Excursion to Sanssouci Palace Gardens and Potsdam

22 Jun

San Francisco to Potsdam 582

by Rhea H. Boyden

There is a meterological phenomenon in Germany known as ‘Schafskaelte’ which translates into English as ‘sheep’s cold’. Frequently in Germany, after a stretch of pleasant spring weather, heating up to delightfully hot summer temperatures, the temperatures then plunge again and it is winterlike and rainy with North East winds making one think it is late October and not June. This generally happens between June 4th and June 20th and is the result of the sea and land warming at different rates. It is a real danger to sheep who have already been shorn and so many farmers wait until the end of June to shear their sheep.


With the onset of hot weather in the past couple weeks, my roommate and I decided that we would take advantage of the lovely weather and go on a day trip to Sanssouci in Potsdam which is the summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. Yesterday morning, however, we stood at the balcony window and looked out at the pouring rain and were about to cancel our trip on account of it, when we decided that we would just go for it and not let the rain and the dark clouds deter us. The park and gardens would not be as full of visitors if the weather was like this, we reasoned, and surely this was just a shower and it would not keep up all day. So, grabbing our umbrellas, we headed out the door.

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 The Neue Palais

We took the regional train from Alexanderplatz directly to the station Park Sanssouci which is located only a 10 minute walk from the west entrance to the park where the Neue Palais is situated. The Neue Palais was built in 1763 after the completion of Sanssouci and was constructed in a much grander Baroque style than the smaller summer palace of Sanssouci built in Rococo style in 1745 and modelled after the palace of Versailles. Frederick the Great had the Neue Palais constructed later to house guests but he never lived there himself, preferring to reside in Sanssouci which is the French for ‘without worries’ and was his place to relax in summer away from the bustle of the Berlin court. After observing the Neue Palais and ignoring the dark clouds above us, we continued our walk into the park past the Botanical Gardens and finally stopped in the shade of a large maple tree as one of the large clouds above us broke into a shower. When the shower stopped we continued our rambles which led us to The Temple of Antiquity which Frederick the Great had constructed to house his valuable collection of ancient art. In the 19th century the temple was converted into a mausoleum.

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 The Chinese House and the Temple of Antiquity

The sky started to brighten slightly as we then walked over to the Chinese House which Frederick the Great had constructed in 1755 to adorn his fruit and vegetable garden. He took a great interest in horticulture and besides this garden he also raised tropical fruit such as melons, oranges, peaches and bananas in greenhouses. From the Chinese House we wandered until we saw the fountain in the distance which is at the foot of the south facing terraced vineyard which leads up to Sanssouci. This terraced vineyard impressed us greatly. Built right against the brickwork, there are scores of separate mini greenhouse niches complete with glass doors. Figs and grapevines grow inside them. We remarked on how much pruning it must take to keep these plants within the confines of each niche.

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Statue of Mercury and a niche of figs on the terraced vineyard

After admiring the marble statues of Mercury, Venus, Minerva, Apollo and a host of other Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses we ascended the steps to the palace and then bore right to where Frederick the Great is buried next to his dogs that he adored so much. Frederick’s grave is decorated with potato figures and flowers: he was the man who introduced the potato to Prussia. This made us hungry and so we continued walking and after exiting the park we found a reasonably priced restaurant that served us delicious new potatoes which we enjoyed with white asparagus and hollandaise sauce. I also ordered a salmon filet and my roommate a schnitzel. From our seats we had a view of Potsdam’s Brandenburg Gate.

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Frederick the Great’s Grave

Fully sated, we wandered over to the Dutch Quarter which was built under the instruction of Dutch master builder Johann Boumann between 1733 and 1742. The quarter consists of 134 brick houses and is the largest example of Dutch architecture outside of Holland. We drank a cup of coffee in a small cafe and then jumped on the tram back to Potsdam main station. As we arrived at the station the sun burst though the clouds and we were happy to have taken this fun day trip. After a train ride home to Berlin and a ten minute walk back to the apartment, we again saw the dark clouds gather. We hurried up the stairs and stood at the balcony door again and watched the clouds burst into yet another fantastic summer rain shower. We stood there with smiles on our faces, happy that we had not let the weather deter us from our plans.


3 Responses to “Excursion to Sanssouci Palace Gardens and Potsdam”

  1. Noe July 2, 2014 at 7:07 am #

    I love this, Rhea, particularly the weather description (interesting phenomenon – does it happen elsewhere?) The botanical gardens sound lovely and nice to learn about the history behind it as well.

    • rheahboyden July 2, 2014 at 11:25 am #

      Thanks for the feedback Noe! Glad you enjoyed it. It does seem that this weather phenomenon is quite widespread in Europe. You never quite know what weather you are going to get in summer, do you? But you can’t let it ruin your plans! I hope all is well with you. 🙂


  1. 24 hour Berlin: Kartoffelpuffer and Cheesecake to Graffiti and Opera | Globe Drifting - July 10, 2014

    […] Excursion to Sanssouci Palace Gardens and Potsdam […]

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