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  • Writer's pictureHenrietta

Reconstructed Paradise: A Day trip to Potsdam

At last, Spring! The warm breeze with scented blossom air finally graced the streets in Berlin. A day trip to the picturesque island located in the outskirts of Berlin was an obvious choice. Known as the “island of paradise”, Potsdam was the royal residence of the Prussian Kings and the German Kaiser until 1918. Like Berlin, Potsdam suffered from severe bombardment during the World War II. Nearly all the buildings at the Alter Markt (Old Market)- the centre of Potsdam- were burnt down, bombed and demolished. After the German reunification, Potsdam invested genuine effort to return to its architectural glory. Hasso Plattner, founder of software company SAP was one of the main funders for the reconstruction of Potsdam. Plattner funded the construction of the Museum Barberini, where it also housed a part of his art collection.

Opened last year to the public after a three-year renovation, Museum Barberini was my first Potsdam destination. Temporary exhibitions included Klaus Fußmann: People and Landscapes, Max Beckmann: The World as a Stage and Documentation: The Gallery of the Palace of the Republic. The Fußmann exhibition located on the ground floor was a celebration of the contemporary German painter’s eightieth birthday. One level above was an entire-floor of exhibition space dedicated to a major retrospective of Max Beckmann’s works. The exhibition amassed over 110 loans from major museums and private collection, including loans from MoMA, New York. On the top level consisted of Plattner’s art collection with works by Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, Sam Francis and Martin Krippenberger. Sharing the floor space was the exhibition Documentation displaying the GDR state art which previously adorned the East Berlin governmental buildings. My visit to the Museum Barberini with its impressive presentation of artworks was only partial to my overall satisfaction; the museum app was one of the best museum apps I ever used. It was perhaps also due to the reputation of SAP- founded by Plattner- was on the line that they made an extra effort in building the app.

Villa Schöningen was another reconstructed architecture, previously home to the Prussian general Kurd von Schöning. Located at the foot of the Glienicke Bridge, the villa became a witness to a significant event during the Cold War, the exchange of Soviet and American spies taken place on the Glienicke Bridge, also known as the Bridge of Spies. Besides its permanent exhibition revisiting the history and the political importance of the villa, temporary contemporary art exhibitions were also a part of its exhibition programmes. Currently on view was an exhibition titled Shift Matters featuring two emerging female artists Alicja Kwade (Polish, 1979-) and artist Jorinde Voigt (German, 1977-), supported by Johann König Galerie. Walking on the “bridge of spies” left me trembling as if I was reliving the intense and desperate moment of the exchange. One could still see the symbolic line on the bridge that divided the East and the West for nearly 30 years. The walk on the bridge felt like a year-long.

As I crossed the bridge and walked towards the East for about 20minutes, I reached to Babelsberg Palace and Park -another reconstructed UNESCO Heritage Site- which was the summer residence of Prince William of Prussia. At the time, they were hosting a Gartenfest with a live jazz band playing and food stalls for locals and visitors. As I overlooked onto the East and the Glienicke Bridge while standing on the garden terrace of the Palace, I stood still and remained silent for a good while.

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