September 2020: Potsdam

Situated less than 30km southwest of Zoo Station in Berlin and lying on the River Havel, Potsdam (population ~180,000) is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg. Unusually, the city boundary meets that of Berlin, itself a federal city-state. At another location, Potsdam is connected to Berlin by the Glienicker Brücke, the cold-war history of which was portrayed in the movie Bridge of Spies.

Historically, the city was also a residence for Kings of Prussia. Sanssouci Park, containing Frederick the Great’s summer palace, is part of a large UNESCO World Heritage Site covering multiple individual locations in both Potsdam and Berlin.

This was my third visit to Potsdam and it was by far the easiest, now that the city’s transport system is integrated into the zonal system of the national capital.

Sanssouci Park

Sanssouci Park was initially the parkland-and-garden setting for Frederick the Great’s summer residence, Sanssouci Palace. The whole enterprise was intended to create a Prussian version of Versailles, and the French name translates as ‘carefree’. Around 20 years after completion of Sanssouci Palace, an impressive ‘New Palace’ (Neues Palais) was constructed at the park’s western end, accompanied by an almost equally impressive pair of connected ‘services buildings’, the Communs, which are now part of the University of Potsdam. The rest of the park contains a number of other buildings, monuments, follies and assorted features.

We were able to catch a train from Berlin’s ‘Zoo’ station to Bahnhof Potsdam Park Sanssouci, located at the park’s southwest corner. This left us in pole position to start our explorations at the ‘New Palace’ end of the site.

City Centre

On emerging from Sanssouci and passing Potsdam’s more modest version of a Brandenburg Gate, we began to head through the city centre towards the main station. The principal area of interest was Old Market Square, not too far from the station. This square suffered severe damage during World War II, and rebuilding work had been going on over decades. The most recent reinstatement was the pink-coloured City Palace, now home to the parliament of the federal state of Brandenburg.