Sunday, October 25, 2009

Just Out of Town

Park Gate
Originally uploaded by pschwarz.
Potsdam, Germany

I took me a while to get out of the city. I haven't really figured out much of the surrounding areas, to know what to visit or where to go. Perhaps I've been preoccupied with the newness of my circumstances.

There's some pretty spectacular sites around here, as it turns out.

Potsdam is a relatively close city, under an hour by train from Berlin. Close enough that it's part of the Berlin transit system, actually. I headed out that way early on a Saturday morning.

Historically, it was the capital of Prussia, during the reigns of the Prussian kings. Here they had built the seat of their power. While the main palace of the kings was destroyed in 1945 - one with a not-surprisingly Louvre-like layout - the summer palace of the kings remains.

Schloss Sanssouci is a remarkable piece of roccoco architecture, dating from the mid-18th century. It was built by Fredrick the Great to serve as a summer home for the royal family and their entourages. It was a center of art and theatre for the family, and played host to numerous parties and official functions.

The palace itself is surrounded by a beautiful park, peppered with smaller palaces and outdoor venues. There are ponds and fountains, both of the obviously man-made designs, and some natural (or, at least, designed to appear so). The trees that line the roads give the park a more pristine and natural look. This wealth of trees seems to be a hallmark of German parks.

Just beyond the park lies the Altstadt, or Old City, which is a surprisingly modern grid layout of a two or three story buildings. Here there are shops and restaurants, both small and independent or larger high-end chain stores. It is quite pleasant to walk the streets.

As for my day of it, there was much, too much walking. Having been traveling about by foot and subway, I've been neglecting resting up my legs. I'm enjoying a day off, with only enough walking to go find a place for dinner.

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