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Cecilienhof

Although Cecilienhof is the youngest of the Hohenzollern palaces, it carries perhaps the greatest direct significance for Americans and modern Europe. In the summer of 1945, it was the site of the Potsdam Conference that addressed issues relating to post-War Germany. What we take for granted today was then being defined and discussed. In many ways, the future of Germany was negotiated here - and with that future, the hopes and opportunities of not just of that nation but of Europe and the world. The participants, Truman, Churchill, and Stalin, often did not agree and in a sense the Cold War started at Cecilienhof.

Much of Cecilienhof looks as it did in 1945. The conference room is the same, its circular table ringed by chairs. Flowers still form a large red star in the entry courtyard. The offices of Stalin, Churchill and Truman have also been preserved, and visitors can almost feel the personalities, especially in Stalin's red, no-nonsense office whose plainness seems to reflect his cold brutality. Visitors can also see evidence of some of the mind games that went on - such as the chair Stalin placed in Churchill's study that was too small for the rotund statesman. It was also at Cecilienhof that Truman got word the A-bomb was ready and where he gave the order to use it on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Babelsberg

Even less visited than the New Garden is Babelsberg Park, just across the Havel River. Located on a bluff, Babelsberg Palace, built in the early 19th century in English Tudor Gothic style, offers a commanding view of the Havel landscape and ample opportunities to explore the romantic park. Babelsberg is also adjacent to one of Potsdam's several villa neighborhoods, whose expansive Jugendstil homes reflect the relative wealth of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Some proud residents joke that Potsdam is "Prussian Disneyland" due to the rich representation of other countries and cultures such as the Chinese Teahouse, the Dragon House, the Roman Baths, the Italian gardens around Charlottenhof, and, of course, the Dutch Quarter, the Mosque, and the Orangerie in the Sanssouci Park, the latter having been modeled in part on the Villa Medici in Rome. Then there's the Russian Colony Alexandrowka, with its 13 houses built in 1826 for Russian singers left behind after the Prussian-Russian victory over Napoleon.