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Why haven’t you visited awesome Potsdam when visiting Germany? Truthfully, I had never even considered it until I went on Elegant Elbe with Viking Cruises! I would certainly go again, it is so charming!
Potsdam is the capital city of the German state of Brandenburg. The town has a very long history, and if you want to learn about its very early days, there are plenty of great books available, particularly about the Hohenzollerns, the royal family. As you probably know, there are few things as complicated as royal family trees, so I am going to give a tiny bit of history, and try to be as simple as possible. As we know, in 1517, Martin Luther, a monk from Wittenburg, in the principality of Saxony, nailed 95 theses on the door of Castle Church, challenging the practices of the Roman Catholic Church. This event started an earthquake which spread across Europe called the Reformation. With the advent of Lutheranism, the Hohenzollerns split into two factions, one remaining Catholic, the other embracing religious freedom. In 1640, Frederick William of the House of Hohenzollern became the ruler of Brandenburg. He was eventually known as “The Great Elector”. On 29 October of 1685, Frederick William issued the Edict of Potsdam, announcing the policy of religious tolerance, extremely unusual at the time. He invited the persecuted protestants of France, known as Huguenots, to emigrate to Potsdam. Persecuted peoples from other nations, like Russia, Holland, and Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) also began to come into the town, making Potsdam a center of immigration and religious freedom. Potsdam grew from 1500 souls to 5000 during the next 50 years, making Potsdam a city with 2/3rds immigrants. By 1701, the Duke of Prussia and the Margrave of Brandenburg became known as the King in Prussia. (In case you don’t know, Germany was not a “country” until 1871, until that time it was a group of independently ruled principalities. Prussia became the largest and most influential).
Frederick William I, known as “the Soldier King”, made Potsdam the “Heart of the Military Monarchy”. Potsdam became a garrison of soldiers, the most famous and elite unit was Frederick William I’s Potsdam Giants. All Potsdam Giants had to be 6’2″ at the least! And he didn’t care if they were basically kidnapped, he wanted to breed a very tall race of Germans for battle. The next King of Prussia (which included Brandenburg) was Frederick II. The Germans love to give nicknames, and he became known as “Old Fritz”. He is best known as Frederick the Great. This was the time of the Enlightenment, and Frederick the Great moved the main residence of Prussia to Potsdam, and began to build castles. His favorite was Sanssouci (in French, “without worries”). He only occupied Sanssouci for about 3 weeks of the year, but it was the place he most loved, and he was buried there with his dogs! He did marry, but after the wedding the two never spent a single night together. But that’s another story! I loved that he was buried with 11 dogs, all of them Whippets! (He named them after the mistresses of the King of France.)
So, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Potsdam, and my friend, Suzanne, of Adventures of Empty Nesters, and I enjoyed a lovely lunch and stroll through town. It was a tourist destination even when it was in East Germany after World War II. Though the Communist state didn’t maintain the the city and villas well, they did allow them to be toured. Thank goodness!
Stay tuned for the Bridge of Spies!
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