palace and the surrounding garden areas bestowed the park with its southern air. Peter Joseph Lenné, a garden architect of genius, converted the new garden areas into an open landscape park. Broad meadows created visual avenues to the older parts of the park, thus joining old and new.

One of the nicest places in the Potsdam Sanssouci park is the Tea House.

he New Palace (German: Neues Palais) is a palace situated on the western side of the Sanssouci royal park in Potsdam. The building was begun in 1763, after the end of the Seven Years’ War, under Frederick the Great and was completed in 1769. It is considered to be the last great Prussian baroque palace.The building of the palace commenced at the end of the Seven Years’ War, to celebrate Prussia’s success. The war is also variably referred to as the Third Schleswig War, owing to the dispute over the duchy of Schleswig-Holstein. In an architectural form, Frederick the Great sought to demonstrate the power and glories of Prussia attributing it as fanfaronade, an excess of splendor in marble, stone and gilt.

For the King, the New Palace was not a principle residence, but a display for the reception of important royals and dignitaries. Of the over 200 rooms, four principal gathering rooms and a theater were available for royal functions, balls and state occasions. During his occasional stays at the palace, Frederick occupied a suite of rooms at the southern end of the building, composed of two antechambers, a study, a concert room, a dining salon and a bedroom, among others.

After the death of Frederick the Great in 1786, the New Palace fell into disuse and was rarely occupied as a residence or entertainment venue. However, starting in 1859 it became the summer residence of the German Crown Prince, Frederick William, later Emperor Frederick III. The palace was the preferred residence of Frederick and his empress, Victoria, throughout the 99 Days’ Reign. During the short reign of Frederick III, the palace was renamed Friedrichskron Palace (Schloß Friedrichskron) and a moat was dug around the palace. The ascension of William II saw renovation and restoration within the palace being carried out with the installation of steam heating, bathrooms in state apartments and electrification of the chandeliers which Frederick the Great had collected from across Europe. Until 1918, it remained the preferred residence of William II and the Empress Augusta.

 

After the November Revolution and the abdication of Emperor William, the New Palace became a museum and remained such until the Second World War. Preceding the plundering of the palace’s treasures by the Soviet Army, the palace retained much of its Frederician décor and furnishings.

 

Photographs by Darryl Blakey 2001

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