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Brooklyn, New York
December 2, 2006
The Allies bombed the palace of Germany’s former royal family during World War II, but with restorative efforts, the wide building and its expansive gardens reflect an elegant glory. As we approached, the golden gate shimmered on a rare clear winter day, and on either side of the entrance, warriors raised their shields against invisible enemies. Two young Berliners dressed in costume walked the front, occasionally assisting a tourist or two.
The Altes Schloss, the palace’s premiere attraction, was only accessed by a tour conducted in German, but pamphlets explaining each room were available in multiple languages. On our 3pm tour, an older German couple joined us. Still, the unfortunately disinterested guide sped between rooms, and halfway through, I learned to observe my surroundings first and read second. In addition to ornately painted ceilings and classic furniture, the highest class of German society entertained an obsession with the Far East. Asian porcelain lined the walls of one of the grandest rooms, and though the originals were destroyed in the war, reproductions portrayed the family’s affinity for riches as well as culture.
When the tour ends, you’re allowed to explore rooms of fine plates, cups, and silverware, coming to a long dining table adorned with a full shiny setting, and after a quick perusal, it was on to the Neuer Flügel, the other half of the elongated palace. Audio guides could be rented, but we declined the history overload. While we weren’t exposed to the stories behind the rooms, we could peer at ornate objects and classical paintings, most of old German life, without constraint. In a library, decaying books lined shelves behind glass, and in the next room, boxes adorned with crystals sparkled within lit cases. Outside the sky had darkened, and we had yet to walk the gardens.
Directly behind the palace, its greenery was manicured into neat rows and clipped hedges. A narrow river filled with quacking ducks marked the end of this organized English style. A few lone walkers and runners crunched along wilder paths marked by looming trees, night weighing down. In the evening sky, small statues leered at passersby from behind blank eyes and grinning lips. Earlier we could have stepped into the garden’s buildings, including a mausoleum, but 5pm marked closing time, even as the gardens remained open into the winter night. A few more steps down a path and we turned back, strolling towards the palace in the steps of royalty.
From journal The Divided City
Northern Va Suburbs of DC, Virginia
February 18, 2003
The €7 gave us a combination ticket which included the main palace, the new wing, the kings rooms and the mauseleum, and the summer palace.
From journal "Achtung Baby" Berlin in October
Williams Lake, British Columbia
September 9, 2000
From journal Four days in Berlin