Saturday, October 24, 2015

Return to Berlin: The Germany Diaries, Part II

Frederick the Great's Summer Palace, Sans Souci in Potsdam

We moved a lot more slowly this time—no doubt in part because we are four years older. We are so glad we travelled a lot during our working years because it is getting harder. It takes a lot longer to get over jet lag than it once did.

We decided to skip Museum Island this time. This is one of the great cultural treasures of the world and we certainly hadn’t exhausted it. It would take months for that—but this time we wanted, at least to some extent, to get off the beaten tourist track. Our first full day in Berlin, we didn't try to pack much in, but rather spent a relaxing half day at Berlin’s very impressive botanical gardens and the nearby Dahlem museums. It is a testament to Berlin’s wealth of museums that Dahlem with its impressive Asian and African art collection is considered a second tier attraction.

Photos from the Botanical Gardens:
Alpine Gardens

Colchicum, one of the gems of the Fall garden

Our second full day we went to Potsdam which we had not managed to fit in on our first trip to Berlin. We soon discovered that Potsdam is worth more than one day and returned to Potsdam before leaving Berlin. Potsdam was Frederick the Great’s creation, with all his passions and eccentricities on display. I was intrigued by the king who composed music, collected art, was seriously interested in architecture and corresponded with Voltaire at the same time he was waging war and building his empire. Frederick was also something of a penny pincher. At Frederick's imposing New Palace I thought I was having an optical illusion. The bricks looked fake. And when we went up to them, sure enough the façade was painted to look like a real brick building.
Frederick's fake bricks

According to our guidebook, Frederick didn’t want to spend the money on real bricks! However, he spared no expense on the interior of the New Palace and on the jewel in Potsdam’s crown, Frederick’s Summer Palace, San Souci. For me the great attraction of San Souci was the Italianate formal gardens.
formal gardens, San Souci

At this stage in my life I'm likely to prefer a garden over a museum—-some exceptions of course. More on Berlin’s museums to come.

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