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