Citytrip in Potsdam – lots of history & great film sets!

For an extended weekend we have chosen at Ascension Day Potsdam as a short holiday destination. One thing first: Potsdam is ideal for a short break! If you want to experience history and great scenery, there are many possibilities in the city. With castle Sanssouci and the new palace as well as the gardens, the historic town of castle Cecilienhof, where the Potsdam conference was held, and the film studios in Babelsberg (location of the famous German daily soap “Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten”) Potsdam offers a colourful mix of different possibilities.

Our highlights in four days Potsdam (with a small detour to Berlin)

  • The Dutch Quarter in Potsdam
  • Brandenburger Straße with the Brandenburg Gate (also in Potsdam there is a Brandenburg Gate!)
  • City tour with a hop-on/hop-off bus
  • Visit Sanssouci Castle
  • Cecilienhof Castle (Potsdam Conference with Stalin, Truman and Churchill after World War II) World War II – beginning of the “Cold War”)
  • Babelsberg Film Park

Our hotel in Potsdam was located in the suburb of Drewitz, which is dominated by prefabricated buildings. The good connection with the tram made it possible to get to the centre of Potsdam quickly (single trip 2,10 Euro, 1-day ticket 8,40 Euro, transit time approx. 25 minutes). Potsdam as a city we found to be very “compact”, so that the essential points could be reached by foot.

The city centre of Potsdam

So what do you do in the city on four days? On Ascension Day we first explored the city centre in the afternoon after our arrival. Brandenburger Straße with its shops and the Brandenburg Gate was to become the focal point of the next few days. The pedestrian zone ends at the western end of the Brandenburg Gate, from where it is only a stone’s throw away to the magnificent gardens of Sanssouci Castle. In the east you can go directly to the Dutch Quarter, where you almost feel like visiting a Dutch town. If you are more interested in Russian influences, we recommend a visit to the Russian colony Alexandrovka. The colony was built for Russian prisoners of war.

A trip to Berlin

Day 2 we used the opportunity to visit Berlin to get to know the city from the water side. With the car the journey was not a big problem despite the Protestant church congress and so we stood after a good half hour at the Spree riverside. Berlin on one day is of course also an impossibility; -). With the excursion ship and the captain’s humorous comments, it was possible to get a good first impression of the buildings in the government district.  From the ship it was indeed a different viewpoint and, above all, a very relaxed city tour. We had “just” booked the little tour. If you are going to Berlin, just have a look at the many providers. There are some who offer round trips and don’t go back on the same route.

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The “Currywurst” Fiasco

Berlin offers so many things that we decided to just stroll along the Kurfürstendamm and to look at other points in Berlin on a forthcoming holiday. A real Berlin visit also includes the doner kebab or currywurst. Both are said to have been invented in Berlin. Via Google you can quickly find the alleged top ten of the best doner kebab stalls and currywurst snacks. We decided to have the currywurst and were really disappointed. With this sausage, the currywurst was supposed to have made its success story out of Berlin? If only we had decided for the kebab stall with the 200-metre-long snake across from the curry sausage stall.

Potsdam with an Oldtimerbus

The penultimate day began and the day’s goal was clear: Explore Potsdam in a relaxed way! In the best weather we drove back to the city centre by tram. The most central stops are the “Brandenburger Straße” or “Platz der Einheit”. In the pedestrian precinct there is a great café with the “Extrablatt”. You get an extensive breakfast at a fair price (7,45 Euro / buffet). The meeting point of the Oldtimer city tour at Potsdam’s train station was a good place to meet. On our way there, we “took along”the imposing St. Nikolaiskirche as well as the old town hall and the newly built Potsdam’s city palace (headquarters of the state parliament) on the Old Market Square.

A mosque that is not a mosque and the new palace

Our tour in the historic double-decker bus took us from the train station via the Havel at the Stadtschloss, the film museum to the old pump house for the water features in Sanssouci. Due to the claims of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. The pump house was to be integrated into the cityscape without the industrial character and was therefore designed as a mosque. Another scenery in Potsdam… From there the bus went over the direction of Park Charlottenhof, past the old emperor train station (today the training centre of the DB.) to the “Neue Palais”. On the spot we had about 20 minutes with the tour guide to look at the buildings. Not really much for a visit to this facility, but at 28°C in the shade sufficient for a first glance. And that was very impressive. In just under six years of construction time, a castle was built for the guests of Frederick the Great.

Scenes everywhere…

It was amusing to learn that the “stones” on the façade are only painted. For reasons of cost, it was not possible to afford real clinker bricks. Due to the lack of a heating, the castle could only be used in summer – as if somebody saved money at the wrong end. Again a big backdrop… just like the communities behind the castle, which housed the “only” the economic areas. The two buildings are very impressive in themselves. From the New Palace, we then drove in the oldtimer bus past the Dragon’s House, the Orangery and the historic mill directly to the world-famous Sanssouci Castle.

Sanssouci Castle

When you think of Potsdam, you usually think of Sanssouci Palace, which is often described as Prussian Versailles. It is this one classic picture with the view of a yellow lock with the green copper dome and the wide stairs that one looks up. With this picture in mind, the real castle looks surprisingly small. Here a masterpiece was completed during the construction period of 1745 – 1747 in only two years. It is rightly still attracting masses of people today. Considering the size of the entire park complexes, the construction times are extremely short for the conditions at that time. It is hard to imagine what was built in such a short time. Looking over the vineyard towards the fountain, one can well imagine that one could withstand it well at that time.

The potato on the gravestone

Perhaps this was the reason why Frederick II. was buried in a crypt next to the castle. It was not until August 1991 that the wish was fulfilled. The gravestone and the graves of his dogs (!) can be found to the right of the castle. The gravestone can also be easily recognized by the potatoes, which many tourists still leave there as a “thank-you”. One of the names of Friedrich II. was also the “Potato King”. Without his potato commands in times of great famine, potatoes would probably never have been planted in Germany, or would have been planted much later.

Our stay on site was only about 30 minutes, which is very sporty. Of course you can also visit the castle, which is also recommended. The entrance fee is 12, – Euro or as a “day ticket” for all castles in Potsdam only 19, – Euro / person. Family ticket 49, – Euro. Our city tour guide recommended the Potsdamer Schlössernacht (castle night in the middle of August) to us very much. Due to the many disguised visitors it should be a great picture of the city.

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Heiliger See (Holy Lake) – Celebrity alarm

After this overview we went back to the bus and with it also to the finish line of the tour. The city tour guide let us know that in the villas at the Holy Lake next to Wolfgang Joop or Günther Jauch and many other celebrities have settled. You can’t live well enough! After almost 2.5 hours with three stops on the way (New Palace, Sanssouci Castle and Cecilienhof) the tour ended for us again in the Dutch quarter. It is said to be the largest Dutch building ensemble outside the Netherlands. After so much culture, politics and impressions in such a short time and feeling 30 °C in the shade, we enjoyed the evening with a view of the Havel in the beer garden.

Babelsberg Film Park

The end of our weekend trip to Potsdam was a visit to the “Filmpark Babelsberg”, which gives an insight into the film history of the film studios Babelsberg. Europe’s largest film studio has developed in Babelsberg to match the city’s many “backdrops”. Only for reasons of security (because of the quickly inflammable film material at that time) the film production was relocated from Berlin to Potsdam. And so you can see a lot about the great films that have made Babelsberg famous and, above all, how films are produced. This began with Metropolis almost 100 years ago. More recent films, which were also made in Babelsberg (partially) include “Panem’s Tributes – Mockingjay 1 + 2” as well as “Inglourious Basterds”. “Jim Knopf and Luke the engine driver” was filmed recently, for which you can also see the original scenery with Lummerland railway station.

How long is it possible to stay in Filmpark Babelsberg?

The park itself is manageable in size and is mainly designed for family visits. We spent a good half day on site. There are many different attractions to the topic of film, such as a 4D action cinema or a daily stunt show. You can see the scenery of a western town or a medieval town. In addition to the “original” dandelion construction wagon and the witch’s house from the film Hansel and Gretel, there is also a boat trip through Janosch’s dreamland and the big sandman hall for children. More interesting for film fans is the Hall of Dream Workers, where different professions are presented and demonstrated on the subject of film (mask makers, scenery construction etc.)

We were lucky to see that most tourists wanted to spend more time with lakes than with film history in the great weather. Thus, the number of visitors was manageable for one Sunday. The queues at the “attractions” were therefore correspondingly short or not present at all.

“Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten” (Good Times, Bad Times)

One of the highlights of the film park is the backdrop of the well-known television series “Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten”. You can only experience this area with a guided tour. Before you get to the set of the series, you have to go through different other settings like “Bader-Meinhof Complex”,”The Monuments Men” or “Jim Knopf”. Then it will be really exciting for the GZSZ fan.

Because of the two months production delay there is a strict ban on photography, so that the coming story will not be betrayed. And so we were able to see changes in the houses, which will probably be shown on television in the next few weeks. During the guided tour you walk through the streets of the series and at the same time you can see the entrances of the club “Mauerwerk” or the “Vereinsheim” as well as the entrance to the “underground station”. Behind the street scenery stands the caravan of “Chris Lehmann”.

Having a Coke in the “Mauerwerk”?

For the fans of the series, it is certainly a great but short experience. The guide also gives some very interesting insights into the production process. What you can’t see are the interior scenery. In short: no chance of a Coke in the “Mauerwerk” and no coffee in the “Vereinsheim” ! As a short anecdote, the guide then told us that there are indeed different sized plastic kebab skewers for the scenes in the kebab grill. The aim is to realistically display the consumption over the different times of the day. It’s a pity that there is not a copy of the “Mauerwerk” or the “Vereinsheim” as a real restaurant. That would have been a funny idea.

Prices of the Filmpark

We enjoyed our visit to the Filmpark Babelsberg. Most attractions are designed for children. The entrance fee was 22, – Euro / person + 3 Euro parking fee. If you want to save money, take the trial ticket for 15, – Euro (3 hours before the end of parking). With the map you should be able to see enough. For fans of GZSZ (“Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten”) the park is an absolute must because of the scenery. On the last Sunday of the month you still have the chance to sign an autograph with one of the GZSZ actors.

Result of the weekend

If you want to see a lot of culture and experience history, Potsdam is the right place for you. The number of castles is correspondingly high and many museums (such as the Barberini Museum or the Filmmuseum) offer many possibilities in case it should rain. The many restored houses in the city centre create a very special atmosphere.

Potsdam, we’ll be back!

Have you been to Potsdam? What is your impression? You may also like Bremen in the north of Germany.

After so much history we will plan our next vacation with some beaches again. You like beach and water more? Then read our about  Gran Canaria or the Algarve. You don’t feel like flying? Then simply off to the Baltic Sea – for example to Travemünde.

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