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Home of the Prussian Kings
Once the home of the most powerful court in Europe, a visit to Sans Souci, in Potsdam gives you a glimpse of the pomp and splendour of the Prussian Kings.
Set over 50 hectares of parkland, Sans Souci Park is a UNESCO world heritage site with no fewer than 17 palaces dating from 1730 to 1916
It would be impossible to visit all the palaces in Sans Souci Park in one day, so we chose the magnificent Sans Souci Palace, home of Frederick the Great and also the New Palace constructed constructed by Frederick II and home to Kaiser Wilhem II until 1918.
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Sans Souci –meaning “without a care”, is a summer palace erected by Fredrick the Great as an escape from the pressures of public life. It is one of the most famous palaces in Potsdam.
While exploring the park you stroll through extensive formal gardens. The terraced gardens were designed in 1744 with a view to cultivating plums and figs.
Just a year later the King built his beautiful summer palace
Throughout the parkland you will find artificial “Roman Ruins”, classical statues, baroque gardens and elaborate water displays.
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Why are there potatoes on Frederick the Great’s grave?
Also within the parkland, close to Sans Souci Palace, you find the somewhat humble grave of Frederick the Great. A simple stone slab, etched with a few German words marks the spot where he is buried with his beloved greyhounds.
The grave site is surrounded by busts of Roman emperors, and the grave itself is covered in potatoes. The King first introduced potatoes to Germany, cultivating them in his Sans Souci gardens and encouraging the local villagers to ‘steal’ the plants and cultivate potatoes themselves. The vegetable became a German staple and to this day potatoes are laid on is grave in memory of this.
Church of Peace
We initially strolled through the Church of Peace, commissioned by Frederick William IV in 1845. In a serene lakeside setting within the Sans Souci gardens, the Church is based on a drawing of the medieval Church of St Clementine in Rome. Here we found courtyard sculptures, frescoed domes and a 13th century Venetian mosaic above the apse.
Sans Souci Palace
The highlight is of course a tour through Sans Souci Palace itself. Admission is by timed ticket only, so you will need to check times before you go. Especially if you require an English speaking tour , which are limited.
While waiting for our tour to start we spent some time exploring the old Mill House adjacent to the Palace.
We spent an interesting half hour enjoying the interactive displays over three floors. However even without this added tour, the wait was worth it to see the jaw dropping opulence inside Sans Souci.
Our tour took us through the concert hall festooned with foilage, where the King himself gave flute recitals, as well as the elaborately decorated chambers once used to accommodate European nobility and royalty.
Sans Souci New Palace
Later in the afternoon we toured through the imposing “New Palace” constructed in 1763 to commemorate the end of the Seven Year’s War.
Ironically (having just visited Sans Souci) King Frederick never lived in this palace, finding it “too ostentatious”. He preferred the cosiness of Sans Souci, keeping the New Palace for state occasions.
The Palace became personal home to the German Emperors from 1873 to 1918, ending with Kaiser Wilhem II and is now home to Potsdam University’s philosophy department.
Hundreds of marble statues of mythical figures line the roofline of the imposing buildings.
Once again, tickets are required and it is possible to pre-order tickets to multiple palaces within the park.
Of the 200 palacial rooms, 60 are now open to the public.
The Gtrottensaal (Grotto Hall) glistens with hundreds of fossils and shells which adorn the walls and ceilings. Photos aren’t great as the room is darkened to preserve the fossils.
The Marmosaal (marble hall) is floored in Jaspis and Carrra marble tiles. A glass walkway has now been laid to preserve the flooring.
Frescoed ceilings have been painstakingly restored in the State Rooms. Our tour took us through the opulently decorated apartments and through the picture galleries on the upper level.
The upper gallery features artworks from the Italian Baroque Period as well as a number of historic portraits.
Our tour of Sans Souci gave us a small glimpse into the grandeur of the Prussian palaces, with opulence on a scale not seen in any Australian building.
Visiting Sans Souci.
You will need a full day to explore Sans Souci park, which is an easy train ride from central Berlin. It is advisable to check opening times and ticket availability to plan your day’s tour. It is possible to book a “multi-palace” ticket which will enable you to co-ordinate your timed tours.