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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday: Potsdam and rain

I charted my main day trip to Potsdam to be early in my stay, so that it could be rescheduled in case of rain. I had the 2011 Rough Guide book saying the Sanssouci sites opened at 9 and it was good to get the timed tickets close to opening time. But then I'd seen a 10 a.m. opening time online. I was more or less planning to aim to get there at 9. I planned to take the regular regional train from Friedrichstrasse, which is faster than the S-Bahn from the same station. The RE train leaves at 6 and 36 past the hour, and I had written down that it left from track 6. I waited there as a succession of S-Bahn trains went by, then I saw the 8.06 RE train coming to track 3. I made some effort to get there but there was no way of getting there on time; I bought a Dunkin' Donut and coffee, and went on to get the next S7 S-Bahn train. The train at 8.13 had some long waits, and I may have arrived earlier if I'd waited for the 8.36 Regional.

Then there was a choice of buses to get to Schloss Sanssouci; I took the 606. All fares were covered by the ABC zone transit pass I'd bought for €6.80 from the machine at the Berlin Fr. platform. I got off the bus and found that indeed the ticket office opened at 10 (or a few minutes before). I got the Premium day cart to visit all the palaces in the park for €19 (this particular one, including Schloss Sanssouci, is only available at that palace). There was timed admission as people went through and listed to audioguides. A big theme was the rococo style, with many shell motifs. When I went to the picture gallery, I learned the procedure with the pass: go to the ticket office to get it stamped for that location with a receipt showing zero price. The picture gallery had an overwhelming display with paintings above one other, including many Rubens and a Caravaggio. There was a theme that many works had wound up in Russia, but some had come back or been replace.

Other places in the large park were the Neue Kammern and the Orangerie, which called for a guided tour in German where I could follow along on a sheet and the guide gave brief explanations. That included a room with reproductions of most of Raphael's works, not great reproductions but supposedly with the advantage that they were all in one room.

I got to the big Neues Palais; there, as in the Orangerie, visitors were required to put slippers on over their shoes while waling on the wood and marble floor. I tried to keep my distance from a high school group so I could hear the audioguide, and had my fill of learning about Friedrich the Great and his grand tastes.

This had taken me past 3 p.m. with no lunch and a minimal breakfast, and there were some rain sprinkles. I didn't have an umbrella, as I try to have when there's any hint of rain chances, but I was o.k. through the sprinkles as I found my way to a bus stop to go into town. My destination was the Creperie La Madeleine, which I saw listed in the guide. I found my way there in the picturesque town center, and ordered the Crepe Auvergnate, filled with roquefort and topped with a salad. I sat outside at a table with an umbrella, then a downpour with thunder came down and I moved to a better-protected outside table. I was glad to sit there until the rain let up.

There could still be plenty to see in Potsdam, but I was ready to call it a day. I got the tram to the station, and this time I made sure to take the Regional train, leaving at 21 and 51 past the hour. It was a nice double-decker, and I noticed that it had a destination beyond Berlin. That's something of a remnant of the divided city: even though there's a new Hauptbahnhof (main station), these trains go on a line through several stations (convenient to people who want to go to different areas) and go beyond Berlin. You wouldn't see this in London, Paris, or Rome, which have end-of-line stations (and in some of these cases, several, for different directions).

Anyway, I got off at Alexanderplatz. Even if I had lunch at 4 p.m., I thought I'd try to have an early dinner at Monsieur Vuong, a Vietnamese place that comes highly recommended. Getting there before 7, I got a spot on the bench of the communal tables outside. I got great spring rolls, and the waitress explained in English the day's specials; I got a full wok-like bowl of chicken with peanut curry. So, a full day, and I haven't started with the Berlin state museums yet. At first I found this post lost, but I'll publish it.

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