Have you ever been invited at the Prussian King’s court? Well, we have. It happened while we were visiting Berlin. Our visit at the summer residence of the Prussian kings started with a tour of the Palace, followed by sumptuous dinner and a musical soirée in the Great Orangery. And what a night that was!
A Brief History of Charlottenburg
In 1695 King Frederick III of Brandenburg gave his wife Sophie Charlotte of Hanover the estate of Lietzow –a small community close to Berlin– in exchange for her estate in Caputh and built a summer residence for her there. The palace –initially named Lietzenburg– was designed by Johann Arnold Nering and finished in 1699. Frederick was very much in love with his wife, but the feeling was not reciprocal. Sophie Charlotte was an educated woman, fluent in several languages, who surrounded herself with philosophers and artists. She also had very artistic inclinations: played the harpsichord and had an Italian opera theater constructed. The queen wanted to live independently from her husband and have her own court, so Frederick was only allowed there by invitation. Shortly after the her death, the settlement facing the palace was chartered as a town and called Charlottenburg and the residence was named Schloss Charlottenburg. The palace is the largest and most important Hohenzollern residence in Berlin.
In the late 18th century, Charlottenburg became a recreational area for the city of Berlin, but was an independent city until 1920 when it was incorporated into the Greater Berlin and transformed into a borough. Today it is an affluent part of Berlin and home to the beautiful Charlottenburg Palace. The sumptuous building is surrounded by a unique baroque garden that opens into a beautifully landscaped park.
The Old Palace, which is one of the most romantic places in Berlin, includes magnificently furnished baroque rooms, royal apartments, Chinese and Japanese porcelain collections, while the New Wing features rococo style furniture. The audio guide, available in several languages, is very informative. Tickets for each section are sold separately, but the gardens are open to the public for no charge.
Next to the palace is the Kleine Orangerie restaurant that has a sunny terrace for outdoor eating in summer. Across from it is its larger sister building, the Grosse Orangerie, that hosts classical music concerts from April to October, with music from the 17th and 18th century performed by an orchestra in baroque costumes.
But let’s get back to our night at Charlottenburg now. Dining with Frederick the Great is an important occasion, not to be taken lightly. After we have been led to our table by one of the ladies-in-waiting, the master of ceremonies opened the event with a champagne toast. Our evening began with a sumptuous candlelight dinner in the cozy ambiance of the Great Orangery, entertained by court musicians (the Berlin Palace Orchestra) performing baroque music. The menu included:
- Delicate Pommery mustard soup with egg royal, smoked olive oil and chives,
- Confit of Duck in its own ragout with melted white butter beans and bread dumplings,
- White mocha gateau in bitter chocolate glaze.
After dinner, the master of ceremonies invited the guests to the concert hall for the musical soirée. We listened to music by Boccherini, Mozart, Händel and Vivaldi performed impeccably by the Berlin Palace Orchestra. It was indeed an outstanding evening, with plenty of pomp and ceremony, allowing you to imagine what it must have been like at the former court of the Prussian kings and queens.
Did you ever dream about attending a soiree at a royal palace?