A ship is coming laden
The commemorative plaque at the campanile, the bell tower of the Church of the Redeemer (“Heilandskirche”) in Sacrow, shows wild flashes. It commemorates the 27th August 1897 when the Physicists Adolf Slaby and Georg Graf von Arco succeeded in the wireless transmission of signals over a distance of 1,6 km to the naval base Kongnaes. For their first experiments with radiotelegraphy they simply converted the bell tower into a radio mast. Earlier experiments in Charlottenburg had disarrayed the entire telephone traffic.
When building the wall in 1961 GDR border troups included the bell tower into the barrier and attached heavy concrte slabs directly to its walls – the church was now situated in the no man’s land between East and West. The first joint service after the opening of the borders was held on Christmas Eve in 1989. Since then the church that seems to be anchored in the River Havel like a ship is part of what was conceived as an undived Prussian arcadia. Inside the church Christ in his glory watches over the world.
The so-called “Borkenküche” (literally “bark kitchen”) – entirely wainscoted with oak bark and with an owl topping its chimney – is another of the oddities of the “New Garden”. In this kitchen food and drinks were prepared for the mysterious parties held in the nearby “Muschelgrotte” (“Shell Grotto”). The visitor discovered this grotto almost by chance – a deliberate ploy since the artificial grotto, just like its natural prototypes, was meant to unfold its full charm only after entering it. The walls of the grotto were elaborately decorated with mirrors, coloured glass, stones and shells, the floor was paved with marble. According to legend the spiritually interested King Friedrich Wilhem II. not only used it as a hidden retreat but also held seances in the grotto.
The shell motifs after 1730 became the basis for the development of the rocaille, an asymmetrial, shell-like, decorative ornament of late Baroque. The name of this period, Rococo, was derived from the term rocaille; in stucco, wainscoting, furniture and porcelain this pattern was omnipresent.
“This is Edgar Wallace speaking!”
A man drops down dead under mysterious circumstances in Waterloo Station. Somebody took a neckchain with a key from the corpse. The first hint leads Inspector Martin of Scotland Yard to a castle owned by the deceased Lord Selford who sent keys to seven of his friends immediately before he died …
Klaus Kinski and Eddy Arendt rambled the Pfaueninsel in the fog during the shooting of “The Door with Seven Locks”. Several crime films based on novels by Edgar Wallace were shot at the site; due to its remoteness the Pfaueninsel was the ideal location. Didn’t the entire Potsdam landscape with its parks and palaces take inspiration from English sources? Besides the Castle itself the keen viwer will discover the small Gothic chapel, the delapidated dairy farm and the boathouse in the movies of this “Master of Crime”.
To the cannons!
With colourful pennants fluttering on the masts this ship looks even
prettier. The British king William IV. presented his cousin, King Friedrich
Wilhelm III., with a real English frigate and named it after his deceased
wife. To make sure that the “Royal Louise” matched the rather restricted
space on the River Havel, it was shrunk in scale to one-third of the
In winter the miniature frigate is kept at the Pfaueninsel in what is only
insufficiently described as a shed. The building is shaped like a ships body
turned upside down and the interior wooden construction makes the
frigate shed look almost like a church. The buolding was designed in 1832
by the court architect Schadow.
The”Royal Louise” still cruises the river today, through as a reproduction
true to the original. The crew climbing the rigging are members of the
“Potsdam Royal Louise Yacht- and Ship Building Society”.
Raise your glasses
Just as for all the other building projects initiated by the Hohenzollern the site for the dairy has been carefully selected. It is embedded into the landscape along the River Havel; Sacrow and Klein-Glienicke can be seen while the building itself is a prominent landmark, too. Apart from cattle breding the dairy farm was the provider of dairy products for the royal court kitchen. Not far from the cowshed and the house of the dairy farmer there was a closet; in this wallpapered and veneered space the king as served up milk in green glasses. In the meantime his majesty watched the cows grazing – a truly idyllic scene.
The drinks menu has changed considerably. In 1800 the dairy already offered coffee and milk to visitors of the park; against all rules brandy and tobacco were available, too, much to the disgust of the lord stewart. The sojourners loved the plae and since 2002 they again have the opportunity to drink their Sunday beer at their leisure.
The coachmen had to wear a “decent livery” as well as quality trousers, boots and hats; they had to offer their “service to the public” between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. . All this is stated in the “Reglement für Droschkenfuhrwesen” (“Regulations for hackney coaches”) issued on 22nd June 1839. Other things stipulated include the number of hackneys permitted to work in Potsdam, stopping places in the city and, of course, fares.
It is difficult to imagine today that a one point in time it was entertaining to watch the traffic on the Königstrasse. But this actually was the case when carts and carriages frequented the bridge at Glienicke on their way to and from Berlin. Prince Carl and his wife Marie watched what happened in the street with curiosity since the two pavillions called “Kleine Neugierde” and “Große Neugierde” (“Little curiosity/Large curiosity”) provided an unrestricted view of the events. The gilded rotunda of the “Große Neugierde” an be seen from afar; in 1835 Carl had it built in the parc of his castle after a design by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The rather understated “Kleine Neugierde” was initially built as a garden pavillion in 1796.
Its owners have long passed away but the trusty stone animal still watches over palace and park.
Princess Augusta, the wife of emperor WIlhelm I., was in charge of the building works at Babelsberg. Being very interested in the arts, she had received painting lessions by none less than Goethe in Weimar. Stubborn and resolute she insisted on having her own ideas included in the designs though they sometimes lacked a sense of style. She delighted in lavish decoration, favoured the English Tudor style of Windsor Castle did not shy away from idiosyncratic combinations. In an opulent Gothic suite of rooms one by her personal request was decorated in the Baroque style. Schinkel, who indicated his dissent by sending Persius to represent him at the inauguration of the first tract, died during the following planning stages. Maybe this was for his own good as it spared him the sight of the final building with its pictoresque bay windows and turrets.
Across land and sea
Eight points are characteristic for the Maltese cross. According to modern interpretations they refer to the eight beatitudes in the Sermon of the Mount. This cross does not only adorn the Maltese flag but is also the symbol of the Order of St. John and is shown on the Griffin Gate in Glienicke. This is not just a coincidence since Prinz Carl, the owner of Glienicke Castle, was invested as Master of the Knights (“Herrenmeister”) in 1853. Two knights of the order are also depicted on a painted glas window of the chapel in Klein-Glienicke.
The presence of the Order of St. John in Brandenburg can be traced back to 1351. After its secularisation by tha Prussian state in 1810-11 all assets of the order were confiscated but the order continued to exist as an association without property. In 1852 the Order of St. John was re-established by King Friedrich WIlhelm IV., this time as an independent, exclusively Protestant order of knighthood.
Initially the order was founded in Jerusalem in 1099. After the dominions of the crusaders were lost the Order of St. John retreated first to Cyprus, then to Rhodes. Expelled again, this time by the Ottomans, they strayed across the Mediterranean before they finally settled on the island of Malta in 1530 and established it as the new head quarter of the order.
Salve Peter Joseph
Even Lenné was acknowledged with a characteristic nickname by the people of Berlin – they called him “Buddelpeter” (“Digging Peter”). He was not only entrusted with designing the landscape around Potsdam but the King also tasked him with the city planning of Berlin. Lenné developed the plans for private gardens, recreation areas and public parks. he himself also lived in a park for some time – in an official residence in the Grünes Haus (Green House) at the Neuer See (New Lake).
On the occasion of his anniversary in royal service on 15th February 1866 he should have been crowned with a gilded laurel wreath but in the end this wreath was carried in front of his coffin on the way to his funeral. Today it is on display in the Hofgärtnermuseum (Court Gardener Museum) in Glienecke Castle together with Lennés smoker’s utensil. Each of the fifty laurel leaves is engraved with the name of one of his gardens; among them are his creations for Potsdam: Sacrow, the Pfaueninsel, Babelsberg, the Pfingstberg et cetera.
There is no plat hanging down from it but the Flatow Tower on the Babelsberg (Mount Babel) seems to belong to a fairy tale. On its top there is the Prussian eagle in exalted position with crown, szeptre, orb and the initials FR, Fredericus Rex, for Friedrich I. on its chest. The royal eagle kept these attributes until the Weimar republic.
Second only to the lion the eagle is one of the most popular animals in heraldry – it can be shown seated, standing, flying off or reclining, as a double eagle, with two or even three heads. The eagle was a symbol of kingship already in the ancient Orient. In Persia and Egypt he replaced the vulture. Alexander the Great brought this symbol to Europe and under Octavian it reached Rome where it became the symbol of the empire – a symbolism the eagle’s later use in royal coins and heraldry refers to.
Does a magician live there? Why then is nobody allowed to acess the Pfaueninsel? Smoke is seen from afar and smeels spread across the land. The island belongs to Johann Kunckel, the Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm gave it to him in 1685. Kunckel is experienting with glas, with its melting temperature and chemical processes. His endeavour is to create Cranberry glas; this means to him what the creation of gold means to others. On his island he runs his glass kilnand procuces the valuable dark red glass vessels but also beads, the so-called “corals” used in the exchange trade between indigenous African tribes and the Great Elector. His book “Ars Vitriae” is among the most important books on glass production. When his patron died Kunckel falls from grace; his glass kiln burns down onle three years later, probably a case of arson.
A memorial stone and an exhibition in the Dairy at the Pfaueninsel are dedicated to this exceptionally gifted scientist.
Across all walls
Ladders were an unwelcome sight for the border patrol in Klein-Glienicke. Hardly surprising because a ladder leaning against the Berlin wall indicated that yet another citizen of the GDR had climbed over and made his escape. For this reason ladders in the exclusion area around West Berlin had to be kept under tight wraps. Any infringement resulted in a fine of 5 marks and it was forbidden alltogether to own a large ladder.
Only 15 metres wide was the GDR at its most narrow point in Klein-Glienicke that was called “blind gut of the GDR” for this reason. There was just one small bridge connecting the place to Babelsberg and the rest of the country. Fully shielded were its inhabitants and under permanent observation by the state, but some of them still managed to escape by spectacular means – swimming, jumping or through a tunnel they dug with their own hands.
To see Venice and die
No, it’s not a dream – right in the middle of the Prussian landscape along the river Havel there is a lion, the symbol of Mark, on a column. Prince Carl who was fascinated by Italy, had this column and the far from beautiful lion sculpture erected. In fact this ‘connoisseur and protector of everything beautyful“ had the entire cloister of a Carthusian monastery on the Island of San Andrea della Certosa near Venice dismantled stone by stone before it was demolished. The cloister was removed to Glienecke and was used to create a monastery yard of Byzantine appearance behind the castle. Numerous fragments of antique and medieval art, souvenirs of his travels, were placed as spoils in the walls of the castle and the monastery yard or were set up in the gardens. In the courtyard of the castle you come across two Corinthian capitells from the Pantheon in Rome, the floor mosaic in a garden pavillion called ”Kleine Neugierde“ (Little Curiosity) originally came from Carthage – Prince Carl even bought a capitell with a monkey from the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
“For god’s sake! Don’t move, we are stuck on a large pine tree!”
The landscape gardener Pückler was observing the banks of the river Havel while floating across the Grunewald in a hot air balloon. However, he did not stay in the air for long but crashed – just as he descibed in the quote from his book “Tutti frutti” – in a tree top.
In Berlin the excentric prince was noticed for other escapades: He drove along “Unter den Linden” with deers harnessed to his carriage before he stopped at the Café Kranzler But there was a double nature in this enfant terrible. With great care he planned the gardens in Muskau, Branitz and Babelsberg and he did not hesitate to roll up his sleeves and muck in. With his friend Augusta, the wife of Emperor WIlhelm I., he discussed the plans for the park in Babelsberg and presented her with a blue macaw.
The sailor’s home of the Hohenzollern family
Emperor WIlhelm II was most enterprising; his subjects mockingly called him the “Reisekaiser” (“travelling emperor”). By land and by sea he travelled for an average of 200 days every year. With his steam-powered yacht “Hohenzollern” he cruised the Mediterranean to Corfu, Italy, Turkey or Palestine. He particularly enjoyed his journeys to the Nordic countries and had his sailors station on the bank of the Jungfernsee rebuilt in the Norwegian dragon style. The architect who selected a restaurant in Kristiania as his model, had the building’s parts prefabricated in Norway before they were put together in Potsdam.
From “Kongnaes”, i.e. “the king’s land tongue”, the imperial family happily cruised to their Berlin palace on theirsalon steamers. For the mini frigate “Royal Louise” the sailor’s station served as her home port.
A grunting menace from the forest
5000 to 8000 wild pigs are reportedly living in and around Berlin. Sometimes one of them crosses a forest track and startles the ramblers.
Two of these animals can also be seen on the Gerichtslaube (court loggia) in the parc at Babelsberg. They are, however, carved in stone and represent gluttony and fornication. The pretty red brick building is not – as one might think – a historicising revival of gothic shapes. It actually dates back to the 13th century and was once part of the old city hall. When the Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall) was erected, replacing the older building, the loggia was taken down brick by brick and presented them to Wilhelm I.
The master builder at his court, Persius, had all the bits and pieces put together again in Babelsberg Parc.
A spiritualistic cool box
How most eerie things can be united with Prussian pragmatism can be seen in another exotic though small building in the New Garden (Neuer Garten). A pyramid – similar to the wonder of the world seen in Cairo – displays enigmatic occult signs and hieroglyphs. The planet symbols at the door must originally have held an astrological or alchemical meaning since the building owner, Friedrich Wilhelm II., was a member of the Secret Society of the Rosicrucians and had a lifelong inclination towards the paranormal.
The pyramid, built between 1791 and 1792 by C.G. Langhans as an ice house, serve as a royal fridge where food was kept during the summer. At the end of each winter ice was brought to the ice house from the Heiligen See („sacred lake“); reportedly it did last until the end of autumn next year.
Not by Pückler
A striped icecream was all the rage during the 1970s; this is roughly what the original looked like. The icecream was, however, not invented by Pückler himself. It was rather the creation of Ferdinand Jungius, the cook of the Prussian king, who describes the recipe for this ice cream bombe in his cookbook and dedicated it to the prince.
50 g dark chocolate
600 g whipping cream
150 g icing sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 egg yolk
150 g frozen strawberries
100 g whipping cream
6 chocolate flakes
- Line a rectangular cake tin with greaseproof paper.. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie and allow it to cool for a moment. Whip cream and icing sugar and distribute it equally into three bowls.
- Mix the chocolate with one third of the cream, pour it into the cake tin. Smooth it and deepfreeze it for 15 minutes. Cut the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the brown seeds.
- Mix the vanilla seeds and the egg yolk with another third of the cream. Spread on top of the chocolate layer and freeze for another 15 minutes. Defrost the strawberries and purée them with a hand blender.
- Mix the strawberry purée with the last third of the cream, spread it on top of the vanilla layer and freeze it over night. Dip the cake tin briefly into hot water to loosen the ice cream before tipping it onto a tray. Remove the paper.
- Cut the ice cream into thick slices. Whip the remaining cream and fill it into a piping bag with a large star nozzle. Decorate each slice with cream, chocolate flakes and a slice of a fresh strawberry.
Out of his admiration for everything English Prince Carl signed the bill of sale for the castle at Glienecke as ”Sir Charles Glienecke“. Walking on a mosaic of his initials designed by Friedrich Schinkel the visitor enters the castle. The anglophile prince not only loved English racehorses and introduced coursing. he also had a preference for Italy. Glienicke was transformed into an Italian villa by Schinkel, the landscape gardener Lenné created gardens with a distinctive mediterranean ambience. Switzerland, another highly fashionable destination at the time, also attracted the prince. Coming back from a journey to Switzerland in the summer of 1861 he decided that he wanted to recreate the Swiss countryside opposite todays Königstraße in Klein-Glienicke. He bought land on a large scale, had the humble houses demolished and mansions built in an alpine style instead. Romantically arranged boulders and artificial rock formations were placed to create a pictoresque mountain scenery equal to that of Switzerland. The river Bäke flowed through this idyll as a mountain rivulet and only the cows were missing.
But the GDR and its border protection did stop at nothing. Six of the formerly approximately ten Swiss cottages hampered border security and were subsequently pulled down after 1961.
Lingustics – the Russian ö
A samovar for the preparation of Russian tea was first mentioned in 1730. The friendship between Russia and Germany exists for an equally long time. In 1817 the daughter of King Friedrich Wilhelm III. and Queen Luise married the Russian Tzar Nikolai. In honour of the couple the king within only six weeks had a blockhouse build in the Russian style opposite the Pfaueninsel. He selected a white-bearded Russian named Ivan as castellan and called the place Никольское, “belonging to Nikolai”. As an indicator to how to pronounce this name properly a transliteration was added: Nikolskoë. The two dots above the e, the so-called trema, indicated that both vowels had to be pronounced separately and should not form the German umlaut ö. In the course of time, however, the dots got lost and Nikolskoë became Nikolskoe. Therefore people near the Wannsee speak of “Nikolskö” and whoever knows Russian shakes his head in bewilderment.
The politics of flowers
Red geraniums were used to form the five-pointed Sowjet star in the courtyard of Cecilienhof palace. Stalin probably had it made to tease the other negotiators as Churchill and Truman had to cross this yard and pass by the star every day. Gardeners commissioned by the Sowjets planted this bright symbol in the weeks before the Potsdam conference. Stalin was the organiser of this meeting that was held between July 17th and August 2nd to regulate political relations after the war.
The pentagram – mathematically the Sowjet star belongs into this category – is a very old symbol invested with a multitude of meanings. And the star that since 1923 adorned the flag of the Soviet Union was charged with significance, too. It should light the way to worldwide communism and as a symbol of the international labour movement its points represented the five continents.
From east to west
It might be called anticipatory cynism when East German officials renamed the Glienicker Brücke immediately after its provisional repair in 1949 “Brücke der Einheit” (“Bridge of Unity”). A white line in the middle of this bridge marked the border between the GDR and West Berlin. The exchange of agents between East and West inspired the nick name “bridge of spies” and Steven Spielbergs movie of the same title.
A turnpike was installed on the bridge fare before the Cold War at the end of the 18th century. It made sure that coachmen did not use the bridge without being controlled. Later even pedestrians had to pay a fee, the so-called Chausseegeld (turnpike toll), to support building work for the bridge.
Anybody who takes a closer look notices that the West Berlin part of the bridge is painted in a slightly lighter hue of blue than the Potsdam part – even the paint recipes of East and West did not match.
Roar on the Pfaueninsel
“A ride to Pfaueninsel was the most enjoyable family party of the year for people from Berlin and the youth was happy to watch the sprightly moves of the monkeys, the funny cloddishness of the bear and the strange skipping of the kangaroo … One dreamt of being in India and viewed with both delight and horror the fauna of the South: aligators and snakes, the miraculous chamaeleon…“ (August Kopisch*)
In 1836 the king of Sweden presented two rendeer – accompanied by two Laplanders – to the animal lover King Friedrich Wilhelm III. The steamboat Henriette on the other hand delivered a lion, two anteaters and two monkeys from Hamburg harbour to the Pfaueninsel. Llamas, monkeys, lions, kangaroos, buffalos, beavers, deer – they all lived on the island at times. Even bears were kept in a special compound. In 1832 there were 847 animals and the landscape gardener Joseph Lenné created an adequate environment for them. The heir to the throne, Friedrich Wilhelm IV., did not care for the menagerie of wild beasts and gave away the animals as well as some of the buildings and equipement to the Zoological Society newly founded in Berlin in 1842. Visitors were able to view them in the first German zoo, the Zoological Garden in Berlin established in 1844.
A present for the host
A golden pineapple crowns the top of a Chinese parasol in the New Garden. The fitter Krüger is said to have created it around 1787 „made of sheet metal painted green, with gilt chains, beads and tassels”. The exotism of the 19th century was not too particular regarding geography – the pineapple does not originate in Asia but was given to Columbus in 1493 as a welcome by the indigenous people of Guadeloupe in South America. This kind of present was adapted by Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau. He presented a pineapple instead of a bouquet of flowers to ladies he adored. The landscape gardener and creator of the park at Babelsberg even tried to grow the exotic fruit in his own garden in Bad Muskau but unfortunately this attempt was not successful. The pineapple was very popular for garden parties, too. Pineapple-shaped lamps made from coloured glass lit garden parties in Paretz and probably also on the Pfaueninsel as there are several lamps of this type in the dairy of the island.