Part of Berlin’s charm is its proud grittiness, but don’t chide yourself for being bourgeois if it gets to you - it got on the nerves of Frederick II the Great too. The ruler of Berlin and all Prussia from 1740 to 1786 built his favorite abode Sanssouci, outside Berlin in the town of Potsdam.
'Without a worry' was the French name of his palace, though thanks to considerable care taken by its architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, craftsmen, and artisans, it is hailed as the Versailles of Germany. Sanssouci was intended as a summer residence, and though Friedrich stretched out the seasons he spent here, tourists don’t have the same privilege: many buildings close between mid-October and April. The best attractions are open through winter – Park Sanssouci’s Schloss Sanssouci and Neues Palais; and the Neuer Garten’s Marmorpalais and Schloss Cecilienhof.
Besides the palaces and parks, the compact town’s centre, half faded and half restored, makes for a pleasant stroll. The Kolonie Alexandrowka is in a park along Puschkinallee, south of the rise to the Belevedere. Quaintly enough, the log cabins here were built in 1826 for a 12-member Russian choir who had helped the Prussians fight Napoleon. Most of the boys got homesick and eventually left. The redbrick Holländisches Viertel (Dutch quarter) is another failed settlement, but a great place to get a meal and browse in some shops. Friedrich Wilhelm I built the small district in the 1730s to attract Dutch craftsmen.
Potsdam is a short ride on the S-Bahn from central Berlin. More information: Postdam Tourist Information, Am Alten Markt 5, tel. +49 331 275 58 20, www.potsdam.de.