UNESCO World Heritage Site #165: Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin

UNESCO World Heritage Site #165: Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin
UNESCO World Heritage Site #165: Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin

From the World Heritage inscription:

The ensemble of the chateaux and parks of Potsdam is an exceptional artistic achievement whose eclectic and evolutionary features reinforce its uniqueness: from Knobelsdorff to Schinkel and from Eyserbeck to Lenné, a series of architectural and landscaping masterpieces were built within a single space, illustrating opposing and reputedly irreconcilable styles without detracting from the harmony of a general composition, designed progressively over time.

Potsdam, mentioned first in the 10th century, acquired some importance when the Great Elector of Brandenburg, Frederick William (1620-88) established his residence there. Potsdam housed a small garrison from 1640 onwards; the site’s military function was strengthened by the young Prussian monarchy.

Under Frederick II the Great (1712-86) Potsdam was radically changed. The new king wished to establish next to the garrison town and settlement colony of the ‘Sergeant King’ a ‘Prussian Versailles’, which was to be his main residence. In 1744 Frederick II ordered a vineyard to be planted on six terraces on the southern side of a hill, Bald Mountain. Sanssouci, a name which reflects the king’s desire for intimacy and simplicity, translates the theme of a rustic villa into the marble, mirrors and gold of a Rococo-style palace.

One of the things which surprised me about Berlin was the number and quality of the palaces in the area, especially in Potsdam. Many of the palaces in the area surrounding Berlin did not receive heavy damage during the war.

The highlight of the world heritage site, in my opinion, was Sanssouci, the palace of Frederick The Great. One of his final request was that he be laid to rest on the grounds of Sanssouci with his favorite greyhounds. In 1991, 205 years after his death and after the reunification of Germany, his request was finally granted.

Sanssouci is about a 15-20 minute walk from the Potsdam train station. I’d recommend visiting in the summer as in the winter, all of the statues in the garden were covered and the fountains were drained when I visited in the winter.

This was the tenth stop on my November 2011 Eurail trip to European UNESCO sites.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.