Potsdam is Germany's Versailles and Berlin,
like the city's famous native Marlene Dietrich, is
classy, yet mysterious. Together they make
a grand old duo well worth visiting,
SAYS ANN HATTES
Potsdam, Germany. the scene of the last conference on World War II between Allied leaders, was 1,000 years old in 1993. The city, a former fishing village on the Havel River, 16 miles from Berlin, is filled with magnificent parks and more than 20 glorious palaces, off limits during the Cold War era. But following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Potsdam has become a favored destination once again.
In July 1945, the 'Big Three', Truman, Churchill and Stalin, met in Potsdam to decide Europe's fate. Here, President Truman learned of the successful completion of the atomic bomb in a telegram declaring "A baby is born," and here, Germany was divided, by a council of ministers of the US, Britain, France, Russia and China, set up to draft final treaties with the defeated Axis states.
"BERLIN OFFERS A CORNUCOPIA
OF CULTURE WITH ITS GRAND
OPERA, CLASSICAL AND
This past May in Berlin, Russian soldiers replaced firepower with flower power, lining up to carry red carnations for the last annual memorial service for the victims of the Second World War. Now they have gone home.
At the Cecilienhof Palace, a museum dedicated to the famous Potsdam meeting, tourists see charts, maps and the massive round oak table where the agreement was signed on August 2, 1945. Re sembling a romantic English-style country mansion, the Cecilienhof was built between 1913 and 1917. Today, one portion functions as a hotel, permitting visitors to stay overnight where history was made.
Though Potsdam dates back to 993, its growth accelerated in 1713, under King Frederick Wilhelm I and his son, Frederick the Great. The picturesque surroundings of 19 idyllic lakes, hilly ranges and lush woodlands, drew these and other Prussian rulers to establish their summer residences here. Potsdam was where royalty retreated to relax and escape the rigors of affairs of state.
Frederick the Great's Sans Souci, very similar to Versailles, standing ornate and intricate on a hill in the middle of a 725 acre park, is perhaps Germany's best known example of rococo architecture. Surrounded by vineyard terraces, it is Potsdam's favorite visitor attraction and home to a magnificent art and sculpture collection.
Designed by an army officer-turned-architect, Sans Souci almost brings the outdoors inside, for Frederick the Great was a passionate nature lover. The number of daily visitors permitted inside the palace
is limited But the palaces and gardens of Sans Souci, included in UNESCO's World Heritage List, are internationally priceless and worth a visit whether or not you manage to get inside.
A favorite park with locals is Babelsberg Park, with its meadows and woodlands stretching down to the Havel River. Cruise the Havel and nearby lakes on a scenic excursion with the White Fleet, April through October.
Walk through the old Dutch Quarter with its quaint, red brick, two story buildings dating from 1737-1742, and nearby Brandenberger Street, once home to Mozart, Seek out Alexandrowka's complex, a dozen half-timbered log cabins designed in the form of a St Andrew's cross. These were once home to Russian singers belonging to a choir that had remained in the Prussian army following the campaign against Napoleon. Close by are the Church of St Nicholas and the old Town Hall -- architectural gems looking onto the Old Market. In the historic Royal Stables of the Old Market you will find Potsdam's Film Museum. Nearby, are the buildings of Babelsberg cradle of German Cinema and still a major media centre,
Potsdam. once Germany's most important city as residence to Prussia's kings and royal families, claims Frederick the Great, who united Germany, as its most important resident. Each year there is an annual summer music festival here.
Potsdam makes a great day visit from the city of Berlin, with several tour companies offering trips with English narration.
For a different view of Berlin, take a trip on the Berliner Wassertaxi, or Berlin Water Taxi. Float on the city's canals and rivers past famous sites like the Reichstag. the Berliner Dom (Cathedral) and the Nikolai District -- a reconstructed old city quarter with a mix of restored original buildlings and historical structures moved from other locations.
"VISITORS CAN SWIM,
SAIL, WINDSURF OR RELAX
ON THE BEACHES OF BERLIN'S
TWO LAKES -- THE MUGGELSEE
Be sure to visit Museum Island with its Pergamon Museum, famous for the Pergamon Altar and the Processional Way of Babylonia. Stroll from the Brandenburg Gate to the television tower in Alexanderplatz and along the 60 meter wide Unter den Linden with important monuments from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Berlin offers a cornucopia of culture with its grand opera, chamber music, classical and contemporary theatre, museums, even 1920s-style cabarets. It also boasts a Sugar Museum housed in a building with a roof that looks like a sugar beet. Uses of the sugar beet were discovered by Berlin resident Siegismund Marggraf in 1747. The museum, founded by the German Sugar Industry in 1904, has 10 separate exhibits covering the history, development and cultivation of sugar throughout the world. One exhibit concentrates on colonial sugar for Europe, plantations and slavery.
Visitors can swim, sail, windsurf or relax on the beaches of Berlin's two great lakes -- the Muggelsee and Wannsee. And as Berlin is 40 per cent green parks, lakes and forests, hikers can explore Berlin's many green areas and walk along paths once divided or made inaccessible by the Berlin Wall just a few short years ago.
If you plan on venturing into western Poland, Berlin makes a great jumping off spot as it is only a few kilometers from the border, and Warsaw is hundreds of kilometers further east.
A Berlin shopping trip can best begin at the famous KaDeWe on Wittenberg Square, at one end of the shopping mile of Kurfurstendamm. One whole floor of KaDeWe is devoted to food specialties, breads, pastries, cheese and wursts. It's a great place to see and taste.
Boutiques and large department stores line the Kurfurstendamm, with antique treasures found on side streets as well as Eisenacher Strasse, Motzstrasse and Keithstrasse.
As you wander the streets of this now rejoined city you will see a section of the Old Berlin Wall left up as a poignant reminder of the recent past. Throughout the former eastern sector of the city construction and refurbishing go on at a rapid pace, with distinctions between east and west erased.
[ This article originally appeared in the October 1994
Emirates inflight magazine- Issue #79. ]
Visit Ann's Site for more of her travel writing.
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