Potsdam, And All Seven Pictures I’ve Taken So Far

Just to explain, I hate looking like a tourist. Technically, I’m on a tourist visa. Technically, I’m not really doing anything “productive”. Technically, I’m looking at a lot of sites to see while I have free time. But that does not make me a tourista, and for that reason, I never take pictures when it can be avoided.

So I have about seven photographs total, give or take.

But I’ll begin with Potsdam.

Potsdam is a city outside of Berlin, in Brandenburg. It looks like Amsterdam and St Petersburg had a child, and I’ll explain why. The city is almost entirely baroque façades in the centre, with pink and green and yellow paint sparing no building. But there are also entire sections of the city that look exactly like they’re from the Netherlands, with those quaint, squared-off gables on the roofs and rectangular windows. And there are some buildings that couldn’t decide whether they wanted to look like either, so they’re both.

Here’s just one example of the Dutch-looking houses:

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It was a beautiful day, really. What they call “Schmuttelwetter”, or literally “filth-weather”. It was really the perfect amount of drab, and it made it feel much more European. I got this strange feeling I was walking through a 1970’s BBC documentary, the type with terrible synthesiser music, very fuzzy 35-mm film cameras, and almost always shot on some rainy day as such. These houses here are on the grounds of the Cecilienhof, Kaiser Wilhelm II’s private estate next to the like eighteen castles in the other parts of the town, because they apparently did not suffice. Mind you, he loved playing king to a dangerous extent.

Now, to prove I’m better than a twelve-year-old white girl on study abroad, here’s how she would have done this photograph:

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#no_filter_biyatches #germoney #omg_like_what_even_is_thiz #goals #blessed

But no, I went with the way my phone camera decided it should look and only sharpened it a bit. Though these houses look Dutch, they are far away from the Dutch Quarter, a few blocks in the city designed by a Dutchman in the eighteenth century and which really looks quite refined. Having been born in a former Dutch colony which has preserved its old Dutch city, I felt almost at home.

Wilhelm II chose a splendid location. I was surprised at how utterly silent it was. I write this during rush hour on the street below me and while the laundry machine sounds as it it is attempting to launch itself into space more than clean my clothing. Absolutely not a single sound, save the chirping of chickadees and the cawing of a few murders of crows, sounds to which I am more than amenable, since they are natural. Not even the road could be heard. I have not been in a place that silent in months. But I digress.

The grounds of Cecilienhof, now called the Neuer Garten, encompass a large lake. I took what I think is a fine picture, seeing as I have but a lowly camera phone with which to do so:

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If I were a white girl on study abroad, I would not even have realised that, if I had a friend with a decent camera, he should do something about preserving this particular view. She would have taken three hundred photos of this and one of the dirt road before realising her camera did not have a wide enough lens. But as I am not a white girl on study abroad, I took one, thought it was OK, wished my good photographer friend had been there, and moved on. Here it is in black and white in case you care:

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Please bombard me with all your metaphors for what this picture means in the comments.

So I eventually walked to the actual house named Cecilienhof, after passing the other palace on the same grounds, a small affair of only a few thousand square metres, and kitchen built to resemble a ruined Greek temple. The home itself is in the Tudor style and, since there are much better pictures of it online, some featuring Stalin, Truman, Atlee, and Churchill, I’ll let you find them on your own.

This estate was built for Cecelia, Wilhelm II’s daughter, and included a breakfast room designed to look exactly as if it were in a cruise liner, which was rather a clever idea and appealed to me very much. So Wilhelm II lived here, Hitler has been there, the UN was founded there, and Stalin, Truman, Atlee, and Churchill have all been guests (or more accurately occupiers, more on that tidbit later).

When the Allies converged on Berlin, the victors divided the city into three quadrants for the countries who actually did something and gave one to France even though they did jack all. And even when they had their own sector it was mostly the Americans and the Brits who ran it. Go figure, de Gaulle did nothing when he wasn’t in power and did nothing when he was in power except destroy Algeria and make Québec really annoying. But Berlin was destroyed much more than anticipated and could not handle negotiations of the scale that would have to occur, those which would determine the postwar order and the order of the next forty-five years. Potsdam was Soviet-occupied, just outside Berlin, and essentially intact, so they decided to move there.

I go into the building and there’s a semi-guided tour with audioguides. Not wanting to be that stupid English speaker, since I was speaking German the whole time but wanted to understand what the audioguide was saying, I went with a French one.

Anyway, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I realised I have never been in the same building where Stalin had once been, which was very fun in a nerdy way. I got to see the desk my anti-hero Uncle Joe worked at and the offices of Truman and the British PMs who were there one after the other, and the room in which the accords were signed.

I found this very funny: Remember that I said they occupied Cecilienhof? They actually split the building into different zones, one for each of the Allies. The Soviets controlled the security on the outside, the Americans got half of the building, and the Brits got the other half and the courtyard or something. France wasn’t invited (finally) because Roosevelt rightly saw them as on the same level as Poland after the War was over, that is, an occupied power that had ceased to exist and, in spite of valiant efforts by resistance movements, contributed almost nothing except hot air and unfounded national pride. But again, just very funny that even this building was divided into occupied zones for the conference.

I then walked to Sanssouci, Frederick the Great’s palace two kilometres away. This relatively small property, in comparison to the other eighteen or so palaces that seem to be in this town, stands atop a hill with its rococo fronts looming over large, orderly gardens and leading to the ruins of a library on the other side.

Semi-profound thought of the day from a great thinker: “Isn’t it strange that there is someone who preserves something exactly in its present state of decay, not restoring it, but not letting it deteriorate further?” -Stadden

I was slightly confused when I arrived behind the building, for the phrase “SANS, SOUCI” is written near the eaves of the roof. The term Sanssouci is a compound of “sans souci”, meaning “without concern”, but there seemed to be no reason for a comma. Wikipedia enlightened me to the fact that it is a play on words that may be a philosophical adage, “[If you are] Without, [then you should] worry”. I was disappointed when I found out that’s all it was.

Those are the highlights of the day trip, but I promised you all the pictures I have taken in this country. All the appropriate ones, at least.

This is a statue of Lenin, cast in Pushkin, a suburb of St Petersburg, and which was a gift from Gorbachëv to Honecker:

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Just interesting as a historical piece.

This is a strange ice cellar in the shape of a pyramid or Egyptian temple in Neuer Garten near Cecilienhof:

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And something many of you sheeple probably missed in this photo because you’ll never stop being so blind:

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And this statue from the Alte Nationalgalerie which I captioned thus:

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“When she’s down and it’s been a while but she’s about twenty years too young but you’re still considering”.

Stay tuned, maybe I’ll take another photograph eventually.

 

 

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