Germany is a land filled with historical buildings and German castles and forts are among the most renowned in the world. Each week I publish a post about a German castle or fort and tell you – my readers – about its history, important things to see there and much more.
This week, I will write about a palace which, in my opinion, is quite ignored by tourists and Germans alike due to its inaccessibility. But just because one cannot go inside unless invited, doesn’t mean we should overlook it. Bellevue Palace is located in Berlin and serves as the official residence of the President of Germany. The President stays in the palace and receives guests and foreign dignitaries there as well. Due to this fact, the palace is not open usually to the general public, however, if you decide to take up German citizenship and are among the chosen few invited to take it directly from the President himself, you will be invited there for sure. Of course, there are other ceremonies happening at the Bellevue Palace for the public round the year.
The palace was completed in 1788 for Price Augustus Ferdinand of Prussia. Because the prince was not the crown prince, it was built in a modest style. The architecture is neoclassical and due to it being a residence and not a proper castle, it lacks somewhat in grandeur like, say, a ball room. Prince Ferdinand’s guests at the palace included notable people such as Friederich Schiller, Alexander von Humboldt and Napoleon. After the prince’s death, the palace remained with the House of Hohenzollern who turned it first into a guest house, then a residence and finally a gallery for contemporary art.
In the 20th century, the palace did not have much use and was served mainly as a museum. It was firebombed in 1941 during World War 2 and was almost entirely flattened. After the war, the palace remained a ruin for some time and its grounds were used as vegetable gardens due to the scarcity of food in post-war Germany. The German state acquired Bellevue Palace in 1959 and renovated it to its current status. Until 1994, it served as the secondary residence of the President of Germany – the primary one being the Hammerschmidt Villa in the West German capital Bonn.
After German reunification, President Richard von Weizsäcker moved into Bellevue Palace and became the first sitting President to use it as the primary official residence. And so it has remained ever since. By this time you must be wondering why this guy wrote an article about a palace we can’t even go into? Well, folks, I give you the virtual tour of the palace. And if you’re in Berlin, there’s no one stopping you from going to the palace and taking a few pretentious selfies from the outside.
Here’s a bit of trivia about the palace for those interested: the immaculate palace grounds are the site of that very strange (to me) military ceremony called the Großer Zapfenstreich or Grand Tattoo,
the address of the palace is Spreeweg 1, and if the Presidential Standard is not flying above the castle, it does not mean the President is not in the building (as most people believe); it just means the President has an official residence somewhere else at that time. Where else would you get these nuggets of trivia about the German President, I ask you?
Note: A few hours after publishing this post, I discovered that former President of Germany Richard von Weizsäcker whom I had mentioned, died that day. It was a sad coincidence. RIP.