Castles, Improv, and the Prinzessinnengarten

I can’t believe I only have four more days in this wonderful country. I’ve had such a great time here so far, making new friends and learning a lot about the language I love. While I’m looking forward to being home with my friends and family, I’m really going to miss Berlin.

On Saturday, I was up rather early because I was heading to Potsdam. Potsdam is about an hour away from central Berlin, but since I live soooo far south west, it was only a 30 minute trip for me. I left a little bit after breakfast, taking the bus to Mexikoplatz where I hopped on the S1 and headed to Potsdam. The month bus ticket I have doesn’t cover trips to Potsdam (it’s outside of the zone my ticket is valid for), so I had to buy a separate ticket, which I did at Mexikoplatz. However, the machine was being finicky and ate my €10 bill, but didn’t count it as payment, so I was sadly out €10. I eventually was able to pay (again), and I got my ticket, and then I hopped on the S Bahn.

Once in Potsdam, I grabbed a coffee from the Bahnhof (train station) and figured out which buses I would need to take to get to Sanssouci Park, which is a huge, historical park. It’s where the Potsdam Conference was held, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I took the bus through Potsdam, to a stop near the park. I enjoy taking the bus in new places because I can see the area around me, which is not the case when you take the U Bahn or S Bahn. I hopped off at a stop near Sanssouci Park, and got to walk through part of the older downtown to get to the park. It’s really a beautiful city.

Mini Brandenberger Tor in Potsdam
Entrance to the Sanssouci Park

I found the park pretty easily. It was basically a straight shot from the bus stop, plus it’s absolutely enormous, so it’s hard to miss. Walking through the park, I noticed houses, like actual people houses, within the walls of the park. I have no clue if the houses are still used as actual houses, but I can’t imagine what else they would be used for, unless they are all just empty.

A house in the park

Further into the park, I crossed a bridge and was immediately in awe of the sheer size of the park. I keep saying that it was huge, but it is HUGE. I spent almost two hours in the park, and probably only saw 1/4 of it.

Across the bridge and up about a gazillion stairs was Schloss Sanssouci (Sanssouci Castle). The gardens in front of the Schloss were immense and immaculately groomed. It was a beautiful sight.

Schloss Sanssouci

I followed the paths to the left of the Schloss and found myself going deeper into the park. I kept following the path and the signs that marked it, until I stumbled across another Schloss.

Another Schloss (castle) in Sanssouci Park
View of the park from the above Schloss

I’m not sure what this one is called. There are four or five castles within the park, and I couldn’t keep them all straight. I spent the next two hours wandering through the park, following paths through a green house, to the other castles, to a fountain, to a windmill.

Another house and a windmill
More of the park
Another Schloss
Fountain in the park
Yet another Schloss…
And another Schloss
Close up of the Schloss
The last Schloss I saw

The buildings were amazing to look at. They look big, but not insanely big, from far away, but as I walked closer to them, I was struck with just how insanely big they actually were. I could’ve spent another two hours in the park just staring at the buildings.

It was a warm day, so I spent some time in the gift shop cooling down before heading to the Holländisches Viertel (Dutch Quarter) of Potsdam. This area is styled after a stereotypical Dutch town. It looks very different from the rest of the towns in Germany. There was a sort of flea market going on while I was there, so there were a bunch of different vendors with their tables set up, selling goods. I got a tomato and mozzarella crepe for a late lunch and walked around.

After a while I headed back to the Bahnhof, where I got some delicious Himbeere (raspberry) gelato. With my gelato in hand, I hopped on the train back to Berlin.

On Sunday, I slept in and didn’t do much during the day. I was exhausted from all the walking I had done the day before, so I just did my homework and lounged around all day. I did have a stereotypical German breakfast (soft boiled egg, toast, jam, etc.) with my host family, and in the afternoon, we had quiche and blueberry cake. It was nice to have a day where I didn’t actually have to do anything.

Monday morning, I had Unterricht, as always. We’re practicing with Konjunktiv II mit Passiv (Conjunctive II with Passive), and my brain hurts from doing it so much. For lunch, my friends and I decided to go to a specific Döner Imbiss (Döner stand), but when we got there, the line was about 100 people long, and I’m not even exaggerating. One of my friends was determined to get a Döner from this specific place, so he waited in line while the rest of us went to another Döner place around the corner. We walked there, ordered, paid, ate, stayed there for a while, and then walked back to the original Döner Imbiss, and our friend was still in line, but now there were only three people in front of him. We waited for him to order his food and hung around the stand while we figured out what to do. Some friends headed home after lunch, but those of us who didn’t ended up going to a nearby park. We hung out in the park for a while, and then headed home.

Found a hidden “castle” in the middle of Berlin

Monday night, there was a free improv show that was open to all the HU students, so I went to the show with two of my friends. It took me almost a full hour to get there, and once there, I was disoriented, so it took me a while to find the theater. I finally found it and met up with my friends.

The theater where the improv show was performed

The show was absolutely hilarious. The improv group was so talented, and they rolled with all the weird suggestions the audience gave them. I was very pleased with myself because I understood basically all of the show, and comedy is one of the hardest parts of a language to master. I enjoyed myself so much during that show. I was laughing so hard, I was crying. I raved about the show all day today (Tuesday).

While the show was amazing, the trip home was not so amazing. The show ended around 10:00, which is the point in the night when the buses aren’t coming as often as they do during the day. I hopped on the U8 line with my friends and headed towards where I was supposed to go, but when I got off to switch trains, the signs were saying that the trains weren’t functioning and I would have to take a bus back to my stop. At this point, I had already been traveling for 30 minutes. I checked in the BVG app (Berlin’s train/bus/tram schedule app) to see which buses I would have to take and noticed that the buses were going to take me ANOTHER HOUR to get home. I was so frustrated and tired at this point.

By some stroke of luck, the next train that pulled into the station was one heading in the direction I was going (this must have been the last one working?), so I quickly hopped on it, thanking the public transportation gods for this blessing. I rode that train all the way back to my stop and finally arrived at home around 11:00, exhausted, but glad that I wasn’t stuck on a bus somewhere.

Today (Tuesday) in Unterricht, we finished up our Konjunktiv II mit Passiv (Conjunctive II with Passive), thankfully. We used the remaining class time to start a simulation game where each of us have an assigned role and we have to reach some sort of agreement about something. We’re continuing it tomorrow, so stay tuned to hear how it goes.

I went with my friends to a cafe for lunch, but I wasn’t able to stay long because I had a Nachmittagsprogramm (afternoon program) today. My Nachmittagsgruppe (afternoon group) went to the Prinzessinnengarten today, which is a community garden in the middle of Berlin. It’s all open to the public, so anyone who needs/wants fresh produce can come in and pick some. There’s even a sign that says which plants are ripe and ready to be eaten so that people get good produce. The people who work at the garden aren’t gardeners. The majority of them have some sort of other educational or career background, but they all share their knowledge with each other and learn from one another. At the garden, there’s a cafe where you can order coffee, beer, or a snack. There’s a restaurant that makes food from locally farmed, organic produce (they don’t want to take produce from the garden itself because it would mean less for the public). The garden even has it’s own bee colonies.

The container in the middle behind the tree) is where you can buy coffee, beer, and snacks
Beautiful sunflower at the Prinzessinnengarten
More of the Prinzessinnengarten
Even more of the Prinzessinnengarten

We got a tour of the entire garden and learned about the founding of it and how it’s developed over the years. The entire garden is designed to be mobile (plants are planted in milk crates full of dirt) because they originally were not sure if they would be able to stay for an extended period of time. If you’re interested in learning more about the Prinzessinnengarden, here’s the link to the webpage:

I’ve got a packed last few days here, so hopefully I’ll be able to find time to write another blog post before I head home.

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