On the Steps of the Palace(s) in Potsdam

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Let’s start with this. I am fine now. I guess there’s still a few trips to the dentist left for me (ugh), but the pain is gone and I’m almost at pre-chipmunk cheeks. Unless you ask Chris, who says that my cheeks are naturally chipmunk-like.

Anyway, before I left for Switzerland, one of my colleagues said that I absolutely must make Potsdam one of my stops and visit for the Potsdam Schlossernacht (Castle Night). Potsdam is about 30 minutes by train from Berlin and is where a number of Prussian kings lived until the early 20th century and is the home to a number of castles and palaces. To get there, I took an early flight to Berlin and then took the train to Potsdam. I got off at the closest train station to my hotel, which was actually still quite a walk to the hotel.

Before meeting with my colleague, I wandered around the old town, which was filled with cute boutique shops and restaurants and saw the Brandenburg Gate of Potsdam (which, unfortunately was under reconstruction). I even got some curry wurst for lunch.

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Once I met my colleague, we did a part walking/part driving tour of Potsdam. We parked near the St. Nicholas Church and the film museum.

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Potsdam, is an interesting blend of old and new. A lot of the very colorful buildings around the city have only just been fixed up over the past 15 years. As it was explained to me, the resources to build up the city after World War II weren’t there until recently.

My favorite part of the city, which is the Dutch Quarter. As you may expect from the name, this part of the city takes on a lot of Dutch architecture. It was one of the king’s way of attracting residents from the Netherlands. Had Sunday not been chaotic, this is where I thought about getting lunch and hanging out on Sunday. We stopped at a cafe for some chocolate drinks and to take in the neighborhood.

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We walked around town a little more before jumping back into the car and heading over to the Sancoucci Park for the festival. Potsdam Schlossernacht is a big annual festival when the Sansoucci Park (with all of Potsdam’s castles) is opened up and illuminated for the evening. There are performances, musicians, readings, and a lot of costumes. The night culminates in fireworks that I, due to aforementioned tooth pain, did not make it to. There were also people in 6 meter tall dresses that we were somehow unable to find in the big park.

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The park is kind of huge, a lot bigger than I thought. Like, houses four palaces sort of big. We started at the entrance, which is where Sanssouci Palace is. We weren’t able to go inside, but we did look at the grave of Frederick the Great, whose wish was to be buried with his dogs.

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The castle, of course, is best seen from the bottom of the stairs, where you can see all of the vines and fig trees leading up the castle.

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From Sansoucci, we made our way to the geese, which would march along the street following their leader. It was kind of adorable.These were cute geese too, not the scary and aggressive kind from back home.

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We then made our way to the Chinese House, where they had a pretty cool exhibit remembering some of the great women of history. I couldn’t read the German biographies of all of the women, but I recognized a few of them. From there, we went to the Chinese House, which isn’t really influenced by actual Chinese culture, but more the romanticized idea of what China was like. It was still pretty cool though.

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There was a very interesting surreal performance going on, as well. Most of the stuff going on was in German, so I don’t actually know what was going on, but the costumes were pretty cool.

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We had dinner and wandered around some more. We watched some radio hosts make a bunch of political jokes while dressed in costume and watched a musician play piano for a while (there was even a proposal mid-performance). The whole set up was actually a lot of fun, language barrier aside. I got some translations, so I did understand some parts of it.

And most of the people in costume were the performers at the event, there were some festival attendees who also came in costume. I, of course, had to get a picture. They had a lot more swag than I did.

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Unfortunately, some parts of the park were not open during the festival that I guess had been in previous years. For example, we were unable to visit the Roman baths while we were there. The people at one of the gates did let us sneak out of the event temporarily to see the Neues Palace, which looked a lot closer to the rest of the festival than it actually was. It’s fine, I guess all the weekend walking can be considered my “long runs”?

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Once we got back to the palace, we made our way to another palace, the Orangerie, which I guess had been under renovations until pretty recently. It required going up a lot of steps, but the view and the palace were both worth it. There was a band playing in that area, so it was a lot more crowded than it was in other parts of the event, but we did make our way up there without losing each other.

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The Orangerie was where they were doing the big readings. We sat and watched a pretty well-known actress do some poetry readings. I guess the poetry was kind of hilarious, but it was in German. It was still fun to watch and, more importantly, was a welcome break with all the walking and the tooth pain. We spent quite some time there and by the time we were out, it was starting to get dark enough to see parts of the park illuminated.

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It was around this time that the tooth pain, slow face swelling, 5 am wake up call, and twelve miles of walking started to wear down on me. If it is any indication of how bad I was feeling, we passed by a food stall serving those spiral potatoes that they have in Seoul and I didn’t even stop to get one. Although the fireworks were just around the corner, I needed to go home, so made our way outside of the park and I got dropped off back at the hotel.

All in all and despite everything that went down on Sunday, the day in Potsdam was a lot of fun. It didn’t hurt that I had a good travel companion for the day.

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