Two From the Outside
April 21, 2020

When setting out to visit a World Heritage Site it is usually assumed that one will attempt to see all the important aspects of the Site, and, if it is a building or structure, to at least try to see both the outside and whatever may be indoors. Of course, in a period of time when the entire globe closes down, essentially simultaneously, normal behaviors must be modified. My longstanding plans for the days after I left Hamburg and Mecklenburg, which should have happened in the first week of March, included a transfer by rail to Northern Italy, and shortly thereafter, the start of the longest cycling segments of the Tour. Obviously, that idea had to be jettisoned permanently, with little ability to craft alternate plans for the time being. In addition to the loss of weeks of cycling, something that I certainly needed at that point, I was forced to skip visits to perhaps sixteen World Heritage Sites, some of which are top-quality examples. Instead I spent that time indoors in Berlin, mostly being lazy and getting fat.

Berlin does have three Sites in the general vicinity, providing a modicum of compensation, though one of those, consisting of fine examples of modern apartment house estates, was completely uninteresting for me. The remaining two Sites were more to my liking, but normally both would be better experienced by going indoors, and both had closed down indefinitely on the same day that I arrived in the city. The first of those was Museum Island, a grouping of Germany’s most important museums, which are squeezed together on a small island formed by the Spree River. The Site has been listed not so much for the collections within the museums, those that certainly played a roll, but primarily for the building’s nineteenth century architecture, and the idea of forming a museum district containing the best of History, Science, and the Arts, which would be available for everyone to appreciate. Consequently, I didn’t really mind only seeing this Site from the outside, and, in all likelihood, the only museum I would have visited would probably have been the famous Pergamon Museum, though even that had been partially closed for renovations during recent months.

 Bode Museum
Bode Museum at Museum Island

 Alte Nationalgalerie
Alte Nationalgalerie at Museum Island

 Horse Sculptures
Equine Sculptures outside a Museum on Museum Island

 Pergamon Museum
Pergamon Museum on Museum Island

The second Site I saw was the Palaces and Gardens at Potsdam, which lies about thirty-five kilometers west of Berlin. I traveled there by train, and then took the opportunity to return by bike, resulting in the only short ride I undertook for over a month. The major aspects of this Site are three royal palaces built as alternate or summer Royal residences in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the park and gardens they surround, with a number of smaller buildings scattered around the area. As expected, the palaces themselves were closed, though one had left its folding wooded sign standing at its entrance stating that it was open, which momentarily got my hopes up. In reality, I didn’t really mind just enjoying the gardens, which were still open, and viewing the palace’s exteriors. However, the gardens were still not at their best and greenest at that point, in the earliest days of spring, so visiting a few weeks later might have been preferable.

Neues Palais
Neues Palais, a Royal Residence in Potsdam

 Sanssouci Park
Sanssouci Park in Potsdam

 Sanssouci Palace
Sanssouci Palace, a Royal summer home in Potsdam

 Sanssouci Palace
Ornamentation at Sanssouci Palace

 Sanssouci Park and Gardens
Sanssouci Park and Gardens

 Sanssouci Palace
Sanssouci Palace with terraces that will be vine-covered by summer

With luck, I may be able to start moving again before too much longer, and hopefully that will eventually bring me to a few more Sites eventually, perhaps even some where I can go inside. However, nothing truly great would seem to be on offer for at least another month, or more, I am afraid.