Posts Tagged ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’

Bremen Roland: Bremen’s “Statue of Liberty”

Monday, October 16th, 2017

The Bremen Roland is a statue that symbolizes trading rights and freedom. It stands in the  famous market square (Rathausplatz) of the City of Bremen, Germany. Measured from the ground to the tip of its canopy, the tall stone statue reaches a height of 34 feet. The Statue of Liberty in  New York Harbor in Manhattan would dwarf it with its 305 feet from the ground to the tip of the flame. When it comes to age, however, the Bremen Roland beats New York’s Statue of Liberty by a whopping 482 years. The Bremen Roland was erected in 1404; New York’s Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886. Both sculptures are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Roland statues can be found in a number of German towns that were once part of the Holy Roman Empire. According to legend, Bremen will remain free and independent for as long as Roland stands watch over the city.

The 613-year-old Bremen Roland statue. The shield is emblazoned with the two-headed Imperial eagle. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The 613-year-old Bremen Roland statue. The shield is emblazoned with the two-headed Imperial eagle. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

History of the Bremen Roland

The young knight, Roland, was one of the principal warriors of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor who reigned in the 9th century. During his 46-year reign, Charlemagne won many battles but was badly defeated in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, an area between France and Spain. Roland died in that battle and became an iconic figure in medieval Europe, a symbol of civil liberties, freedom and justice. The Bremen Roland is the oldest surviving statue of its kind. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1087 

After the archbishop’s soldiers destroyed its wooden predecessor in 1366, the city fathers commissioned the current Bremen Roland, carved from limestone. Over the years, the statue was repaired and restored a number of times. During the most recent renovation in 1989, workers discovered a cassette with Nazi propaganda inside of the statue. Apparently, the cassette was deposited there in 1938.

Significance of the Bremen Roland

A representative of the Emperor and dressed according to the height of 15th century fashion, Roland’s task was to protect the city and to guarantee its market rights and freedoms. The Bremen Roland statue stands in the market place in front of the Town Hall and intentionally faces the church. The placement served as a reminder that city rights prevail over the prince-archbishop’s territorial claims.

Fun facts surrounding the Bremen Roland

The distance between Roland’s knees is exactly one Bremen “Elle”, a historical unit of measurement. In 2004, the city fathers played an April Fools joke on the Bremen population. They released a press statement that the Bremen Elle is still in use as a scientific measurement. Internationally known as LMR (Length Measurement Roland), it is employed in airplane construction and space travel, the statement read.

Just as rubbing the front hoofs of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten donkey is said to bring good luck http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/bremer-stadtmusikanten-story, rubbing the knee of the Bremen Roland supposedly guarantees a return to Bremen.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

Sanssouci – modest king’s retreat

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

 

Palace Sanssouci, located in the city of  Potsdam, not far from Berlin, Germany, was built to serve as the summer residence of Frederick the Great (Friedrich der Grosse), King of Prussia. The Hohenzollern king was known for his discipline and modesty. He is said to have been so unpretentious that he once alleged, “A crown is just a hat that lets in the rain.”

The name, Sanssouci, comes from the French “sans souci,” and roughly translates into “without worry.” Sanssouci Palace was King Frederick’s favorite retreat where he would relax without having to observe the formalities of the royal court in Berlin. Here he could philosophize and play music, which were his favorite pastimes. No women were allowed in Sanssouci, not even Frederick the Great’s wife. http://www.aviewoncities.com/berlin/sanssoucipark.htm Following the king’s death in 1786, Sanssouci remained mostly unoccupied and neglected until the mid-19th century when it became the residence of King Frederick William IV (Friedrich Wilhelm IV). Sanssouci and its extensive gardens became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990.

History of Palace Sanssouci

In 1744, Frederick ordered the hillside of an orchard to be transformed into three terraced vineyards. Against the brickwork he planted vines from Portugal, Italy, France and Neuruppin. Fig trees were placed in the niches. Then, between 1745 and 1747, Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff designed and built Palace Sanssouci on the ridge of that terraced hillside.

Palace Sanssouci atop of a terraced hillside, planted with grapes and fig trees. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Palace Sanssouci atop a terraced hillside planted with grapes and fig trees. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The design of the small rococo chateau was based on a sketch made by the king himself. In 1748, a large fountain was constructed in the center of the garden and marble statues were placed around its basin. They include include Venus, Mercury, Apollo, Diana, Juno, Jupiter, Mars and Minerva, as well as the four elements Fire, Water, Air and Earth.

Statue at Sanssouci depicting Earth. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Statue at Sanssouci depicting Earth. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

In 1750, Frederick the Great commissioned construction of the baroque New Palace (Neues Palais), but construction did not begin until 1763. In contrast to the single-story Sanssouci Palace, which is rather modest in size and has only ten key rooms, the two-story New Palace contains more than two hundred lavishly decorated rooms, including several ballrooms.

New Palace (Neues Palais). Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

New Palace (Neues Palais). Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

One hundred years later, King Frederick William IV built the orangery (Orangerie). Some of the rooms in the 984-foot-long structure house a collection of paintings by Raphael. However, they are copies. The originals were looted by Napoleon.

Also located in Park Sanssouci is the Chinese teahouse (Chinesisches Teehaus), constructed in 1756. It currently holds a collection of porcelain. Gilded sandstone sculptures sit at the feet of the columns and stand along the walls of the rooms. Locals stood as models, which explains the statues’ European features.

Chinese Teahouse in Park Sanssouci. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Chinese Teahouse in Park Sanssouci. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Frederick the Great wished to be buried at Sanssouci

Frederick the Great died in his study in the Palace of Sanssouci in 1786 and had requested to be buried next to his greyhounds on the vineyard terrace. But his successor Frederick William II (Friedrich Wilhelm II) ordered to have the body entombed in the Potsdam Garrison Church, next to Frederick the Great’s father. Toward the end of World War II, Hitler ordered the coffin to be hidden in a salt mine. The U.S Army relocated the remains to Marburg. In 1953, the coffin was moved to Burg Hohenzollern, the ancestral seat of the House of Hohenzollern. Not until 1991, on the 205th anniversary of the death of Frederick the Great, was Frederick’s body finally laid to rest – in accordance with his will – in the terrace of the vineyard of Sanssouci .

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

 

 

 

Alexandrowka – Russian Colony in Potsdam

Monday, December 26th, 2016

 

The Russian colony Alexandrowka is located in the northern part of the city of Potsdam, not far from Berlin. Karlo Rossi, a Russian architect of Italian origin, designed the village in the 19th century. It resembles Glosovo in appearance, a settlement near Petersburg in Russia. In 1996, Alexandrowka was included UNESCO’s Potsdam World Heritage Site.

 

One of 12 houses in Alexandrowka, a Russian Colony in Potsdam, near Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 1213. www.walled-in-berlin.com

One of 12 houses in Alexandrowka, a Russian Colony in Potsdam, near Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 1213. www.walled-in-berlin.com

History of the Alexandrowka Colony

Alexandrowka was built between 1826 and 1827. King Friedrich Wilhelm III who ruled Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars and the end of the Holy Roman Empire ordered construction of the colony. Historical and personal circumstances motivated him to create the colony.

In 1806 the French had invaded and defeated Prussia in the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt. In 1812 they had invaded Russia. This time, however, they were badly defeated themselves so that the great French dominion collapsed. Following the 1812 war, sixty-two Russian soldiers remained in Potsdam. From this group a choir was formed to entertain the Prussian troops. In 1825, Tsar Alexander I died, and King Friedrich Wilhelm III ordered the construction of Alexandrowka to memorialize his kinship and friendship with the Romanov family. He built the colony for the last twelve Russian singers of the former soldiers choir who were still living in Potsdam at the time. He named the village Alexandrowka after the Tsarina.

Construction of the Alexandrowka Houses

King Friedrich Wilhelm III had 12 one-and two-story wooden houses constructed on small homesteads. Military artisans, belonging to Prussian guard regiments, built the half-timbered houses (having walls with a timber frame and a brick or plaster filling) with semicircular logs, to make them look like log cabins. In Russia, the homes would have been covered with straw. In Prussia, a Holzverbretterung (timber cladding) was chosen, which was replaced with slate at the end of the 19th century. Each homestead consisted of a house with a balcony and a loggia. A loggia is a covered exterior corridor with an outer wall that is open to the elements and supported by a series of columns. Through a roofed gate the loggia was connected to a small stable building. Every house had a garden. Every household was given a cow. All houses were fully furnished.

 

Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia built the houses for twelve singers who belonged to a choir, made up of former Russian soldiers. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia built the houses for twelve singers who belonged to a choir, made up of former Russian soldiers. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

In 1827, the twelve singers and their families moved in. They neither purchased the properties, nor did they lease or mortgage them. Instead, each homestead was handed down to male descendants. In 1861, the last singer died. By 1927, only two families in Alexandrowka were direct descendants of the original Russian soldiers who had settled there. And in 2008, the last of these direct descendants died. His family name was Schischkoff.

Since the German reunification in 1990 most of the houses in the settlement are privately owned. Since 2005, the museum of Alexandrowka provides insight into the history and architecture of the log cabins and provides information on their construction method.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waren – Where the Soul Vacations

Monday, July 11th, 2016

 

The town of Waren is located in the Federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in northern Germany. This stunningly beautiful region, the Lake District, seems to be one of Germany’s best-kept secrets, even though the Alexandrian geographer Claudius Ptolemy mentioned Waren as early as 150 A.D. With a population of about 22,000, the town lies at the northern tip of Germany’s largest inland lake, the Mueritz. It also borders on several smaller lakes.

History of Waren

The town of Waren was founded in the middle of the 13th century. The Altstadt, (Old Town) formed around the church of St. George and the Alter Markt (Old Market) close to the edge of the lake. Later, the Neustadt (New Town) developed around St. Mary’s Church and the Neuer Markt (New Market). Altstadt and Neustadt merged in 1325. During the 16th and 17th centuries, major fires and the Thirty Years’ War repeatedly devastated Waren, and most of the town had to be rebuilt time and again. Only the two churches and a few of the buildings surrounding the Alter Market survived. In the 19th century Waren saw an important economic upswing. During this period, the town became the transportation hub for the area, connected to the telegraph network in 1856, opened the Wossidlo Gymnasium (High School) in 1869 and connected to the telephone network in 1899. http://www.waren.m-vp.de/geschichte-waren/

Richard-Wossidlo-Gymnasium in Waren, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Richard-Wossidlo-Gymnasium in Waren, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Waren today

Although large parts of Waren’s historic Old Town were demolished in the 1970s to allow for a new traffic system, much of the quaint Altstadt was reconstructed. Since German reunification, Waren has become a popular destination for boaters, anglers and spa enthusiasts. However, I believe Waren’s unbeatable charm lies in the unspoiled nature that surrounds it. On the 375 miles of hiking and biking trails that surround the town, visitors can truly let their souls take a vacation.

St. Mary's Church (Marienkirche) in Waren, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

St. Mary’s Church (Marienkirche) in Waren, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Mueritz-Nationalpark

Along with several other easily accessible nature parks in the area, the unmatched Mueritz-Nationalpark borders Waren to the east. There are no less than 130 lakes within the 125 square miles of park along with the headwaters of the Havel and Peene Rivers. Huge glaciers formed the landscape of the Mueritz-Nationalpark during the last Ice Age some 20,000 years ago. Its forests, lakes and wetlands provide homes and important breeding grounds for rare animals, such as tailed eagles, ospreys, black storks and cormorants. In 2011, the park became a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

 

Waren seen from the Mueritz-Nationalpark, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Waren seen from the Mueritz-Nationalpark, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

 

Schloss Cecilienhof – Cecilienhof Palace

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Schloss Cecilienhof became international known as the site of the Potsdam Conference in 1945. Prior to the end of World War II, the palace had served as the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm, his wife, Duchess Cecilie von Mecklenburg-Schwerin and their six children. Located southwest of Berlin, Germany, the English Tudor-style building resembles a Grand English Country Manor with its half-timbered walls, bricks and many chimneys. With a total of 176 rooms, Cecilienhof is considerably larger than it seems.

Schloss Cecilienhof - Cecilienhof Palace

Schloss Cecilienhof – Cecilienhof Palace

Schloss Cecilienhof’s Pre-1945 History

The castle was the last palace to be built by the Hohenzollern, a dynasty that ruled Prussia and Germany for 500 years. The German Emperor Wilhelm II had Schloss Cecilienhof built for his eldest son, Crown Prince Wilhelm. Construction began in 1914 and was completed in 1917. After only one happy year together in their new home, the royal couple remained separated for the rest of their lives. Even before the revolution of 1918, the Crown Prince rarely found time to be with his family. The Duchess and her six children continued to live at the palace from time to time until 1920 when Schloss Cecilienhof was confiscated. The royal couple’s two oldest sons, Wilhelm and Louis Ferdinand, remained at castle to attend public school in Potsdam. But when the Red Army drew close to Berlin in February of 1945, the Duchess and all of her children fled without being able to salvage many of their possessions. At the end of World War II, the Soviets seized Cecilienhof, which was located within the Soviet Zone of Germany. http://www.bibelotslondon.co.uk/shop/4586332944/wilhelm-hohenzollern-german-crown-prince-in-exile-signed-photo-1927/10537631

Schloss Cecilienhof and the Potsdam Conference

From July 17 to August 2, 1945, US President Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Secretary of the Communist Party’s Central Committee Joseph Stalin convened at the Schloss Cecilienhof to decide the future of Germany. The three Allied powers decided to meet at the palace because the capital itself was too heavily damaged.

Prior to the Potsdam Conference, thirty-six rooms and the Great Hall were renovated and furnished with furniture from other Potsdam palaces. The Hohenzollern’s furniture had been removed by the Soviets and stored elsewhere. Cecilie’s music salon and writing room, Wilhelm’s smoking room, library and breakfast room as well as the Great Hall (where the Potsdam Agreement was signed) were among the rooms that were renovated and used during the Potsdam Conference. The various delegations were housed in the suburb of Potsdam-Babelsberg.

The Great Hall at Schloss Cecilienhof where the Potsdam Agreement was signed

The Great Hall at Schloss Cecilienhof where the Potsdam Agreement was signed

Schloss Cecilienhof’s Post-1945 History

After the Potsdam Conference had ended, Soviet troops used the palace as a clubhouse for a while. Later, Schloss Cecilienhof was handed over to the state of Brandenburg. In 1952, a memorial for the Conference was set up in the former private chambers of Crown Prince Wilhelm and Duchess Cecilie. The East German government used the palace for state receptions and other important meetings. In 1960, part of the castle was turned into a hotel. Today, part of Schloss Cecilienhof still serves as a museum. The hotel is temporarily closed for renovations and expects to reopen in 2018.

Since 1990, Schloss Cecilienhof is part of the Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

 

 

1000-Bomber Raid over Cologne

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

In 1942, the middle of World War II, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) chose a 90-minute window to bomb the German city of Koelln (Cologne). Founded in the first century AD as the Roman Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, today’s Cologne straddles both sides of the Rhine River and is Germany’s forth-largest city.

Famous Cologne Cathedral

In 1996, the Koellner Dom (Cologne Cathedral), Germany’s most visited landmark, was declared one of UNESCO’s 759 cultural World Heritage Sites. Construction of the renowned Catholic Church began in 1248 and was completed in the early 19th century. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Heritage_Site. Today, visitors can climb the 509 stone steps of the cathedral’s spiral staircase to reach a viewing platform that offers a magnificent scenic view of the city and the Rhine River 300 feet below.

World War II Bomber Stream Tactic

During World War II, Cologne was bombed in 262 separate Allied air raids. The first bombing took place on 12 May 1940. But the RAF 1,000-bomber-raid of 1942 caused the biggest destruction. Two-and-a-half times more bombers took part in this raid than in any prior RAF raid. It was codenamed “Operation Millennium” and introduced a new practice, called the “bomber stream” tactic. Instead of converging on their target from different airfields, the fighter planes now gathered in one stream prior to attacking their target.

1000-Bomber Raid over Cologne

Just after midnight on 30 May 1942, the city along the Rhine River was awakened to the wailing of air-raid sirens. A squadron of 1,046 RAF bombers was approaching. Although, the city of Hamburg had been the intended target, bad weather over northern Germany had caused Cologne to be selected instead. The fighter planes passed over the city at a rate of one every six seconds, dropping a total of almost 1,500 tons of high-explosive and incendiary bombs.

Damage to Cologne

Two-thirds of the bombs dropped had been incendiary bombs. Within a period of 90 minutes, close to 2.5 square miles of the city center were flattened and in flames. About 30,000 houses and 3,330 non-residential buildings were damaged or destroyed and 45,000 people became homeless. http://www.nytimes.com/1992/06/02/opinion/02iht-edma.html

Cologne after the 1000-bomber raid in 1942 - the Cologne Cathedral is only superficially damaged

Cologne after the 1000-bomber raid in 1942 – the Cologne Cathedral is only superficially damaged

Fate of the Cologne Cathedral

The intent of the 1000-bomber raid had been to shatter German civilian morale. But when the survivors emerged from their shelters, they saw the twin spires of their much-loved cathedral towering more or less intact against the moonlit sky. The cathedral had only been superficially damaged. Instead of demoralizing the citizens of Cologne, this inexplicable sight had the opposite effect. It strengthened the citizens’ resolve, similar to that of British civilians after the London Blitz.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.