Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sanssouci Palace garden in Potsdam

We were in Berlin last week and did a Fat Bike Tour of Potsdam, just a short train ride from Berlin. Potsdam is a BEAUTIFUL city -- what's left of it anyway, after WWII. Much of what remained standing were the summer palaces of the Prussian aristocracy.

Having a palace in Berlin was apparently too draining for some of these royals, so to get away from the pressures of daily palace living in Berlin, it was de rigueur to build a summer palace in Potsdam. There was a lot of "keeping up with the Müllers" going on the in the building of these summer homes.

This Rococo-style palace, Sanssouci (1745-47), was built by Frederick the Great. Frederick wasn't trying to outdo the other palace gardens of Potsdam though. His goal was to outdo Versailles' gardens. Germans don't think small.

Sad story though, Frederick loved this palace more than any of his others. Sanssouci, in French, means "carefree." And we were told by our guide that Frederick spent as much time as possible here. With his boyfriend.

Once, when he and his partner tried to leave Germany, they were caught and his father wanted to have him executed. That was deemed too harsh by the laws & courts of the time. So instead, they executed his partner and made Frederic watch.

He later married another well-connected royal (and later separated when he ascended to the throne -- she lived alone in a a separate palace) and asked to be buried here at Sanssouci. After his death in 1786, it was decided that it would be most proper to bury him alongside his father in the Potsdam cathedral nearby. But, after damage to the cathedral during WWII, his remains were re-buried at Sanssouci -- so he did get his wish -- just a few hundred years late.

The terraced grounds originally had mostly grapevines for wine making, and there are still some low-climbing grape vines, but the terraces now feature 168 windowed niches planted with fig trees, alternating with trellised vines from Portugal, Italy & France.

The lowest level had a more formal, Baroque, park-like setting of fountains, statues, boxwoods, ornamental gardens an parterres, all based on the gardens of Versailles.

One of the garden's greatest features, other than a party palace, were the gazebos and arbor/tunnels in verdigris and gold. They looked striking on either end of the long yellow-gold painted palace.

Versailles-inspired garden bellow. In the foreground
are grape vines growing along a chain fence.
Yeah, that's a windmill above the treeline.
No German garden is complete without a
monumental, over-scaled statue to something.
The curved boxwoods enclosed seating areas.
IN the center off the garden were a set of stairs.
Oddly, the side access to the lower gardens were ramps -- no stairs
Probably so the Frederick the Great could more
easily get his wheelbarrow up and down the hill.
Cool arbor/trellis.
Exterior of arbor/trellis from above.
Alternating vines & fig trees, with windows.
Do you suppose they close the windows for winter to overwinter the trees?
I couldn't figure out their practical purpose. Visually it was stunning.
Unlike many formal gardens of mass plantings of one type of plant,
formal German gardens we saw all had a mix of perennials in the borders.
The mix of different colors and textures of perennials in the "formal"
gardens gave them a more casual and lively appearance.
No color theme here.
The effect of the greens of the fig trees, vines and color of
the windows went surprisingly well with the Rococo palace.
The fountain never actually worked in Frederick's time.
His engineers never figured out the plumbing logistics.
Repeated perennials in the borders --  but it seemed to have
no rhyme or reason to the selections that I could fathom.
Though low maintenance (compared to planting annuals
each year) is enough reasoning for me.

2 comments:

  1. Lovely tour of the gardens. Was the palace open for tours? It looks to be an amazing place.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Not sure if the palace was open for touring while we were there. I assume so. It was a bike tour, so we didn't have time for an inside tour. There was a big wedding reception there for the Prussian royal family this past weekend. I saw it in yesterday's paper.

    ReplyDelete

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