This is the dome of Sanssouci. One of the more famous palaces in Germany. Although “palace” is not quite apt for what is essentially a king’s summer house not larger than some big English manors. The name which literally means “no worry” is ironic for a king who threw his country into multiple wars some of which could have ended quite disastrously.
But these were not the worries Frederick the Great thought of when building this palace. He detested the soldierly and bawdy court of his father (the “Soldier King”) but also the sycophancy and intrigue of the Berlin court. Sanssouci was supposed to be a place for a small and fine group of sensitive and intellectual people who would come together to make music, philosophize, enjoy good food, talk late into the night with the king not being the king for a while.
Such an intellectual and artistic place obviously has a lot of appeal to me. Whenever I can I try to take friends, family or the occasional date out for a walk through the accompanying park hoping to stimulate conversation and to connect with people on a level that is above the occurrences of daily life. Sadly it does not work often. Or seen in another way it only works with people who are open about it from the beginning.
It did not really work for the king as well. He was the absolute ruler of Prussia after all. So people would still suck up to him, praise his mediocre music and indulge in his fantasy of a place without worry where Frederick the Great would pretend be an equal among peers. At least the drunken lowbrow feasts of his father were a thing of the past.
This brings me to a second point. A place without worry seems like a place without life. For me the most wonderful thing people can share are their souls. And souls contain the bright light of life and the dark specter of death. Opening up the bright and dark with someone else, trusting the other to accept both parts, that is truly a place worthy to have. Having a place without worry is like having just half the place. It was the king’s version of having a carefree holiday so one could go back to the drudgery that is daily life.
Maybe making daily life worth living is a better way? Having both, embracing worry and being carefree, fun and duty, light and dark, life and death all together in one life and one soul. And when we find people to share our complete souls with we can feel light and carefree for a while in the other’s embrace without compartmentalizing ourselves.
I took this image recently on one of the few sunny winter days. The lens I used was one of the most widely made East German lenses. It was sold with practically every camera in the former GDR. It is pretty sharp considering it’s age and using the Eterna film simulation counteracts the blueish tint my copy seems to have.
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