Potsdam and Sanssouci castle

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Today we went to Potsdam and Sanssouci castle. Our morning began at 8am where we met and began our journey to this area which is situated on the outskirts of Berlin. The journey there included some intense speed walking but we made it. At Sanssouci we had an amazing guided tour of the main summer lodgings of Friedrich the Great. Friedrich was a king of Prussia in the 18th century and is known for having brought potatoes to the food table, attempting to flee to England to escape the censure of his father at the age of 18, being a keen philosopher and being himself unreligious.

The name Sanssouci means in French without care or without worry which is also symbolic because it suggests that the castle was a place of leisure. The exterior of the castle had multiple statues of Bacchus the god of wine to incarnate this idea. Although that was the case for his guests, for Friedrich himself he referred to himself as being the first servant of his country thus indicating that he worked extremely hard.

The castle itself was magnificent, having been inspired by Versailles. Friedrich thought a lot of the French given that his nanny, with whom he got along very well, came from France and also since French was viewed as a language of culture and wealth. Interesting as a result, Friedrich could speak French better than German. In the castle itself we saw the royal quarters as well as the guest areas, each filled with splendour. The castle is built in the Rococo style which means that there was a significant amount of gold all over the rooms and ceilings. After having seen the interior we ventured outside and saw the tomb of Friedrich which he had ordered to be made actually before the castle itself was built.

We discovered that Friedrich had wanted to be buried there without a ceremony or a crowd but had instead been buried elsewhere and was not placed in his desired resting space until after the reunification of Germany and this relocation of his body was broadcasted on television so much against what he would have wanted. Curiously it was also revealed to us that this lodgings of Friedrich was free of female guests excluding family members. That which struck me the most about Sanssouci was the modern ways of thinking of Friedrich. For instance, Friedrich believed that Nature is all powerful and that nature will overcome humanity.

Additionally inside the castle there was a statue of the god of war but instead of holding his weapons mightily he had laid them down on the ground. This is a representation of Friedrich who always opted for more peaceful solutions when possible. Later in the day we also had a whistle stop walk around a section of the grounds and saw the Chinese pavilion. Friedrich was incredibly interested in music himself playing the flute and so surrounding the pavilion there were statues of Chinese people playing musical instruments but it is clear that Friedrich and none of his advisors had visited China since the statues do not resemble the typical appearance of Chinese men and women and it is custom in China at that time for women not to play musical instruments but nevertheless there were female statues.

After the castle, we took a walk into the beautiful centre of Potsdam. Potsdam interestingly has a Brandenburg Tor just like the centre of Berlin. Here we saw the Dutch quarter of the town and were informed that there is also a Russian quarter. Friedrich was very welcoming of other nations and cultures and so employed these people to help in the construction of Sanssouci. During our free time (1hr) a few of the boys decided to run to the Russian quarter which was 2km out of the centre to see it! The rest of us enjoyed seeing the quirky little book shops and getting something to eat.

Next we made our way to the river seeing on our way some buildings which are used for the Brandenburg government and which appear to be very old but in actual fact are recently built. This brought up the conversation about German history and their pride. We learnt that a very rich philanthropist had offered to pay for a new art gallery to be built in the centre of Potsdam where an existing, rather ugly hotel is situated but the people of Potsdam refused the offer claiming that although the building was not very pretty, it formed a part of their history and therefore a part of their identity. Our boat trip along the river back to Wansee was glorious although the weather not so good. We spoke about some typical English games and handclaps and how they differed across the country. Today was also a very exciting day for many as they received their AS results!

Megan, GPC Berlin

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