Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Postdam, Germany

After returning to Berlin, we took the train to Potsdam for a day trip.  Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg.  Located on the River Havel, Potsdam is about 15 miles southwest of Berlin (and a short train ride).  Potsdam was the city of residence of the Prussian kings and German Kaisers until 1918 and is considered to have a similar status in Germany to Windsor in the United Kingdom.

Looking across the Havel river to St. Nicholas' Church on the Alter Markt
The Old Market Square (Alter Markt) is Potsdam's historical city center.  For three centuries, Alter Markt was the site of the city palace (stadtschloss), a royal palace built in 1662.  The palace was damaged in 1945 during WWII and demolished in 1961 by the Communist authorities.  Today Alter Markt is dominated by the St. Nicholas Church and Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus).

Altes Rathaus was built in 1755 by Dutch architect, Jan Bouman
Potsdam's Dutch Quarter
The two street Dutch Quarter was built by dutch architect, Jan Bouman between 1734 and 1742.  It was to be used by Dutch artisans and craftsmen invited by Frederick Wilhelm I to settle in the area.

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul 

The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul stands at the eastern end of Brandenburger Strasse.  It was built between 1867 and 1870 with Byzantine and Roman stylistic elements.  It was the first Catholic church in Potsdam.  Inside are three paintings by Antoine Pesne, considered one of the greatest artists of the Baroque and Rococo styles.  

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul

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Old Town looking toward Nauener Tor

Nauener Tor is one of the three preserved gates of the city of Potsdam.  It was built in 1755 by Johann Gottfried Buering and is one of the earliest examples of English Gothic Revival Architecture in Continental Europe.  The gate was constructed based on a sketch by Frederick II of Prussia.  Originally the three gates, Nauener Tor, Brandenburger Tor and Jaegertor, were connected by a wall.  Today, they are connected only by a promenade.  

Brandenburger Tor from the "field side"

Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), not to be confused with Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, stands at the western end of Brandenburger Strasse facing the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul at the eastern end.  Brandenburger Tor was built in 1770 and 1771 by Carl von Gontard and Georg Christian Unger, by order of Frederick II.  Brandenburger Tor, along with the other 2 gates, was intended to prevent desertion and smuggling.  Prior to the construction Brandenburg Gate, there was a smaller, more simple gate standing in the same place, but towards the end of the Seven Years War, Frederick the Great had the new Roman Style gate built in it's place as a symbol of his victory.  

Brandenburger Tor from the "city side"

The two sides of the gate, the field side and the city side, were designed by two different architects in two different styles.  Carl von Gontard designed the city side as a rendered facade with Corinthian style lesenes and trophies.  His pupil, Georg Christian Unger, designed the field side in the style of the Arch of Constantine with Corinthian double-columns and ornamentation like the golden trumpets.  The two pedestrian walkways were not added until 1843, under Frederick IV, to cope with the increase in pedestrian traffic.  The gate has been a free standing structure since the wall was demolished around 1900.  

Two kilometers west of the Potsdam city center sits Sanssouci Park.  King Frederick the Great ordered construction of residences in what is now Sanssouci Park in 1774.  In French, sans souci means "without worries," and Frederick the Great wanted to live here without worries.  At the time the palace was surrounded by nurseries and gardens that contained flowers and several thousand fruit trees.

Part of the Green Gate in Sanssouci Park

Flower Garden in Sanssouci Park

Garden in Sanssouci Park

The Sanssouci Palace is the former summer residence of Frederick the Great.  The palace was designed and built by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff between 1745 and 1747.  King Frederick wanted a place where he could go to relax and get away.  Unlike many other palaces, Sanssouci is only a large, single-story villa.  The style of the palace is considered Frederician Rococo because it was built and decorated in the style of King Frederick's personal taste.  

Sanssouci Palace
Frederick did not accept suggestions from his architect, including Knobelsdorff's suggestion that the palace have a semi-basement story to give the palace a commanding presence and prevent dampness.  Knobelsdorff was eventually fired because of a disagreement on the location of the palace, and it was finished by Jan Bouman.

Great Fountain and Vineyard Garden at Sanssouci Palace
Frederick regularly spent summers at the palace throughout his lifetime, but the palace remained empty after his death.  Nearly 100 years later, Frederick Wilhelm IV moved into the guest rooms with his wife.  They kept the furniture that was there and replaced missing pieces with furniture from Frederick's time.  Frederick Wilhelm IV turned the palace into a fully-functioning country house, which required enlarging the service wings.  Frederick had not wanted to make repairs and have the palace serviced because of his wish that the palace would only last his lifetime.

View of the Vineyard Garden and Great Fountain from the Palace
Sanssouci Palace

Frederick Wilhem IV also commissioned the building of the Orangery Palace.  Two architects, Freidrich August Stueler and Ludwig Ferdinand Hesse, were hired to turn Frederick IV's drawings into  a reality.  It was built in the Italian Renaissance style.

Orangery Palace
Orangery Palace
The middle building (shown above) with its twin towers is the actual palace.  It is joined to the 103 m plant hall.

At the end of the Seven Years War, Frederick the Great had the New Palace (Neues Palais) built to celebrate Prussia's success.  Built between 1763 and 1769, the palace is considered the last great Prussian Baroque Palace.  In stark contrast to the Sanssouci palace, Frederick wanted to display power and glory in the New Palace.  It was not a regular residence for the King but a demonstration of his power.

Looking towards the New Palace
The palace fell into disuse after the death of Frederick the Great in 1786 but later became the summer residence of German Emperor Frederick Wilhelm III.  Frederick III had been the crown prince for 27 years, but only reigned as emperor for 99 days before his death, less than a year after the death of his father.  He was succeeded by his son, William II.

Neues Palais
At the time of our visit, the gardens at the New Palace had not yet been planted for the summer.  The gardens at the many palaces we visited were at varying stages of replanting as they must be replanted every summer.  Inside the palace are a theatre and four gathering rooms that were used for balls and state occasions during Frederick the Great's lifetime.

New Palace from the other side
Charlottenhof Palace is a small neoclassical palace built by Frederick Wilhelm IV in place of an existing farm house.  The land was given to Frederick IV and his wife, Elizabeth as a Christmas gift by Frederick III.

Charlottenhof Palace

The Roman baths of melded Roman and antiquated Italian styles were created by Frederick Wilhelm IV between 1829 and 1840.  Frederick IV came up with ideas and drew the actual drafts.  To build the baths, he hired architect, Karl Freidrich Schinkel, who he also hired to build Charlottenhof Palace.

The Roman Baths
The Chinese House (Chinesisches Haus) was designed and built by architect Johann Gottfried Buering 1755 and 1764 (it took nine years because of the Seven Years War).  The building was used for small gatherings.

Chinese House, Sanssouci Park

If you're ever in Berlin, Potsdam is definitely worth the short trip.  Old town, with its many restaurants and cafes, along with the old city gates, is a fun place to hang out, and you don't want to miss Sanssouci Park, with its many palaces and beautiful gardens.  We were in awe by the shear size of Sanssouci Park.

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