Last week I found myself with a weekday free from any work or CIEE related commitments, and absolutely perfect sunny weather. So what did I do? I hopped on the U7 subway and rode it all the way out to the Charlottenburg Palace and gardens, located about 35 minutes away (by public transport) in the westernmost district of Berlin.
Charlottenburg Palace was built in 1699 and gifted as a personal summer palace to Sophie Charlotte, the first queen consort of Prussia, by her husband Friedrich. Sophie Charlotte was an extremely talented musician and a lover of the arts, and she utilized this summer palace as a space to entertain her favorite poets, writers, actors, and musicians. Even Sophie Charlotte’s husband, King Friedrich I, was supposedly only allowed to visit if she personally invited him.
The inside of Charlottenburg Palace is comprised of two wings, the old and the new, which have each been remodeled as similarly to the original setup as possible. Much of the original furniture was destroyed or lost during WWII, unfortunately, so many of the rooms are supplemented with pieces salvaged and restored from a different royal palace in nearby Potsdam which was slated for demolition. Even the knowledge that not everything is original, however, does nothing to diminish the brilliance of each and every room. Sophie Charlotte's dressing room was one of my favorites because the ceiling is dotted with mirrors so that the queen could see herself from all angles, as well as a mural of the goddess Venus. Another one of my favorite rooms was called the porcelain cabinet, due to the fact that almost every square inch of wall and ceiling are taken up by pieces of white and blue porcelain. It is truly a magnificent sight!
As lovely and elegant as the palace was, I found even more examples of beauty once I stepped outside of its walls and into the gardens. Designed in part by Sophie Charlotte, the massive grounds encompass large baroque-style flower gardens, a stone fountain, a carp pond, and numerous sections of forests and fields. For a long time, I simply strolled along the grassy paths between trees and walked across little bridges which seemed to belong more in a fairytale than in Berlin. Since the weather was wonderful and the area is open to the public, there were many other people walking around the gardens as well. I especially enjoyed watching several little old ladies, one with grandchildren in tow, feeding bits of bread to the friendly ducks, geese, swans, and loons that inhabit the carp pond. Even though I am in a large city, the Charlottenburg Gardens were nothing but serene and peaceful; I caught the subway back towards CIEE with a calm brain and full heart.
It is strange to think that all of Charlottenburg Palace and Gardens once belonged to a singular woman, even if she was a queen. It is even crazier, though, for me to wrap my head around the fact that to this day there still exists such a big, undeveloped green space within a modern city. In fact, it’s not even the only one: 46% of the whole area of Berlin is either green or water! New York may have Central Park, but Berlin has the Tiergarten, the Charlottenburg Gardens, Tempelhofer Feld, Treptower Park, and the Botanical Gardens, just to name a few significant areas of nature. This week, with many of the leaves shining in vibrant hues of red and yellow, Berlin is like a dream. Of course, I know that the infamous Berlin winter will arrive soon enough, so I’m trying to soak up all of the unseasonably warm weather and fall colors while I still can!