Episode 298 – Wannsee to Potsdam by River

The boat tour we booked as our transportation to Potsdam today was described on the Stern und Kreis tour company’s website as a “World Heritage Trip” from Berlin to Potsdam, including “palaces, gardens and parks on the banks of the Havel.”

Our tour boat. We’d booked the three hour round trip, but always with the intention of leaving at the turnaround point in Potsdam and coming back to Berlin on the train. We’re getting good use out of our 9 Euro monthly transit pass!
The Wannsee is a picturesque lake that is enjoyed by boaters and bathers alike.
The Lido beach area, once famous for its nude bathers (a very popular thing in East Germany, where expressing any kind of small personal “rebellion” was precious). At one time, this stretch of beach hosted more than 1 million visitors per year. Yes, change-rooms and bathing suits eventually became the norm.
A mansion visible on Schwanenwerder Island, where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were purportedly trying to build a home in 2009. It’s a place so renowned for being inhabited by the rich and famous (Alfred Guggenheim had a home here) that it was used as the “Board Walk” space in the Berlin version of Monopoly.
Just some of the thousands of cormorants (and supposedly also herons) on Imchen, a small island in the Havel River between Kladow and Gatow that has been a protected nature reserve since 1933.

The tour itself was not particularly exciting, but it was a wonderful unhurried and uncrowded way to get to Potsdam, and we did pass by lots of palaces and UNESCO designated World Heritage sites while cruising along, and as always picked up some German history – good and bad.

We passed the house in which the Wannsee Conference of 1942 was held. I had to look up what that was: the meeting where high level Nazis and members of the SS met to discuss their so-called Final Solution to the Jewish Question. It is now a Holocaust museum.
The small hunting lodge on Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island). The island was originally called Kaninchenwerder (rabbit pasture), since Elector Frederick William I of Brandenburg set up the island as a rabbit breeding spot in the 17th century. No idea why he thought rabbits needed a protected place to breed. Frederick William II regularly lived on the island with his mistress in a castle built in 1794, not visible from our boat. At any rate, there are no peacocks here except a couple who may be descendants of Frederick William III’s early 1800’s menagerie here.
The steam-powered pumphouse on Pfaueninsel that still today gets water to all the island’s inhabitants, and also provided water and the power to maintain a fountain at the island’s castle.
The onion-domed Church of Peter and Paul on Nikolskoe, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin, commissioned by King Friedrich William III and completed on August 13, 1837.
The Church of the Redeemer in Sacrow, built in Italian Romanesque Revival style in 1844 is clearly visible from the river.
“Casino” Gleinicke. Not a casino at all, but given the appellation of an Italian villa (apparently by someone who didn’t know “casino” could also mean brothel!). Built for Prince Karl of Prussia from a design by Schinkel (again!)
The Marble Palace, commissioned by King Friedrich Wilhelm II as a summer palace was completed in 1791, and in use by the Hohenzollern family until the early 20th century. It was a military museum under communist rule, but is now open to the public.
Cecilienhof Palace, completed in 1917, was the last palace built by the House of Hohenzollern that ruled the Kingdom of Prussia and the German Empire until the end of World War I. It is famous for having been the location of the Potsdam Conference in 1945, in which the leaders of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States made the decisions that determined the shape of post World War II Europe and Asia.
The Dairy in the New Garden, built from 1790-92, with expansions in 1833/34 and 1857 to supply the royal court of Prussia. In 1945 it was occupied by the Red Army and destroyed, but reopened in 2003 as a brewery and restaurant.
Babelsberg Palace, built in 1833 as a summer residence for Crown Prince William – later Emperor William I. Once more, designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel in a neo-Gothic style inspired by English Tudor architecture.
The Kleines Schloss (“little castle”) Babelsberg, once the castle’s garden house retreat, now a hotel/resort/wedding venue.
Flatow Tower in Babelsberg Park was erected in the mid-19th century for Kaiser William I, modelled on the medieval tower at Eschenheimer Gate in Frankfurt am Main.
The Glienicker Bridge over the Havel in Potsdam was also known as the “Bridge of Spies”, since it was often the location of captured spy exchanges between the East and West during the Cold War.

Our tour ended at the Potsdam Lange Brücke/ Inselspitze (“long bridge/island tip”) pier located directly opposite the main pier, from where we walked into the historic centre of Potsdam, but not before enjoying “lunch” at Steineke, a 75-year-old bakery chain that’s all over Germany.

Pineapple/coconut cake, fresh cherry streusel, and cappuccino. A typical “lunch” for Germans who eat large breakfasts and late dinners. Yum.

Our afternoon walk around the city is an episode in itself. Tomorrow.


  1. Now that looks like a perfect day – and tons of gorgeous buildings (and their history) to enjoy.

    But… what’s with that dessert????? That’s just too much of a reward for simply spending a relaxing few hours on a lovely river boat!


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