On April 4, I watched on YouTube the installation of the Great Imperial Coat of Arms on the rebuilt Berlin Palace, now known as the Humbolt Forum dedicated to culture and civilization.
In 1991 a business man Wilhelm Von Boddien who is now in his eighties proposed that now that Berlin was once again the united Capital of Germany, a title it had lost in 1946 with the Federal Government moving to Bonn, while the communist occupied with the Russians the Eastern sector of Berlin behind the wall.
With re-unification there was a flurry of activities to rebuild Berlin in a modern urban, progressive and people friendly city. Much of its old urban architecture was destroyed from 1941 to 1945. More was destroyed in the 1950’s by the Communist government of East Germany. left behind fields of charred ruins or concrete soviet realist poorly designed buildings. In the last 32 years the Federal Parliament (Bundestag) and the City of Berlin have been involved in transforming and resurrecting significant buildings of Berlin’s past, mostly the 18th century.
Most paid for by the Federal Budget and some paid for by public donations as is the case here with the palace. Other cities have done the same, Dresden and Potsdam being two examples.
It was impressive to see the great seal being hoisted up more than 100 feet in the air to be hooked to the facade.
This piece of bronze and copper weighs 5 tons. Here are some photos.
Wilhelm Von Boddien, the instigator of this reconstruction plan of the palace, who imagined and convinced his fellow Berliners to help finance this giant project. The late Queen Elizabeth II gave a donation some years ago when visiting Berlin. We were reminded during the visit of the King just last week that the Royal Family have lots of Royal relatives in Germany.
Almost every afternoon we have visitors around 2pm for coffee and some baked goods for conversations, Will enjoys it and it is nice to see people on this regular basis, we could not do the Xmas season parties, so this is the next best thing, it’s good for his morale.
Well another warmish early Spring like day in the middle of what should be Winter. The lack of snow is starting to look very strange and foreboding, climate change can certainly be dangerous if you think of the future. A month from now PEI is hosting the Canada Winter Games, I believe that we will have snow by then, I hope but this does not look good at all.
Continuing to look at various architectural sites in Germany on reconstruction of cities the way they were prior to 1939 and the destruction of the war. By the way, Russia did the same thing in St-Petersburg and so has Austria, Poland and Hungary. I remember visiting sites where nothing remained and in Warsaw they resurrected the old town including the Royal Palace and many parks and other palaces and churches.
All of these countries had communist government under the boot of the Soviet Union and all had an ideology of erasing the past as inappropriate for the new man and the communist age. Often coming up with very ugly dehumanizing architecture of concrete and cement done very cheaply.
One city which has seen its centre resurrected is Potsdam, the secret royal capital of Prussia, where the kings lived and governed, Berlin was more for pomp, ceremony and administration. Frederick II the Great did not like Berlin or Berliners much and this is why he lived mostly in Potsdam.
I visited Potsdam several times between 1998 and 2011, each time the city changed. At first it was to see the progressive baroque reconstruction of the palaces and private mansions many of which were in a distinctive Palladian style. Most of the important work was done in the Royal Park where the palace of Sans Souci and the New Palace are located including all the many pavilions, chinoiserie so in fashion in the 18th century. Later it was to see the transformation around the old market place which is still under construction.
One building which was taken down 3 years ago was the faculty of the University of Potsdam housing the economic department. Very ugly building and derelict, the last time I was in the building it was empty and about to close, only a small tourism office was left. The building was demolished and now the buildings of the 18th century who existed on that spot until 1939 are being rebuilt to match architecturally the City Palace across the street, the St-Nicholas Lutheran Church, the old city hall with Atlas on the roof, and the Barberini Palace museum. The plan is eventually to recreate as much of old Potsdam and pushing the old communist building out.
The building being rebuilt have the old facade of the 18th century but the insides is modern to meet requirements of today.
Here is a glimpse of the centre of Potsdam, with the dome of St-Nicholas, the City Palace in pink now use as the parliament of the province of Brandenburg, to the left of the church the roof of the old City hall with the golden statue of Atlas on the roof and next on the left of the City Palace is the rebuilt Barberini Palace now an art museum. Under construction is the quarter which is a series of buildings waiting for their baroque facade to be added on this year.
A view from the steps of the old City Hall
When I first came to Potsdam, none of what you see in this photo existed, it was still a field of ruins leftover from the war in 1945. A very sad looking perspective. The obelisk was damage and the colonnade of the church still needed repair. Prince Charles was involved at the beginning with the reconstruction effort through his interest in architecture.
Finally here is a picture of the faculty building of the Univ of Potsdam which was demolished to make way for the reconstruction going on now. This picture was taken at the time when the City Palace was being rebuilt.
Also in the future the statue of Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben a Prussian army officer who served as inspector general of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He taught the Continental Army the essentials of military drill and discipline, helping to guide it to victory. His statue will be moved to the square named after him next to the city palace.
Today in Potsdam in the Province of Brandenburg just outside Berlin, restoration continues on the various monuments of the city. Potsdam was the un-official Capital of Prussia, the Royal family lived in Potsdam.
I started visiting the city back in 1998 when posted in Warsaw, there is a direct train link between Warsaw and Berlin. Back then the old city of Potsdam was still in ruins from the bombing of 1945. The Communist government of East Germany had done nothing to restore the city and had in fact inflicted more damage by destroying some monuments considered contrary to communist ideology and building instead a very cheap version of brutalist architecture.
It was all a bit sad to see and already efforts were made to rebuild and restore the old city and its many canals. Potsdam through the centuries and especially after 1700, the Prince of Brandenburg at the time, was Freidrich I who made himself King of Prussia in 1701 and started building Potsdam as his seat with largely Italian influences, Venice was a model and all things baroque with a great deal of chinoiserie. He built a city palace which stood until 1945 when it was utterly destroyed. I remember visiting the centre of Potsdam then and where the palace stood once only a field of weeds. All around there were some old architectural fragments of palaces and great houses but nothing else. The Church of St-Nicholas had been restored quickly and around it the GDR government had build ugly buildings with a strong utilitarian look.
Prince Charles now King Charles III came in 1998 to visit the city based on an invitation by the German government to see their plans to restore the City Palace. The new function would be as the Provincial Parliament of Brandenburg. Queen Elizabeth II also came a few years later, it is good to remember that they are related to the German Royals, first cousins.
The palace was rebuilt and inaugurated in 2008, the outside is in the baroque style. All paid for by donations from the public. The inside is very modern since the use is for the seat of the legislature. On the side of the building there was originally a staircase called the angel or flag staircase. It was used to gain access to the cedar wood room where regimental flags of the Prussian regiments were stored. King Friedrich-Wilhelm, known as the sergeant king renovated the staircase but made it plain and austere, he was more interested in his army than baroque architecture. It was his son Friedrich II the Great who remodelled the staircase with 9 putti (angel) in gold plate and a very ornate bannister. It quickly became a curiosity for visitors to Potsdam. However the staircase like the palace was destroyed in 1945.
Since 2000, a massive program of restoration everywhere in Potsdam has taken place and various groups of friends of the city have contributed to the restoration of various buildings. Many corporations and wealthy donors have also rebuilt or restored buildings. The Prussian Foundation also undertook to restore the great royal park where several palaces are located including Sans Souci.
So this picture shows the taste of Freidrich II who designed the staircase. The putti are playing instruments of music. All the palaces of Freidrich II have this extravagant baroque look, there is always a lot of gold and his favourite colours where green and gold, black and gold, white and gold, pink was also fashionable and this is the colour of the Armoury building in Berlin. Here the city palace is a salmon pink and built in a classical style. The work is not complete and will be completed once more funds are donated by the public. In all another 5 million Euros for all the other ornamental elements.
I found these photos on a site I follow from Germany dedicated to the city of Potsdam, the former Royal Capital of Prussia, Berlin was the capital of the Empire.
Potsdam is a mere 20 minutes from Berlin, a suburb really and a easy commuter train from Berlin.
At the end of the Second World War, the centre of Potsdam was heavily bombed and much of it was totally destroyed. However anything not in the centre was spared, so it kept its 18th Century appearance of the time of King Frederick II the Great. This includes many palaces and gardens, though the Russians did a lot of damage and looting once they arrived in town in April 1945.
I would love to visit Potsdam again, what was destroyed in the centre of the city has been faithfully re-built and restored in the last 25 years. The Palaces of Sans-Souci and the New Palace completely restored including the many other palaces, orangerie, gardens and statuary, after all it was all in the prussian baroque style, when too much is never enough.
The view here is of the front ceremonial entrance to Sans Souci, it is not often photographed, you usually see the back or garden side with the terraces and fountains. It is quite nice to discover this half-moon colonnade and its step path designed for horses to gallop to the gate.
The windmill belonged to a fellow who refuse to sell his property to the King, so Frederick had to put up with it and there it remains to this day.
As recorded by historian Franz Theodor Kugler in 1856, the legend goes that Frederick II the Great was being disturbed by the clatter of the mill sails and offered to buy the mill from its miller, Johann William Grävenitz. When he refused, the king is supposed to have threatened:“Does he not know that I can take the mill away from him by virtue of my royal power without paying one groshen for it?”
Whereupon the miller is supposed to have replied:“Of course, your majesty, your majesty could easily do that, if – begging your pardon – it were not for the Supreme Court in Berlin.”
Visibility right now at 2pm on Saturday is very low, the storm is in its snow phase and high winds, tonight we get freezing rain and high winds, oh joy!
So I am looking at the internet and the sites I follow regularly, currently new photos of Potsdam old market area built up around 1669 and the St-Nicholas Church built in 1830. All these buildings were very badly damaged by Soviet artillery at the end of the Second World War. Most lay in ruins until 1990 and I remember visiting Potsdam in 1998 the area was desolate despite being the centre of the city under Communist East German rule who had no interest in any of that part of German history. Since 2000 major renovations and rebuilding has been under way. Potsdam was the un-official Capital of the Kingdom of Prussia and Berlin the ceremonial capital. In Potsdam you will find the royal park with many palaces including Sans-Souci built in 1745. It will take you more than a day to visit the park.
Finally today we are having sunshine and mild temp, in the next few days it will go up to 14C, however for the Easter Weekend looks like rain and 6C.
This morning we went to Leonhard’s for breakfast, owned by a swiss german fellow, this café has a very elegant european flair to it, not only in its relaxed and elegant decor but also in the food they serve. All of it is clearly inspired by European cuisine and not the usual North American fair.
I had an omelette with vegetables, it was very fluffy and seasoned just right, something you do not encounter usually in restaurants here. Tables are set with fresh flowers, tulips at this time of the year. You could say that the atmosphere is clean, crisp and relaxed. No background music which is nice. In the summer they have ample boxes of flowers and hanging green plants on the front sidewalk.
We have another German bakery which just opened also on Great George street but on the South side of the Provincial Legislature, again offering a very different fair from all the other restaurants/café in town. More geared towards the local crowd instead of the tourist crowd.
This morning one of the blogs I follow, entitled Berlin Companion featured the National Monument to the Wars of Liberation in Kreuzberg on its 200 Anniversary.
For people who have visited the Invalides in Paris, under the dome is the Tomb of Emperor Napoleon, you will probably have noticed the 12 columns in a circle around the tomb, they represent the 12 military campaigns of Napoleon all across Europe over 12 years, basically continuous wars during his reign. The Monument on the Kreuzberg in Berlin also refers to the 12 wars which are named wars of Liberation from French oppression. There are all over Germany, other monuments were built celebrating that liberation from this constant warfare waged by Napoleon in his effort to conquer Europe and appoint himself the new Charlemagne.
This is something very rarely mentioned in history books and certainly never mentioned by French authors who prefer to present Napoleon’s action as a romantic endeavour. However if you follow the historical tread you will see that those wars sowed the seeds for further wars in the 19th century between France and German States and Prussia and after 1870 a unified Germany. It is almost a seesaw effect of trying to correct wrongs. Think 1870 Franco-Prussian War, 1914-1918 and then 1939-1945, in all those conflicts the underlying narrative is revenge, either by Germany or France.
The National Monument on Kreuzberg (Cross Hill) leads down the avenue to Belle-Alliance Platz this alliance/Treaty between Great-Britain, Prussia, Austria and Russia created and maintained an army of 600,000 men until such time as Napoleon was completely defeated and overthrown. This Belle-Alliance ultimately led to Waterloo. Since 1945 Belle-Alliance Platz has been renamed Mehring Platz and sadly completely modernized.
On March 30, 1821 – the seventh anniversary of the Prussian charge of Montmartre and of the conquest of Paris, which unavoidably triggered Napoleon’s demise in 1814 – King Friedrich Wilhelm III arrived on top of the Tempelhofer Berg (also known as the Weinberg, soon to be renamed Kreuzberg). The highest natural elevation in what is now central Berlin but back in the days was still part of a district outside the city limits.
Accompanied by an illustrious guest, Russian Tsar Alexander I – Friedrich Wilhelm’s brother-in-arms in the conflict with Napoleon Bonaparte – Prussian monarch came to witness the unveiling of a monument commemorating their victories in what came to be known as the Wars of Liberation, 1802-1814.
As Prussia’s military ally in the wars against Napoleon it was Alexander who prevented the king – as well as the Austrian emperor for he was wavering, too – from making what could have been the biggest mistake in the history of the Coalition: he convinced them to take Paris instead of withdrawing their troops. Now it was time to celebrate these good choices.
National Memorial for Wars of Liberation – a 200-tonne cast-iron tapering structure installed on an octagonal stone base – was the work of Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Johann Heinrich Strack (who was responsible for the stone base).
Schinkel, supported by several renown contemporary artists with Christian Daniel Rauch as the most prominent among them, created an artwork which truly had everything a memorial of this kind should possess: it was impressive, it was elegant, it was positively oozing with symbols which everybody understood and was happy to see included and, last but not least, it had twelve extremely good-looking statues with faces the crowds back then were often able to recognise.
The memorial’s leitmotiv was a cross: it was a direct reference to a new military decoration introduced by King Friedrich Wilhelm III in 1813 after the Battle of Leipzig: the legendary Eiserne Kreuz, the Iron Cross. The foot of the memorial itself is shaped liked one, too, and you will see the shape repeated from the memorial’s bottom to its very top.
The 200-year-old memorial in Viktoriapark inspired the name of the hill and the neighbourhood.
Recently I wrote about reading the political philosophy of Frederic II of Prussia, (1712-1786), without a doubt the greatest King of Prussia of the Hohenzollern dynasty.
What I found fascinating about these books, there are several books in one presentation, you are actually reading what he wrote, so it is his thoughts and his voice, not that of some author interpreting what was said or a discussion on what it all meant then and now. It is rare that you can read a book which is so direct, similar to having a conversation with Frederic II. The only other book I read some years ago was the correspondence of Louis XVI on the events around him as the revolution struck in France. Correspondence to other family members and princes, trying to make sense of a situation he did not fully understand and the danger he and his family faced. There is also similar correspondence between Marie-Antoinette and Queen Charlotte in London, the Prussian wife of George III, full of anxiety and fear but also very dignified. I remember seeing the original letters in Rome, they are in a private collection, on beautiful paper, she had a very nice hand and it is quite easy to read.
Frederic II in his first book attacks Niccolo Machiavelli and his book The Prince written in 1532 for the Medici Prince in Florence. Machiavelli was hoping to get a job with the Medici, he did not and it is not clear that the Prince ever read his book dedicated to him.
In his own time, Machiavelli was known as the author of histories, poems, and plays (including a widely produced popular comedy). Respected as a statesman, he represented Florence on foreign missions and wrote reports admired for their style and substance. But the Catholic Church censured Machiavelli for his criticism of Christianity and for the tone and content of the political counsel he offered, especially in The Prince. By the seventeenth century, the name Machiavelli had become synonymous with diabolical cunning, a meaning that it still carries today. Modern readers exhibit the same ambivalence about Machiavelli himself, alternately recognizing him as a precursor of the discipline of political science and recoiling from the ruthless principles he frequently articulates. Both views of Machiavelli, as innovative modernist and cynical politician, have their origins in The Prince.
Frederic II as a Prince and Sovereign presents his views chapter by chapter and why The Prince is an awful book according to him because of its lack of ethics and morals and the promotion of fear of the ruler amongst the people. According to Frederic if your subjects fear you they will hate you and you will gain nothing. Frederic is also against the use of mercenaries in armies which was a common practice in his time by several princes in Europe. He does not think much of these Italian Princes who rule small Principality like Tuscany. He sees them as mediocre rulers.
Frederic II, promotes telling the truth to people and to other Princes, being honest, being tolerant of other peoples religions and differences, maintaining a strong civil government and freedom of conscience, he writes; a Prince must remain neutral and not encourage one group over another. During his reign he will welcome to Prussia, Jews and Huguenots from all over Europe and specially France. He is also very much opposed to war for the sake of grabbing territory and empire build, he writes think of the horrible misery war creates for all and the social ills they bring, warning Princes to be more aware of how the population and youth feels about wars in general. On the other hand he promotes what he calls a just war, one where your enemy attacked you and you defend yourself and your State, in such cases you have no choice but to give a strong response. He goes further in writing that men are born free and must not be slaves to their King. This is a direct criticism of other rulers in France and Austria. He praises the Constitutional Parliaments of England and the Netherlands as models to follow, is political allies, the King of England being his nephew. He advocates for limits on the power of rulers like himself and an independent judiciary, concept which would be championed by the new American Republic, he will be the first Sovereign in Europe to recognize the new Republic.
What is also fascinating about Frederic II is his attitude to Monarchs who sought to have him killed, Austria’s Empress Maria-Theresa being one, Empress Elizabeth of Russia being another, he always maintained polite cordial correspondence with them, despite the threat. The only time he lost his cool was during a battle when his beloved dogs small Italian Greyhounds or Whippets who accompanied him everywhere were dognapped by Austrian soldiers. They were returned after a few days, Frederic II was livid with the Austrians for what he thought cowardice on their part. He also had a love of horses and his favourite was Conde, the one depicted in the famous equestrian monument on Unter den Linden, he rides down the avenue.
The Philosopher King reputation as he became known suffered greatly after his death, not having children to succeed him, his nephew and the more conservative elements of his family took on a very different agenda. By 1860 and the politics of Chancellor Bismarck were clearly regressive and belligerent towards other European countries. By 1933 the Nazi used Frederic’s re-fashioned his image to one of warmonger in a series of nazi propaganda film he is portrayed as belligerent towards everyone. He probably would have been horrified by this portrayal. He did not do much better after 1945 with the Strategic Eastern Part of historical/governmental Berlin under Communist rule who either demolished historical building or blackened his image.
In 1991 with a re-united Germany, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, some 234 years after his death, in an Official ceremony reburies Frederic II with his dogs in the garden of his favourite home Sans Souci has he wished in the vault he had built for himself. It is a beautiful simple site and fitting for a man who had a progressive view of the world.
Frederic II the Great on the right and his 10 dogs to the left in the Gardens at Sans Souci, Potsdam.
A piece of news, the Humboldt Forum, the newest museum in Berlin devoted to the ideas of the Humboldt brothers formerly known as the City Palace has opened to the public.
Here is an afternoon picture of the Main Western facing entrance to the Palace. It is located on the Museum Island in central Berlin at the end of Unter den Linden ave. across the street from the Berlin Lutheran Cathedral and all 6 museums. In the background is the Communication tower built by the Communist regime in the 1970’s and Alexander Platz.
This photo was probably taken around 1900 in Potsdam in the State of Brandenburg. Potsdam was the Royal Capital of Prussia, it is about 30 km outside Berlin an easy suburban train ride from the city centre.
The Garnison (Garrison) Church of Potsdam a Protestant church in the historic centre of Potsdam. Built by order of King Frederick William I of Prussia according to plans by Philipp Gerlach from 1730 to 1735, it was considered as a major work of Prussian Baroque architecture.
The church burnt down in 1945, shortly before the end of the Second World War, after a bomb attack. In 1968, at the time of the division of Germany, the GDR leadership had the church blown up for ideological reasons. This makes the former Garrison Church one of the 60 or so church buildings destroyed under the East German Communist regime.
In 2018, the re-building started and visitors marvel at the spectacular foundation work: 38 bored piles are turned at a depth of 38 metres to lay the foundations for the new 90-metre-high building.
The first freely elected town councillors met in the Garrison Church from 1809. Calvinists and Lutherans formed the first union here in 1817. As a place of remembrance of German history and as a forum for peace and reconciliation. A highlight will be at 57-metre-high viewing platform with a wide view over Potsdam. The historic carillon 0f 35 bells in the 90-metre-high tower dome will also sound again.
In 1966 the ruins of the church before it was demolished.
First I want to show you this photo published on a friend’s account of President Elect Joe Biden and his spouse and their 2 dogs Champ and Major who is a rescue dog. I really liked Biden as VP during the Obama Presidency. It is also good for Canada to have such a neighbour. PM Trudeau already has a good relationship with Biden and we think of it as the third Obama term.
I am always looking for new titles and new books that might be interesting to read. I always like to have a look first, read a few pages so I can have a feel for the book. The current book I am reading now I first heard of it by going to the Princeton Press where it was advertised as coming out in the Fall. The Writings of Frederick II the Great is edited by Avi Lifschitz and translated by Angela Scholar,
Frederick II The Great of Prussia, 1712-1786. Born in Berlin, died at Sans Souci, Potsdam.
I do love to read historical research and biographies it can be somewhat erudite at times but I enjoy it, always have. To give an example a few years ago I spotted a book on Roman Aqueducts and Water Supply in the ancient world. Since some of these aqueducts still work today and give excellent clean drinking water, I wanted to learn more about how they were built and maintained. I also read the book of Giles MacDonogh, Frederick the Great, published in 1999.
This current book is entitled Frederick the great’s Philosophical Writings, covering a range of topics he wrote about. As a young Prince age 16 and then as King of Prussia he wrote a lot on philosophy, he also wrote poetry, entertained a lively correspondence with many Enlightenment Age philosophers, Rousseau, Voltaire, D’Alembert and he also wrote 100 music compositions and performed at his Court for his friends. The simple fact that as a head of State he wrote by his own hand and did not ask an eminent person to ghost write for him was in 18 century Europe a eyebrow raising novelty, no other prince or King did that and many other Heads of State thought this very peculiar. Thing is that Frederick’s mother Sophia Dorothea of Hanover encouraged him and he received a very good education for his time. On the other hand his father King Frederick Wilhelm I, was alarmed by this type of enlightened education.
Some of the concepts he developed was based on his own personal beliefs. He wrote on the limits of the powers of the State in an age of absolute monarchies. He abolished torture and reform the bureaucracy, he allowed non-nobles to rise up to senior positions, implemented basic education for all. He loved sciences and invited many scientists to come and work in Prussia. He favoured religious tolerance, unlike his father who was a strict Calvinist, Frederick was a sceptic on religion. He invited persecuted French Huguenots to come to Prussia. He also believed in trade and what we call today globalism, to him this was a way to achieve ‘‘luxury’‘ for the people or a higher standard of living. Many of his ideas would be adopted by the Founding Fathers of the USA. He was amongst the first King in Europe to recognize the new Republic and in 1783 signed a treaty with the USA, one clause was about the humane treatment of war prisoners, again a first for the age.
Frederick died aged 74 in 1786 and his reputation as philosopher King started to change after 1860 for political reasons and to advance the new political reality under Chancellor Bismarck. Instead of Frederick the enlighten ruler, we get Frederick the war monger. His reputation is further tarnished by the Nazis and Hitler who offer a completely different narrative more fiction than reality, based entirely on the various conflicts during his reign. It is true that Frederick was a brilliant strategist and had a very well trained army. In Prussia the ratio was one soldier for 4 citizens in a Kingdom with a population of 2.5 million people. French statesman Count Mirabeau, famously said that Prussia was not a country with an army but an army with a country.
Telling the stories of the history of the port of Charlottetown and the marine heritage of Northumberland Strait on Canada's East Coast. Winner of the Heritage Award from the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation and a Heritage Preservation Award from the City of Charlottetown