Day 12- Former E. Germany: Postdam (pt. 2)

 Façade of South Communs- Sanssouci Park

Wednesday March 24th (pt. 2)

When I visited this park in 2006 with my high school friend, we did not have time to make it to the far west end of the park to see the New Palace. I was pretty determined that I would see the palace this time. Despite the fact that the palace was west of us, we decided to head north first, and found ourselves facing the Orangerie (Orangery). Orangeries were all the rage when King Frederick Wilhelm IV had it built between 1851 and 1864 (more than 100 years after Sanssouci’s construction). The king had it patterened after the style of the High Rennaisance. The Orangerie sits atop a hill– this was intended to be the high point of a so-called “Road of Triumph.” The triumph street was to begin at the triump arch (Potsdam’s Brandenburg Gate) east of Sanssouci Park passing in front of the Orangerie and end at the Belvedere on Klausberg. Due to the March Revolution, the triumphal road was never completed.


The Orangerie, Jubilee Terrace and statuary

Altough an orangerie is supposed to be used to protect delicate plants and trees during the winter months, the king’s original intent for his Orangerie was to serve as guest rooms for Tsar Nicholas I and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna. The Tsarina was Frederick’s favorite sister and had been born Princess Frederica Louise Charlotte Wilhelmina of Prussia. However, upon marrying the Tsar she gave up her name and homeland.

The Orangerie does include two halls to accomodate potted plants and still serves the purpose of providing protection for greenery during the winter. In addition, the Raffael Hall houses 50 replica Raphael paintings.


Frederick II (Frederick the Great)

Frederick II (Frederick the Great)

Green Archer in
front of the Orangerie

Since the Orangerie sits atop a hill, we did not walk all the way up to it. We had already done a lot of walking in the cold March air, and still needed to make it to the other end of the Park to see the New Palace. From where we stood, still in the Park on lower ground– we could see the three levels created by the well-planned design.

The Orangerie sits at the highest point, then there is a second level– the Jubilaüsterrassee (Jubliee Terrace), then at our level–a u-shaped park with two statues. The Jubilee Terrace is actually at the level of a street called Maulbeerallee which would have been Frederick’s grand avenue. The Jubilee Terrace is quite a grand structure itself with curved staircases on either side. I stood at the top and looked down–the terrace structure includes a fountain and large gold fish-inhabited pool below it. I’ve read that it is quite breathtaking at night when lit. In the picture above, the terrace is the part with the three large arches carved into it.

The front-most statue is a smaller version of  the same statue I would take my sister and daughter to see in Berlin the next day. It is a statue of Frederick II (Frederick the Great) on horseback. The statue behind him is of a naked archer. He reminded me of Mercury, but I could not find any information indicating the name or story behind the now green man. There are so many statues in the park, that we soon grew tired of trying to capture them all on film.

New Palace

Finally, we arrived at the New Palace. Although the Sanssouci Palace is relatively small in overall proportions–especially as palaces go– the Neue Palais is huge. This grand palace was built after the Seven Years’ War in the barouque style. It is considered to be the last great Prussian baroque palace. Frederick had it built to celebrate Prussia’s war success.  As such, it was meant to reflect excess in splendor and materials.

Statue at New Palace

This palace was not the king’s principle residence, it was used to entertain and impress royals and dignitaries. When he did stay here, he only used six rooms in the southern end of the building– of the 200 total  rooms in the palace!   Among the palace’s  many amenities is a two-story  Roccoco style theatre. What  is unusual about this royal theatre is that the king did not build it with a royal  box. He preferred to *gasp* sit among his guests!  He usually sat  on the third row from the stage.

Although this was not Frederick II’s principle residence, it did become the preferred residence of German Emperor Frederick III (great great grand nephew of Frederick the Great). Although, since Frederick III only reigned for 99 days, it was a short-lived preference. The only changes the king managed to implement during his 99 Days Reign was to dig a moat around it and change its name to Freidrichskron Palace– obviously, the name did not stick. The palace is now a museum.

The New Palace is adorned by 296 sandstone sculptures and 196 angels. We walked around to the back side (west side) and entered what is now a gift shop. We considered taking a tour of the rest of the interior, but our budget consciousness overrode our cultural one.

Statues waiting to be cleaned

The west side of the Palace faces two huge buildings called the Communs. So, as we came back out of the gift shop we were facing them. The two buildings look exactly alike and are styled similarly to the palace. As we walked across the ‘court of honour’– the wide space between the palace and the Communs– we noticed they had removed many of the statues for cleaning.

Communs- South building
(its twin North building is to its right )

Thus we came upon the surreal scene of what looked like various ‘people’ from antiquity corralled in a cage of sorts near the entrance of the left Communs building. The Communs were built to house the royal kitchens, gardener’s shops, utilities, palace gaurds, and a slew of servants.

Despite its ‘common’ usage, the Communs were built with the refinements befitting a king’s entourage– porticos, cupolas, winding staircases,  and rich ornamentation. Wilhelm II had an underground tunnel built to connect the Communs to the palace in 1896 to avoid inclement weather.

Though the palace is a museum, the German government has put the Communs to practical use– these buildings are now part of the University of Potsdam. The faculty of the Mathematics, Sport Science and Sport Medicine are housed here. As a mathematics adjunct myself, I think it would be incredibly satisfying to work in a place surrounded by such splendor. Imagine– working in a palace (even if it’s the former servants’ quarters)!

Entry to the Norse Garden near the Historic Windmill

Since the Communs are now used for academic pursuits, they are no longer accessible to tourists. So, we made our way back to our car. We passed by the Norse Garden and the Historic Windmill (pictured in my Day 12 Potsdam pt. 1 blog post) on our way back to the lot.

Our next stop that day was Old Market Square, not too far from Sanssouci Park. I cover our visit there in my next blog post…

Next Blog Post: Former E. Germany: Potsdam (pt. 3)