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Published: July 10th 2010
From Berlin, we started our driving journey across northern Germany, beginning first with Potsdam, then to Leipzig later that same day.
Settled originally in the Bronze Age, and chartered in 1345, Potsdam was left in relative obscurity until 1660, when Frederick Wilhelm I, Elector of Brandenburg, made it his hunting capital. Later, it became an official residence of the Prussian royal family until 1918. At the end of World War II, it was the site of the two weeks’ of meetings among the Russians, Americans, and British in which the future boundaries of post-war Europe were decided. Now it is mostly a museum city, and the Sans Souci palace complex is the largest UNESCO World Heritage Site in Germany.
We started our visit at Cecilienhof, the site of the Potsdam Conference that set up new European boundaries after World War II. The conference took place in late July-August 1945. Since FDR had died in April, Truman attended for the United States. Stalin attended for Russia, and Britain was represented initially by Churchill and subsequently by Clement Atlee after the Labour Party won new elections in Britain. One of the highlights of the meeting was Stalin’s feigned anger at
not being told in advance of the atomic bomb, while in actuality he had infiltrated two agents into the Manhattan Project and know about the bomb before Truman did.
Following a brief visit to Cecilienhof, we went to the Sans Souci palace complex. This is actually several different buildings, but the best three are the Orangery (for visiting dignitaries), the Chinese Tea House, and the Sans Souci palace itself for the royal family. As palaces go, it is relatively modest, and is very reminiscent of Versailles.
There is much more to be seen in Potsdam for the interested visitor, but headed on out for Leipzig.
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