After five days in Berlin, we headed through the leafier and more spread out western suburbs of the city on our way to Potsdam, a town perhaps best known for serving as the site of the 1945 Potsdam Conference where the U.S., Great Britain, and the Soviet Union met to plan the post-war peace.
Just before we arrived in Potsdam, we stopped to walk across the Glienicke Bridge that connected Western Berlin and East Germany during the Cold War era. This bridge was the site of prisoner exchanges between the West and the Soviets, including the swap of downed USAF U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers for convicted Soviet KGB spy Rudolf Abel. This exchange was depicted in the historical drama movie that carries the bridge’s informal name, the Bridge of Spies.
The mid-point of the bridge is marked by a plaque that reads, “German division until 1989.”
The main attraction of the day was our visit next to the Sans Souci Palace, built by the Prussian King Frederick the Great as his summer palace. The French influence extends well beyond the name of the palace, starting with this gazebo with its sun god-like decor:
The palace is modestly sized, with only ten main rooms, but is rich in detail with ornate carvings and multiple statues. We were told several times during this trip that the blackening of the stonework is due to the high iron content in the local stone that was used.
The grounds, sometimes compared to Versailles, provide both groomed and natural views from the palace that in some directions even include faux ruins, or follies, that can be seen in the distance beyond the fountain.
Once inside, the opulence continues, with rich paintings, plentiful gilding, and gigantic chandeliers:
This room’s giant gilded spider web on the ceiling just took things to another level:
This video gives you a more complete sense of the level of detail that’s found in the gilded decor of the ceiling:
In room after room, it was difficult for our eyes to take in all the detail:
After Sans Souci, we returned to explore the center of Potsdam. One of the neighborhoods there is known as the Dutch Quarter, built for the Dutch craftsmen brought to Potsdam by the King. The Dutch style of the buildings can be seen in these photos:
We had lunch at one of the restaurants in the neighborhood, fittingly named The Flying Dutchman, where one of the dishes was a cabbage roll that was larger than any we’ve seen in all our travels:
Afterwards we went up and down the street hosting Potsdam’s main Christmas market. Along the way we spotted a booth selling all sorts of hot alcoholic drinks under a roof filled with wild beasts of the forest, not far from the market’s large Christmas tree decorated with blue Moravian stars.
From Potsdam, we traveled on a few more hours to our ship. Docked near Wittenberg, the Viking Astrild was set to be our traveling hotel for the next five nights.
Up next: Wittenberg and cruising on the Elbe.