“Escapism” is the operative word in Potsdam. So, too, is “indulgence.” It may be mere minutes by train from the hustle and bustle of Berlin, but visitors to Potsdam could be forgiven for thinking they’d taken a time machine to an earlier era. Pick a direction along the tree-lined streets and walkways, and it feels like you’re wandering through a living museum.
No matter where your wanderings take you, be sure to check out Sanssouci. The name of the “German answer to Versailles” means “without concerns” for a reason. Perhaps the most tranquil spot in all of Germany, hours pass while strolling its expansive grounds and marvelling at its Rococo palaces in the blink of an eye. The perfect place for families and couples, don’t forget to have tea or coffee at one of the many picturesque cafes and teahouses, or take in a performance from the flute players that sometimes perform in period costume.
Equally tranquil is the Church of Peace. Essentially serving as one “entrance” to Sanssouci, walking the High Medieval Italian-style church’s colonnades also has the effect of melting one’s worries away. It’s also especially romantic during the winter months, when snow might be dusting the grounds and numerous statues.
Connecting to the more recent past, Potsdam has also played a key role in some of the most important events in Europe in the last few decades. Visitors today can visit the Cecilienhof, the English Tudor-style palace that hosted the Potsdam Conference near the end of World War II. Nearby is also the Glienicker Brücke, better known as the “Bridge of Spies”. The site of many prisoner exchanges between East and West during the Cold War, it recently had a central role in the 2015 Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks-starring film simply called
Bridge of Spies.
A bit harder to find, but no less interesting, is Krampnitz. A former German, and later Soviet, military base, you may have seen it before: after all, scenes from Hollywood flicks like Enemy at the Gates, The Monuments Men and Valkyrie were shot here because it’s been so well-preserved and is close to Potsdam’s Babelsberg Film Studio, where Hollywood blockbusters from V for Vendetta, Captain America: Civil War and The Bourne Supremacy to The Hunger Games have been filmed.
It may have been invented elsewhere, but Germany has taken the Döner kebab and turned it into a national staple. And why not? Not only is the combination of chicken or lamb with flatbread, onion, salad and sauce delicious, but also quite affordable. And fortunately, Potsdam has plenty of great places to try it, especially along Brandenburger Straße (Brandenburg Street) in the quaint city centre in front of the Brandenburg Gate (older than the famous site of the same name in Berlin, but no less impressive). Tip: if feeling adventurous, try the “scharf” (“spicy”) variety and take it along for a picnic.