Almost two months later, I’m still on the fence about Potsdam, the city were the kings of Prussia and German kaisers resided until 1918. On one hand, you can’t help but marvel at the quaintness of the area and the various palaces’ architecture. On the other, it was a cold, mid-February day and I had expected so much more from a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I also happen to think Potsdam is the place I caught the terrible cold that kept me in bed for a week, but I’m not going to hold grudges on that. Or am I?
Getting there was very easy. From the S-Bahn station, we took the one marked Potsdam, and stayed on it until the very last stop. As our Welcome Cards were still valid, we didn’t have to worry about zones or tickets, and got to enjoy a view of Berlin from the tracks. For some of the areas, it was the only thing we saw of them, as two days are certainly not enough to tackle a city like this one.
The moment we got off at the station in Potsdam, the tourist office was handing out maps of the city. Yay, freebies! And also very helpful as we had barely done any research on the area, apart from being able to point out that the Sanssouci palace was there.
Now, being as ambitious as we are, Lina and I decided to walk to the palace, thinking that this would be the best way to see the town and take in the sights. Unfortunately, we forgot to account for the terrible February cold that was raging through.
For somewhere that I thought was overly advertised, Potsdam seemed empty. As we passed by the Saint Nikolai church, the only signs of people were construction workers or passers-by.
Then, after walking in any direction that seemed to make sense, we found ourselves at the Film Museum. I would’ve been tempted to go in had the language been in English, but it wasn’t. And I didn’t expect it to be anyway, as it’s about the German film industry, and specifically that of Potsdam.
At that point, I had given up. Normally, I love getting lost, but it was icy cold and too deserted for my tastes, so we did what any logical sane person would do and hopped on a bus.
From the bus, we were able to see some bits and pieces of the Dutch Quarter, which is nothing new to two girls who have been living in the Netherlands and see these sights every time they are in the city center. There’s also a Brandenburg Gate in Potsdam but it is not as glorious and majestic, as well as drenched in history, as its Berlin counterpart.
The Sanssouci (by the way, it’s not read with an Italian accent as we learned) Palace is said to be the grandest and most elaborate of the many residences of the Prussian kings. To me, it looked worn out and in desperate need of restoration. I could not imagine that kings would have lived her. Plus, it’s small.
Then again, I was comparing it to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, so it could have my stupid fault- as the two are incomparable.
One fun thing about our visit to the palace? I got to see a windmill up close for the first time. And yes, I live in the Netherlands, were windmills are almost a national symbol.
I have to note that all my comments about Potsdam do not include seeing the interior of these palaces. Though they say not to judge a book by its cover, once I saw the exterior, I felt less compelled to see what was in. I think a lot of reading on the place, as we didn’t take a guided tour, would have helped the case much more.
After taken the almost obligatory touristy photos of posing with things, we set out to explore the Park Sanssouci, which now that I think about it, would’ve been fun to walk through after the sun had set. Talk about being straight out of a horror movie.
Fortunately for us, daylight was very much trying to break through the gloominess, and so we began to walk.
It was a matter of being at the place at the wrong time, as there was nothing to marvel about except how hard they were working to get the grounds in shape for the Spring. Apart from the joggers and workers, not many people were there, which should have told you something.
On the 2.1 km walk, we sang songs we liked, gossiped, and even made up stories about the people who had inhabited these grounds. I devised a very cliche story about a king’s daughter who falls in love with one of the stablemen, and since her father does not approve, they have to meet in some of the deserted corners of the park. I know, I know, I could’ve done much better on my story development.
At the end of the road stands the Neues Palace, which looks like it could have the Sanssouci for breakfast. A quick Wikipedia search tells me that Fredrick the Great used it for royal functions and events. And it makes sense because if you’re aiming for flaunting your wealth and fame in people’s faces, then this is the best way to do it.
But again, it didn’t appear to be something worth exploring and I was disappointed, so we took the train back to the station, and went back to Berlin, me more excited to see the German History Museum that we had passed on the tour the previous day.
Is Potsdam worth the visit? I think it is, but not in February where the palace grounds aren’t as impressive. I think people who like pre-war history will enjoy these sights and understand their significance more than someone who thought it would make a good day trip because UNESCO said so.