Berlin is great, but as you are here, why not take the opportunity to visit Potsdam? Come with me for half or even a whole day to visit this beautiful town.
A tour through Potsdam?s town centre has much to offer: the old market with its Nikolaikirche; its Obelisks; the Fortuna gateway; the ?Square of Unity?; and the Dutch Quarter.
Wonderful landmarks they may be, but Potsdam is a much older town than they suggest. First mentioned in 993, the town grew successively and its town walls were moved several times to accommodate its expansion. Changed by a succession of princes and kings, Potsdam developed into a town with many faces. It was founded as a garrison town at the turn of the 18th century by the Prussian soldier King Friedrich Wilhelm I: he drained the marshlands and arranged for a number of characteristic two-storey houses to be built in the town centre. Greater renown came during the reign of his son Friedrich II with the construction of Schloss Sansscouci as a summer palace. Passing through Potsdam?s Brandenburg gate, our route takes us over the Luisenplatz along the avenue to Sansscouci. Leaving the palace, we return to the town centre via the Russian colony Alexandrowka, itself a product of the early 19th century when it was built for the Russian singers of the Prussian guard regiments.
Potsdam during the Cold War
Famous for the role it performed during the Cold War as a meeting point for the secret services of East and West and the location of a number of agent swaps, today the Glienicker Bridge fulfils its more mundane as a crossing-point between Berlin and Potsdam. Not far from here is Schloss Ceclilienhof, where Stalin, Truman and Churchill (replaced during the negotiations by Atlee) met in the summer of 1945 to plan the post-war future of Germany. Only a few days after this meeting, later to become known as the Potsdam conference, the Soviet Military Administration erected Military Town No. 7 only a stone?s throw away. Little is left of this today ? only the memorial in the Leistikowstraße (the site of the remand prison) bears witness to the presence here of the Soviet counter-espionage division (SMERSH).
The Cold War was not just confined to the periphery of Potsdam; the Stasi operations centre and prison (today the memorial is in the Lindenstraße) were located at the very centre of this jewel of a town. The Wilhelmplatz was renamed as the Square of Unity (Platz der Einheit). The GDR left its mark on Potsdam, where Baroque edifices mingle with tower blocks, seeking (and usually failing) to imitate the architectural heritage of the town. The gaps in the otherwise beautiful Dutch quarter also give testimony to the urban decay from which the GDR suffered.