5 October 2006

Without a care at Schloss Sanssouci

A couple of Sundays ago, J released me from the gardening and took me on a German adventure from Berlin to the nearby town of Potsdam.

From the train station we caught the #91 tram to Schloss Sanssouci. I had no idea where we were going, so you can imagine my delight when we entered the gates into one of the biggest heritage places built in the 1700s, and rivaled only by the Château de Versailles in France.

Schloss (German for palace) Sanssouci was built as a Summer palace by the Prussian King Frederick II, or Frederick the Great, as he was better-known. Frederick loved the German countryside and wanted to grow produce on the land. The whole area is about 2kms long and about 1km wide, and apart from the main palace, there are also smaller dwellings which were used by family members, as well as buildings which served other purposes, such as the Roman Baths and the Windmill for making flour.

We arrived at one of the side entrances and close to the Charlottenhof Schloss which we toured in the company of a Romanian tour guide whose German was served with a thicker than usual accent. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the dwellings, so apart from a few sneaky ones that I took from waist-high, I didn’t get many interior shots.

You can click on the images to enlarge them

The gardens near Charlottenhof Schloss

The quality of the paintings and artworks in all the palaces was sublime. Small 8”x10” paintings on wood lined the rooms of Charlottenhof – images of women and men of various ages, vocations and importance. The woman’s bedroom was kitted out like a Bedouin tent – canvas linings on the ceiling and walls, and all the furniture was foldable and easily transported.

Upon leaving Charlottenhof, we headed for the New Palace. The grounds around the buildings are vast areas of woodland and open fields. We could imagine the royalty out for their early morning rides, or picnicking under the trees, reading, painting and leading the gentile life.

These are aerial treeroots. From a distance, it looked like a cemetery!

Frederick IV had built the New Palace after the 7 year war (1756-63) to prove the Prussian state’s undiminished abilities after the conflict. He didn't live in it, preferring the Schloss Sanssouci for his residence. The New Palace was used for guests, and the large ballrooms and halls were witness to many grand celebrations and parties.

The New Palace

Here, we joined another tour and went from room to room to room, admiring the Rococco styling that was prevalently used at the time of construction. Again, huge paintings adorned the walls. One showed a church service in which 130 important dignitaries of the time could be recognized, including Queen Victoria’s daughter Victoria, Princess Royal, who married Frederick III of Germany and was mother to Kaiser Wilhelm. Another showed a depiction of a Middle Eastern bazaar – a little over-imaginative as it showed women with hardly any clothing!

The rooms were magnificent. One huge room was adorned with rock crystals, semi-precious stones and shells. Another, the Marble Room was a massive space where the balls and parties were held.

After leaving the New Palace, we started walking down the incredibly straight and long 2km driveway that leads from the main gate to the New Palace, with roads leading off to all the other buildings on the estate.

We walked past the Orangery Palace and the Windmill before arriving at the Schloss Sanssouci.

The Orangery - greenhouses for the potted plants and a gallery for Raphael paintings

The Windmill - flour for the Royal Chefs

The main palace sits atop magnificent terraced gardens which somewhat dwarf the building. The terraces are planted with grapevines and rose bushes.

Schloss Sanssouci

All around the buildings and the gardens are marble statues. I have never seen a woman’s torso on a lion’s body before, as in this statue, and I was amazed at the delicacy of the carving. Look at the cherub in the foreground. See how his head is covered in the veil-like material? All this is solid marble! What masterful craftsmanship.

The Roman Baths, in idyllic tranquil solitude, are set away from the palaces. I could picture the horse-drawn carriages rattling down the roadways from the palaces to bring guests to the baths.

The Roman Baths

Schloss Sanssouci is definitely a place where you can spend at least 2 days to properly tour all the buildings and walk the vast gardens. I’m hoping that we get the chance to go back and see what we missed the first time!


Mise said...

It looks gorgeous...I've got to get back to Germany on holidays again. I've never been to Berlin or that region of the country.

MamaDuck said...

How lovely. Glad it's not all housework and gardening. :)

Anonymous said...

You're tempting me with these pictures. I feel like Freddie Mercury's 'I want to break free'. Only thing is Sunshine will kick more than my butt should I break free :D

Jin said...

How on earth have I managed to miss this post??? (shoot me - I deserve it!)
Oh how I envy you (sniff)........I'm drooling over the gardens let alone the buildings! My time will come, insh'allah!
Hubs is hoping to go to the RWC in Paris next year, so I naturally will tag along for the ride! My main aim tho is to see the palace of Versailles - something I've wanted to do for years now :-)