Potsdam: Christmas at the Palace

Although I’d decided to stay put in Berlin for a week, I did manage one out-of-town excursion to Potsdam, Berlin’s next-door neighbor. Frankly, winter is not the ideal time to visit (unless, of course, you’re on a Christmas market quest).

Potsdam Tourismus

Potsdam is quite a charming city. It was practically invented by Frederick the Great when he chose it for the site of Schloss Sanssouci, the beautiful palace that became his summer retreat. Members of the Prussian court soon followed and built their own luxurious estates. Although Potsdam sustained significant bomb damage in the war and was not really restored until after Reunification, many areas have now been granted UNESCO World Heritage Status.

I went with my daughter to Potsdam on a Sunday, in theory an easy trip on Berlin public S-Bahn transport, although, on that day, snowy weather led to slow and crowded trains.

Outside the Potsdam train station, we hopped on a streetcar to the main Christmas market in the center of the city, which stretched for several long blocks along a pedestrianized (at least during the market) shopping street. Although it was bustling, it was also pretty generic so we walked quickly to the end and found a bus to Sanssouci and the Romantic Christmas Market that is held just outside its gates.

The market’s official location is the Krongut Bornstedt, or Bornstedt Crown Estate, which was commissioned by Frederick William IV—a subsequent Prussian ruler—to be a model farm in the Italian style, though you’d never figure that out when the market is on.

Krongut-Bornstedt

While much of the Christmas market is held outdoors in a large courtyard—the white, tented stalls are topped with crowns rather than the more common stars—it also extends to the surrounding buildings, which include a very attractive Brauhaus, the Royal Bakery and its tea room, and extensive shopping featuring artisan-made wares.

There was also a large tent where people could sit with their Glühwein and get out of the cold. A local men’s choir was singing while we were there and I really felt I’d wandered back for a moment to a time of more innocence—people gathering naturally to share simple pleasures and the joys of the Christmas season. It’s what keeps drawing me back to Germany at Christmas.

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