Palaces in Potsdam

I decided to take a day trip around Potsdam, since it’s only about an hour train ride from Berlin and I did a lot of research on the city and how it’s basically an entire city of pretty buildings. I wanted to do another bike tour with Fat Tire Tours, like I did in Berlin, but they were booked for the day I planned to go.

The train actually didn’t take me all the way to Potsdam – the final stop was one stop before the one I planned to get off at, and the station had lots of signs everywhere directing passengers to a bus stop because the route was under construction the week I was there. This is where my rudimentary German really came in handy. I was able to find the bus stop and take the correct bus to Potsdam station (mostly by following lots of other inconvenienced travelers).

At the station, I had wi-fi and there were tons of shops and restaurants. I decided to rent a bike, ride around for as long as I pleased, and then come back to the station to eat. I spoke in German at the bike shop but eventually they switched to English for me because I had to fill out some forms. I got a bike lock and was told to return the bike before a certain time, and then I was off.

Unfortunately, my butt hurt really bad from biking for hours the day before, so I was in pain and it was a pretty hot day. I had some water and snacks and a map but was otherwise completely underprepared. It was really exhilarating riding a bike around a town that was completely new and unfamiliar to me. I planned out my route – a big loop around the main palaces – and quickly realized that at the end, I’d have to go over a large bridge over a river to get back to the station. It caused me quite a bit of anxiety the entire day because I’m terrified of heights, and I hate going over bridges.

I rode around the main square for a while and admired the quiet, peacefulness that is Potsdam. There were lots of brick houses and churches, and the whole place just had an air of serenity. I tried finding the Brandenburg Gate (Potsdam has one, too!) but it was under construction, obstructed by tarps and scaffolding. However, the nearby fountain was surrounded by families and children ran around in the water, splashing and giggling. I considered running around in the water myself, but I had other things to see.

I made it to Sanssouci Palace, built for Frederick the Great. Bikes weren’t allowed on the property, so I had to park mine, scarf down an apple, and go on foot. I met up with the Fat Tire Tour group that I’d wanted to go on, and the photographer who joined my group the day before in Berlin was also there and he recognized me. We talked a bit and then I went off on my own to take pictures and video. The park in front of the palace was gorgeous with lots of statues and a water fountain. It was a sweaty climb to the top but the view was worth it.

Sanssouci Palace

My bike was waiting for me where I’d left it, so I collected it and set off to see some more pretty buildings, like the Chinese House and the Orangery Palace. I made my way around to the New Palace and the University of Potsdam Library. I stopped at a gift shop to get water and use their wi-fi, and also to sit down on a bench inside to get some reprieve from the bike seat that was giving me so much pain.

I biked around the cute little houses that make up the village called Museum Alexandrowka. Then I biked (or rather, walked, pushing my bike) up a huge hill to get to the Belvedere Castle on the Pfingstberg. It was awe-inspiring, and I was totally alone there. I miraculously found a bathroom and filled up my water bottle, but I ran out of things to eat. Also, I was so sore and ready to be done with the whole biking around Potsdam charade.

However, I still had a ways to go. I went to Schloss Cecilienhof, the location of the 1945 Potsdam Conference, and there I met up with the Fat Tire group once again. Inside they had a gift shop with ice cream, so I grabbed myself a new water bottle and a Magnum bar (which soon became the staple of my trip).

Then I went on a mainly flat road in a heavily wooded park. It was lovely to be in the shade and on less of an incline. I made it to the Marmorpalais and got to see a striking view of Heiliger Lake. Many people sunbathed on the grass, some people took a dip in the lake, and others had boats. It was a very blissful German summer day out as far as I could tell.

I then had to find my way back to Potsdam station, but the obstacle known as the Glienicker Bridge stood in my way. I mean, for most people, bridges are there to help them get across otherwise uncrossable land or water, but for me, it was a nightmare. I contemplated just taking the bus back to the station, but I missed it by a minute or so and didn’t want to wait in the hot sun. I also had no idea if they’d let me take my bike on the bus and I felt like an idiot for even letting the idea cross my mind.

So I pushed my bike up yet another hill and rode down the other side with a nice breeze on my face. The bridge was fast approaching and I tried to calm myself down before it came into view. I chose the Glienicker even though it was sort of a detour because it was smaller than the bridge that was closer to the station. I psyched myself up and decided to follow a guy in front of me because he was biking, too. He was kind of slow, though, and I almost regretted following him, but it helped that I wasn’t alone on this massive structure with cars whizzing by.

Somehow, I made it over the bridge. I pedaled past another park full of pretty buildings, but my stomach was growling and my glutes were screaming out in pain. Thankfully, the station wasn’t too far away and I made it back safely. I turned in my bike at the rental shop and went inside the station for some sweet, sweet air conditioning. I got my first Döner kebab and found the fastest wi-fi that let me video chat with my husband. The kebab was wonderful, the perfect way to fill up after a long day of painful cycling.

Potsdam was beautiful and fun to explore, but I was ready to get into my bed in Berlin one last night. My hostel had a swimming pool and I jumped in it for a while as a treat to myself before hitting the sack.

To be continued…

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