Chapter 5: Day trip to Potsdam

Sometimes you just need to get out. Even a day trip adventure is enough to revitalize the mind, body, and soul offering a foothold forward. A day trip to Potsdam (the capital of Brandenburg) was all that I needed.

Check out the last Language Learning in Brandenburg blog to read the story in succession.

Day trip to Potsdam at Sans Souci
Windmill seen on my day trip to Potsdam

My first day trip to Potsdam, the capital of the state of Brandenburg, happened on a whim. Markus and I hopped in the car and headed southwest back through the forests, farmlands, and small towns of Brandenburg. We exited off to the right before entering Berlin and followed the signs that brought us past densely tree packed forests and a modern looking outlet mall. As we drove into Potsdam, both modern and classic architecture styles were hard to miss. For a relatively large city, there was so much greenery. Lakes and rivers of all sizes flowed in and throughout the environment topped with bridges in various directions.

A uniquely balanced combination of wild and manicured nature presented itself in and around the buildings. Each street, walkway, or alleyway deserved a glimpse as we twisted and turned our way through the rather narrow paved or cobblestone-lined streets. The characteristic flatness of Brandenburg kept any casual glimpses out of the window from revealing any palaces or sites of note. I had never seen such a flat city with not even a hill of some sort in sight. It wasn’t until we turned certain corners or gazed down certain roads or paths that a sudden large park, river, statue, or historic structure of note would come into view. Around one corner, a large historic looking windmill appeared standing tall and proud.

We found a parking spot and started walking. After taking just a few steps around the windmill, the dome of the Sans Souci Palace showed its ornate profile demanding our attention immediately. Multiple pathways split off, leading around or through the palace grounds. The grandeur was hard to miss as the statue covered pillars and façade with yellow, white, gold, and greenish oxidized metal colors strongly opposed the idea of camouflage. The great Prussian Kings of old had certainly left their mark here in Potsdam. It did indeed look like a smaller, more intimate version of the French castle of Versailles.

The palace itself was not particularly large but the view out over the gardens revealed a seemingly endless tree and garden covered expanse as far as the eye could see in all directions. The tiered gardens directly behind the palace extended out and down, melting seamlessly into the connected paths all leading to various parts of the estate.

Day trip to Potsdam at Sans Souci
Day trip to Potsdam to Sans Souci

We walked down the larger sloped pathways on the sides of the tiered gardens clearly built for horses to be able to easily make their way back and forth from the palace to the extensive garden paths. It was such a beautiful day that we decided to continue wandering and enjoying the gardens by foot. Regardless of which path we took, statues, themed gardens and buildings adding either beauty or function to the estate could be seen. It was a bit overwhelming with so many options. I could just imagine riding on a horse to quickly get from one place to another for a rendezvous.

Markus and I started imagining how it might have been at the time this palace was first built, when an even larger dome showed its face off in the distance. Excitement overtook us. Even though we were walking with a purpose to make it to the large domed palace ahead, it was practically impossible not to get sidetracked by all the wonderful ‘artistic distractions’ that just popped up out of nowhere causing us to explore sideways thoroughly before being able to carry on. By the time we made it down the deceivingly long path to the Neues Palais (New Palace), we were simply exhausted. So many statues looked down upon us from every angle. The pink building with white columns, greenish oxidized metal and statues everywhere certainly brightened up the area. It was significantly larger than the Sans Souci Palace. The strong influence of the French Baroque architecture style was again hard to miss.

In the back of the palace, there was what looked like a royal community clubhouse. We spoke to a guide for a moment and figured out that it was indeed where all the staff lived and worked. Apparently, that was also where the kitchen was located. She continued to share that there were 2 tunnels underground that allowed for a safe and discreet passage of the food and staff members to the main palace. The chefs had to whistle the whole way so the guards could be sure that they were not stealing a taste of the food being transported. What a time to be a chef!

We were so tired that we simply could not handle wandering around anymore. A bike or a horse would have been needed to get around, so we made our way to the bus station. We hitched a ride on the hop on and off tour bus and proceeded down the narrow streets by the Russian village (Alexandrovka), Brandenburger Tor (Gate of Brandenburg), and landed in the Dutch Quarter where we enjoyed a late lunch and stroll around.

It seemed like every other building in Potsdam was a part of a school or college with options to study almost any subject matter you could imagine. Just this alone proved the fact that education stood at the center of Prussian culture. You can’t help but hear and see the values and legacy that the past kings of Prussia imprinted into the Brandenburg culture of today. One king in particular whose name constantly comes up in Potsdam is Friedrich der Grosse (Frederick the Great). His positive influence especially on the health care system, military strategy, art, agriculture, and the educational system has gone unmatched. Apparently, on his grave site behind the Sans Souci Palace, it is customary to leave a potato. This is to express gratitude for his introduction of the hearty potato to the country and teaching Germans that it can provide reliable sustenance even during the cold winters.

The day trip to Potsdam went by so quickly that we did not even see all it had to offer. All the new information and sites swirled around in my head as we drove back. The older the country the more positive and negative human history it holds. You just don’t see this kind of history in America as our story is quite different indeed. The decisions, actions, marks, and footprints left by past figures while under the circumstances of the past leaves the best lessons and inspiration for the future. Just taking a moment to come out of our own problems and generational issues can provide room for new thought based on past mistakes or inspirations.

The fact that the history and stories are still so well-preserved left me with the realization that human history is so important for young people to know so we can learn and grow from it. This day trip to Potsdam certainly gave me that push of mental inspiration that I did not even realize that I needed. It truly is amazing what a day trip can do for the mind, body, and soul. Potsdam, we will meet again!

Photo from Potsdam by Adrien Delforge on Unsplash
Photo from Potsdam by Francesco Califano on Unsplash
Photo from Potsdam by Leon Seibert on Unsplash

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