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Germany - Brandenburg


A Karen Brown Recommendation
Potsdam offers one of Germany’s star attractions: the palaces and gardens of *Sanssouci. Frederick II chose Potsdam instead of Berlin as his permanent residence because he wanted a place where he could escape the pressures of being a ruler, and pursue his interests in philosophy and the arts without care—sans souci. He had the Sanssouci Palace built to his own design between 1745 and 1747, but this was just the beginning of an entire series of palaces set in vast, landscaped grounds. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes because it is almost a half-hour’s walk between some of the buildings. Map in hand, explore the tantalizing paths (strategically highlighted with sculptures) which weave through forests and glens as they connect one palace to another. If you have the stamina, you can easily spend a full day exploring the gardens and palaces. Important stops are: *Sanssouci Palace with its elaborate rooms in the rococo style, which you can tour with a German-speaking guide; the even larger Neues Palais (New Palace), where you don felt overshoes—do not miss the grotto made from shells and semi-precious stones; the Orangerie, an enormous building used to grow plants and house guests in sumptuous apartments; the Grosse Bildergalerie (Art Gallery), an ornate gallery displaying paintings by Caravaggio, Reni, Rubens, Van Dyck, and others; and the Chinesisches Teehaus (Chinese Tea House), a fanciful pavilion with gilded palms for columns and an ornate green-and-gold pagoda-style roof—Chinese porcelain is displayed inside. Other attractions include Neptune’s Grotto, the Obelisk Portal, the Trellis Pavilion, the Dragon House, the Sicilian Gardens, Charlottenhof Palace, the Temple of Friendship—and on and on. There is a staggering amount to see and do. Obtain a map and guidebook (in English) from the information booth beside the car park and set off to explore. Even if you do not tour the interiors, just walking through the vast, parklike grounds makes this a very worthwhile visit. The Sanssouci Palace is a real highlight: tickets go on sale at 9 am and tours are often sold out by early afternoon, so buy your ticket as soon you arrive and visit the other sights before returning at your allotted time. (Sanssouci: 9 am–5 pm mid-May to mid-October; to 4 pm in February, March, and late October; to 3 pm November to January, closed 1st and 3rd Mondays. Neues Palais: same hours as palace but closed Fridays. Grosse Bildergalerie: 9 am–noon, 12:45 pm–5 pm, mid-May to mid-October.) Your other stop in Potsdam is at the Schlosshotel Cecilienhof. Looking for all the world like an English country manor, the Schlosshotel Cecilienhof was built by Kaiser Wilhelm in 1916, and became the royal residence of the Crown Prince Hohenzollern. The mansion, which is now both a delightful hotel and a museum, is surrounded by a large park graced with lakes, trees, green lawns, and forest. The manor house is especially important because it was here that Churchill, Truman, and Stalin met in 1945 to work out the details for the Potsdam Treaty, which proposed the economic and political destiny for the defeated Germany. Although a fire destroyed some of the rooms of historical interest, you can still see where the various delegates lived and worked while they planned the treaty, and there are many interesting photographs depicting the historical event. The parklike grounds surrounding Cecilienhof are also open to the public, but it is only a lucky few who stay on to spend the night in the lovely hotel rooms occupying several of the wings. (9 am–5 pm, closed 2nd and 4th Mondays.)
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