Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

A few years back we stumbled by complete chance into a wonderful garden festival taking place in the historic town of  Koblenz on the Rhine. We were spending a few days there and kept seeing signs for BUGA everywhere! Intrigued, we finally asked someone in the local tourist office and found that Koblenz was hosting the biannual “Bundesgartenschau”, an exhibition of gardening and horticulture held every 2 years in a different town or city in Germany.



In 2017 it is Berlin’s turn to act as host but this year’s event will be combined with the Internationale Garten Ausstellung (IGA for short, see here for more details).  So by way of a preview here are some photos from the Koblenz festival in April 2011 – a real blast from the past!


Koblenz Germany

Signs In The Palace Grounds


We were there over the Easter holidays and the colours were glorious. No doubt they would have continued to develop and change as the months went by. We had a great time in Koblenz, which is a beautiful spot at the confluence of the Rhine & Moselle rivers, with high cliffs overlooking the junction point at Deutsches Eck. The old fortress, Ehrenbreitstein, that perches on the opposite river bank can be reached by the Koblenz Cable Car.




The castle grounds at the top of the cable ride were a profusion of spring colours – the tulips especially were at their best.



But there were also indoor pavilions housing more exotic plants, a wealth of horticultural information and (right up our street) a wine and food festival taking place in conjunction with the flower festival!



Back down at river level, the beautiful Baroque style Electoral Palace provided yet another stage for some wonderful displays.



The IGA in Berlin is due to start next month on the 13th April and will run until the 15th October 2017. It is being held in the former Marzahn Recreational Park in the outer area of Marzahn-Hellersdorf to the north east of the city. If it is half as good as the Koblenz one was a few years back, it would be well worth taking a trip there if you happen to be visiting Berlin in the next few months!

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Not to be outdone by his uncle Frederick The Great, his successor, Frederick William II, decided to build his own legacy for posterity in the form of the rather unoriginally named Neuer Garten (New Garden). This epithet was presumably to distinguish it from the “old” gardens associated with his uncle at Sanssouci. All the Hohenzollern rulers appear to be called Frederick, William or when they ran out of ideas Frederick William – it does get a bit confusing!



Orangerie – Grounds Of The Neuer Garten Potsdam


The Cecilienhof, site of the famous Potsdam Conference, sits at the northern end of the park and after a quick visit (see here) we wandered round the rest of the park grounds. The Neuer Garten is beautifully laid out with serene views over a couple of lakes, the Heiliger See and the Jungfernsee.

The Marmorpalais, constructed at the same time, dominates the scenery but in a stylish and pleasant way. Frederick William II had a couple of wives (not at the same time!) and several mistresses. The official mistress, Wilhelmine, Graefin von Lichtenau, oversaw much of the interior design of the palace. With a charming Orangerie, pretty English style gardens and dreamy views it conjures up images of bygone times.



The royal household came up with an ingenious way of storing perishable goods and presumably keeping the royal wine collection in tact. The Ice House, which sits near Heiliger See in the grounds, is constructed in the form of a pyramid. During winter ice was removed from the lake and buried deep under the structure – this acted as a refrigeration unit and royal beer fridge for the rest of the year!



The Ice House – Near Heiliger See Potsdam


The Neuer Garten is reminiscent of a grand country estate. On the way out of the grounds we passed by Dutch style houses used mainly in the past for stables and servants quarters.



Just outside the Neuer Garten, en route into the centre of town, we came across a rather curious little settlement. The Alexandrowska is, as its name suggests, a nod to the Russian Empire. It transpired that Frederick William III (Frederick William II’s son and successor) was a good friend of the Russian Tsar. As a tribute he had the Russian colony constructed between 1826 and 1827. The Russian wooden style houses were home to Russian singers and musicians who were attached originally to the First Prussian Regiment Of The Guards. Today a small museum can give you an insight into this fascinating historical episode (something that will have to wait for another day as we ran out of time to visit).



Alexandrowska – Russian Colony Potsdam


For more inspiration and wonderful walks around the world visit Restless Jo at her regular Monday Walk!


Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

The name Potsdam is probably most closely associated with the conference held there in the summer of 1945 during the closing stages of the 2nd World War. The leaders of the United States (Truman), the Soviet Union (Stalin) and Great Britain (Churchill then later Attlee) met to work out the future of Europe post war and also the surrender of Japan.

In very simple terms it set the stage for the division of Europe and the Cold War. Since it would take a thesis to write all about that, there is an interesting link here for background reading!

The setting for this important political gathering was the slightly incongruous Cecilienhof Palace, which looks more like an English Tudor mansion than a Hohenzollern Palace.



Cecilienhof Potsdam – View From The Neuer Garten


It was chosen as it had been virtually undamaged by the bombing that had ravaged Berlin and the industrial areas of Potsdam. In fact it was the last Hohenzollern palace ever built and was constructed between 1914 and 1917 for Crown Prince William and his wife Cecilie von Mecklenburg-Schwerin – hence the name “Cecilienhof”.



Part of the large complex of palaces and parks that make up the UNESCO World Heritage site in Potsdam, the Cecilienhof sits at the northern end of the Neuer Garten (New Garden). Designed by architect Paul Schultze-Naumburg it was created on the lines of an English country house in a Tudor style (I guess the German royal family did have a lot of English relatives?). Now a museum, you can visit the conference room and see the rooms where all the discussions and work took place.

Unfortunately we only had time to breeze in and out of the palace gardens so have yet to go round the museum. It was also rather crowded (not surprisingly) so many of my photos have “gatecrashers”!



The surrounding gardens and parkland are definitely not to be missed – more to follow next week to conclude the Potsdam series of posts!



Neuer Garten Potsdam – Marmorpalais


Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Potsdam isn’t just associated with the pomp and elegance of the Hohenzollern rulers. It also has a very different past dating from the Cold War era when it was firmly entrenched behind the Iron Curtain as part of the DDR. So close to West Berlin and yet light years away in so many respects.

We found out more about this side of Potsdam on our first visit back in 2013. We walked probably three times our daily steps quota with Original Berlin Walks on their Discover Potsdam Tour! Sanssouci and the city centre was just a small part of the day (see here, here and here for previous posts).

Our starting point was the eastern side of the city (Sanssouci is on the west) and our first destination was a pretty spot on the River Havel. Basking in the sunshine it was hard to imagine its more sinister past. Glienicker Bruecke or Glienicke Bridge is best known as the “Bridge Of Spies”, the transfer point for cross-iron curtain spy swaps in the Cold War era. As luck would have it we’d arrived on the day of a spring fun run!



The Glienicke Bridge was the only checkpoint under full Soviet Control in the divided Berlin era – others in the zone were also manned by East German border guards and this is probably why the Allies and Soviets used the bridge as their spy swap point.

The first prisoner exchange took place on 10 February 1962. The Americans released Soviet spy Colonel Rudolf Abel in exchange for American spy-plane pilot Francis Gary Powers captured by the USSR following the U-2 Crisis of 1960. The 2015 film, Bridge Of Spies, is based on their story (haven’t seen it myself though).

The final exchange, which I can remember as it got quite a bit of press coverage at the time, was on 11 February 1986. Anatoly Shcharansky (now Natan Sharanksy), the human rights campaigner and political prisoner, plus three Western agents were exchanged for Karl Koecher and four other Eastern agents.

For a long time secluded and closed off, the bridge and surrounding parks and palaces can once again be enjoyed by tourists and visitors for recreational purposes (as well as the locals of course).




The People’s Park (Glienicker Volkspark) is a beautiful place in which to have a wander especially in the spring time. Elegant villas and gardens have been restored and the feeling is a world away from the grey bleakness of the post war era.



You can find out more about other attractions such as the 19th century Babelsberg Castle (overlooking the River Havel on the other side of Glienicke Bridge), travel information and river cruises, which operate during the warmer months, here at the Potsdam Tourist Site.



Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

A little postscript following on from last week’s post about Sanssouci (see here).

To the side of the front terrace you come across a curious tomb. Covered with potatoes, this is the final resting place of Frederick The Great!



The reason for the potatoes is apparently because Frederick introduced them into Prussia in the mid 18th century. They seem to fit with the lack of ostentation (for the times) that Frederick displayed during his life.

However the story of Frederick’s final resting place has had more than a few twists and turns. He wished to be buried near his beloved vine terraces and alongside his favourite dogs. However, after his death in 1786 (he died in an armchair in his study), his nephew and successor, Frederick William II, went against his uncle’s instructions. Instead Frederick William had his uncle buried in what he considered a more fitting place, the Potsdam Garrison Church (see here for an interesting article on the church’s controversial past). Frederick was thus laid to rest next to the tomb of the father he hated, Frederick William I, the Soldier King. We had heard some pretty traumatic stories of Frederick’s upbringing during our tour round the palace and one could well understand his wishes to be kept apart from his father even in death.

Frederick’s coffin stayed in the garrison church until 1943 when it was removed by German soldiers for safekeeping. His father’s coffin was removed at the same time and after a few twists and turns they both ended up at the Burg Hohenzollern in Hechingen Baden Wuerttemberg.

Happily after the reunification of Germany, Frederick’s final wishes were fulfilled. On 17th August 1991, the 205th anniversary of his death, Frederick’s sarcophagus was laid out on the forecourt of Sanssouci with a military guard of honour. He was buried in his chosen resting place later that night.

You can still see all the graves of Frederick’s favourite dogs next to the main tomb (they had lain there undisturbed all that time).



Frederick The Great’s Tomb – Graves Of His Dogs In A Row


His father was reburied in the Mausoleum of the Church Of Peace (Die Friedenskirche) in Sanssouci Park. We found this church a bit dark and forbidding in comparison to the charms of Sanssouci and I’ve only shown the better photos of it here.




In addition to his summer palace at Sanssouci, Frederick also had the larger and more overtly palatial Neues Palais (The New Palace) built some 20 years or so later. It was partly built to show the rest of Europe that Prussia had survived stronger and intact following the Seven Years’ War though Frederick disliked its “ostentation” and hardly ever lived there himself.

Frederick apparently said of his desired final resting place, “”Quand je serai là, je serai sans souci” (Once I am there, I shall be carefree). Sanssouci Park is a beautiful legacy enjoyed by visitors from far and wide to this day.




Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Sanssouci was commissioned by Frederick The Great of Prussia and built between 1745 and 1747. “A crown is just a hat that lets the rain in” he once said!  He had modest tastes and wanted a place he could retreat to, far away from the pomp and grandeur of the Berlin Court.

The inscription above the entrance reads “Sans Souci” from the French “without a care” or “carefree”, as we would say in English. Frederick, as we learnt on our tour around, liked to come here and ponder affairs of state in solitude often (apart from servants) with only his dogs for company. For some reason the palace always seems to be referred to as Sanssouci in all the guide books so I’ll leave it as one word here to avoid any confusion. The Evolving Scientist has written about this conundrum too and included some lovely photos of his own tour round the palace here.



Sanssouci Palace Potsdam – Inscription “Sans Souci” without a care


Originally the grounds had been planted on Frederick’s orders with terraces containing vines and fruit trees. He later decided that the setting would be the perfect place in which to build his summer palace. The entrance to the tour starts around the other side of the palace from the terraces, but to get a better perspective, head round to the “back” to get the view down over the gardens. If you’ve walked in from the town centre, like we did, you’ll also get a wonderful view looking up from the Sanssouci grounds to the palace at the top of the hill. I’ve mixed up some photos from both our first visit to Sanssouci in 2013 and our most recent, last year, as the weather was considerably sunnier the first time around!



Entry is by pre-arranged time slots – you can buy tickets on the day without any problem but you may have to kill some time before going in, especially if there is a big tour group going round before you. With an hour or so to wait we checked out the souvenir shops and headed up to the Historic Mill (Historische Muehle) where we found a small bar/cafe in the grounds. The service was rather slow though I was able to practise my German with a lovely (and patient!) couple from Munich who shared our table! The Mill has an interesting history dating back to Frederick the Great’s time. Unlike most of the Sanssouci Park area, the original mill was destroyed in a stoush between German and Soviet troops at the end of the 2nd World War and has been rebuilt as close to the original building as possible.




We duly arrived back at the palace entrance well in time for our tour slot. Sanssouci has been likened to Versailles on a much smaller scale. If you can call a palace cosy and intimate this would be the one. With only 10 principal rooms it has the feel of a country villa, which is really what Frederick envisaged. Designed to overlook the terraced gardens and vines, the style emphasised the connection between man and nature “Frederician Rococo”. Having been to Versailles many years ago and more recently the lavish Schoenbrunn, Sanssouci felt more warm and inviting.



The bedrooms were for the most part surprisingly plain – still ornate by modern standards of course but not as ostentatious or over the top as one might expect. They had a sort of whimsical charm. Of course much of the furniture has been added later to reproduce the style of Frederick’s day. Most of the original artworks were removed for safekeeping during the 2nd World War and many have “dispersed” elsewhere.



There was still plenty of marble around the place though and neoclassical statues on display. I obviously had a fascination with the chandeliers too, as I seem to have taken plenty of photos of them! The Marmorsaal (Marble Hall) was the principal reception area and is decorated in white and gold with a dome crowned by a cupola.



Frederick, despite his liking for solitude, still entertained widely. Voltaire, the French philosopher, was a regular visitor during his stay in Potsdam between 1750 and 1753. The guest room that he usually stayed in is far more intricately decorated than the other bedrooms with yellow lacquered walls and ornate wood carvings of animals, flowers and birds. It has subsequently become known as the Voltaire Room or alternatively the Flower Room.



I preferred the simpler style of the blue and white porcelain though the ornate floral ones were very pretty in their own way!



Porcelain Collection Sanssouci


On our first visit to Potsdam we did the Original Berlin Walks “Discover Potsdam” Tour and hadn’t got enough time left to tour round the palace itself (not included in the tour price).  It was therefore a priority on our last visit to make amends. Although a hugely popular tourist destination, the palace complex is sufficiently well organised to run like clockwork. Sanssouci transports you to a bygone era and certainly makes you feel that you have no cares! There is still so much more to explore in the Sanssouci area – more to follow next week!



Sanssouci Palace


Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Potsdam, the capital of the state of Brandenburg, is only half an hour or so’s train ride from the centre of Berlin. With its elegant imperial buildings, pretty cobbled streets and laid-back vibe, it is a highly popular attraction, especially at weekends.




We were introduced to this lovely city on my first trip to Berlin in 2013 when we took a day trip with Original Berlin Walks (their “Discover Potsdam” tour).  A pleasant antidote to some of the rather dark history of Berlin, the UNESCO World Heritage City of Potsdam is steeped in history from an earlier age. It was the royal seat of the Hohenzollern rulers of Prussia and has become renowned for its splendid parks and gardens.

Sanssouci, the summer home of King Friedrich II (Frederick The Great of Prussia), is the best known and an absolute gem of a palace. Miraculously this area of Potsdam emerged relatively undamaged by the ravages of the Second World War and the Schloss Cecilienhof was the venue for the end of war Potsdam Conference between the Allied Powers. More to follow about both these attractions in later posts but before heading off to Sanssouci Park it is well worth taking a detour into the town centre.

The main street, Brandenburger Strasse, runs in a straight line from the church of St Peter and St Paul up to the impressive arch of the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) – not to be confused with the Brandenburg Gate in Pariser Platz Berlin. The Potsdam one was commissioned by Frederick The Great towards the end of the Seven Years’ War in the style of a triumphal Roman arch.




Shops, cafes, street performers and markets all cater to visitors from far and wide and the centre has more than a touch of French ambience to it.




A good tip is to head off the main drag in search of refreshments. We found so many half empty bars and restaurants down the side streets as none of the tourists seem to have discovered them!

About 50 metres away from the busy Brandenburger Strasse, we discovered Brasserie Zu Gutenberg (their webpage is only in German but rest assured the staff all speak English!). Charming decor, a fantastic wine selection and delicious seasonal produce (including my favourite “Weiss Spargel” – white asparagus) made for an excellent lunch. We enjoyed the convivial atmosphere, a world away from the fast food outlets and overcrowded cafes we had seen on the main streets.



Just what we needed before setting off to explore further – more to follow!


For more inspiration for travels and especially strolls and walks head over to Restless Jo’s Monday Walk each week!


Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved



Back on track with my Berlin series this week after a few weeks detour to Western Australia! To fit into context you can find my previous Berlin posts here.

Although only a 5 minute walk from our hotel by the River Spree, we’d somehow managed to miss seeing the Nikolaiviertel (Nicholas Quarter) on our previous trip to Berlin in 2013 so we were keen to fit it in on our visit last April.



Nikolaiviertel Berlin


Situated on the site of the oldest residential part of Berlin, renovations of this ancient area are still ongoing (like much of Berlin!) and so we couldn’t walk the most direct way along the river path. Our detour round the back streets took us past the sort of  typical sights you come across in the city centre and helps to give Berlin its quirky character.

We passed through Marx-Engels Forum, a public park on Karl-Liebkneckt Strasse, a hark back to the days of the heroes of the DDR.

We wandered down a street alongside some of the large pink pipes, which we noticed everywhere we went. These intriguing objects are not some sort of modern art installation but, as we had learnt on an earlier walking tour, a necessary by-product of the ubiquitous building work. They are required to pump away the excessive ground water that otherwise would affect foundations. Berlin is apparently built on a swamp!

On a street corner leading into the Nikolaiviertel we saw the imposing red brick facade of the Berlin Rathaus. In front of it stood the signs promoting the building work currently in progress.


The old centre of Berlin originally grew up around the River Spree in the Middle Ages. What is now known as the Nikolaiviertel was situated on an important trade route at the junction of the meeting point of the road and river. The old medieval laneways and buildings were almost completely destroyed by the Allied bombing raids during the Second World War and for many years the quarter lay virtually in ruins. It was only reconstructed between 1981 and 1987 in the lead up to the 750th anniversary of Berlin’s founding. Plans were taken from historical models and the area recreated as accurately as possible. Today it is a thriving locality with its quaint medieval passages and small streets. Cafes and bars line the square leading from the river and there are many more shops and eateries hidden away in the surrounding streets. Naturally it is a popular spot especially for a Sunday stroll and the spring sunshine added to the appeal on the day we were there!



The imposing twin spires of the Nikolaikirche (St Nicholas’ Church) dominate the quarter. The foundation stone was laid early in the 13th century and the church built in the late Romanesque style. Even before its wartime destruction the church had been discontinued (in 1938) as a place of worship and given over to the government. It was subsequently used as a concert hall and an ecclesiastical museum. Rebuilt along with the rest of the neighbourhood in the 1980s, it is now administered by the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin. Along with the Nikolaikirche, the Stadtmuseum also takes care of a couple of other buildings of historical interest in the Nikolaiviertel, the Ephraim-Palais and the Knoblauchhaus.



Walking around and absorbing history can be surprisingly tiring so with thoughts of lunch we turned down one of the quieter streets and came across Toute Sweet a pretty little cafe specialising in Dutch delicacies. Sitting at the tables by the side of the street, we had the place more or less to ourselves and a perfect view back to the impressive twin spires of the Nikolaikirche.


The Nikolaiviertel is well worth checking out. All being well by the time we go again the building works will be complete and it will possible to walk right along the banks of the River Spree to reach this charming old neighbourhood.


Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Just by way of a postscript to my last couple of posts about the Ferguson Valley (see here and here) I should mention our base of Bunbury. We were lucky enough to be staying with my cousin for the weekend only a stone’s throw from the seashore.



Back Beach Bunbury


Bunbury is a port city about 2 hours south of Perth and many people just breeze through en route to the Cape Naturaliste/Margaret River area further south. It has a rich colonial heritage and has really reinvented itself as a tourist destination in the last decade or so. You can read up more information here.


A major attraction are the bottle nose dolphins, which often swim close to the beach in the Koombana Bay waters. The Dolphin Discovery Centre is a popular place to visit and learn more about these beautiful creatures.


We didn’t have much time to look round Bunbury itself on our recent visit but we did do a couple of waterside walks, one to the bay and the other in the Back Beach area to Wyalup Rocky Point.


Even if you’re heading on down further south, Bunbury is a great spot in which to break the journey. The town centre has many cafes and restaurants and the nearby beach promenade makes a good place to stretch and unwind!


Guide to Bunbury Waterside Walks


Next week back to complete my Berlin posts after a few weeks hiatus!


Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

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