Monday, January 18, 2016

Map & Itinerary #13: Potsdam

Although Potsdam is well known in the world for the Sanssouci(1) gardens and palace (it was the former summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia - now UNESCO heritage), there is a lot more to discover and it is worth a trip or even a couple of days, to discover its past and the connections with past and recent history.

This is a map and an itinerary, you can get to Potsdam with the S-bahn or a Regional train and you can bring easily your bike on the train with you (there are also people riding it directly from Berlin as the landscape to get there is very nice).

If you get there by car, the entry point is most probably Wansee and the Bridge of spies: Glienicke Brücke (2), recently used by Steven Spielberg for his film with Tom Hanks, as the bridge was used during the Cold War to exchange prisoners and spies between East and West Germany.
Directly in the city center and the Dutch Quarter (3) - consisting of 169 black Dutch brick buildings, almost all of which have been renovated and considered as Europe's greatest collection of Dutch-style houses outside of the Netherlands. Not far from there there's also a WWII monument with a soviet cemetery (9).

Outside of the city there are a couple of jewels, one inside the Park Babelsberg and one in Postdam Süd. The first is another UNESCO Heritage, the Schloss Babelsberg - UNESCO Castle (4), the second is the astrophysical observatory Einsteinturm and the Wissenschaftspark  (5), the very famous Einstein Tower, very well known especially among architects also because it was one of Mendelsohn's first major projects and part of the Expressionist architecture.

If you are into strange architecture and style, walking by the riverl Havel near Breite str. you will notice two different  buildings, the first is the Dampfmaschinenhaus (6), also known as the "pump house" or "mosque", built to operate the Great Fountain in front of the castle Sanssouci.

The other structure, not far from there, is the See-Restaurant „Seerose“ (7)designed in 1983 during the DDR time by Ulrich Müther (which is also the architect of the Rettungsturm - Lifeguard Tower on the Rügen Island).

On the same street at the corner with Dortusstrasse, there a cubic building with some original socialist mosaics (8) with scenes of CCCP space trips, science and education.

But the connection between Potsdam and Russia are not just limited to this. There's a long tradition in the relationship between the two cultures and the Kolonie Alexandrowka (10) as a sign of the friendly relations between the houses of Hohenzollern and Romanov in the 19th century. The hippodrome shape of the land and the very special wooden houses make this colony special and  under UNESCO Heritage and the Alexander-Newski-Gedächtniskirche (11) church at the top of the small hill is also part of it.

But if the relationships with Russia are still intact, same for  the legacy with the Soviet Union and the Cold war. The KGB Leistikowstrasse Prison (12), the Schloss Cecilienhof - UNESCO Heritage (13) and the Marmorpalais (14) have been deeply into the history of the city and of the country during the Warsaw Pact.
Cecilienhof has been used for the Potsdam Conference at the End of the WWII and it is now hosting an hotel and a musuem. In the park you can also visit the Marble Palast, which is also a museum and it was used as officers' casino by the Soviet Army.

At the border with Berlin and so close the the west part of it controlled by US, Potsdam during the Col War was also an important military place. The north part of the city was hosting several military bases and it is still possible to see some parts of the Rote Kaserne (15), which are now been restored and used as apartments.