Yes, folks, like in the movie “Ghostbusters”!
This really nice building is Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Castle): it was constructed in the 18th century and is actually the biggest castle in Berlin. Originally built as a summer residence (Sommerhaus), this palace went through a lot of change through the centuries, and because of the different architects who managed to make this place look the way it does now. Useless to say, it has been almost destroyed during the last world war, and the reconstruction took almost 20 years.
But today we’ll have a look outside the castle, just in front of the street. Entering the castle by the main entrance, just behind those iron gates with the two white stone soldiers, there’s a huge statue of a man on a horse. Well, that’s not just any man on a horse. This is Friedrich-Wilhelm I, Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia, well-remembered and beloved sovereign, also know as “The Great Elector”. A special man in Germany’s history.
The statue was ordered by his son Friedrich I (yeah, I know, difficult to organize, all kings are called Friedrich here… same thing in France for Louis) to the great architect and sculptor Andreas Schlüter.
Originally, the statue laid in the center of the city, on a bridge called the Lange Brücke (Rathausbrücke now), near the place we know today as the Museum Island. As you may know, there once was another castle there: the original royal Castle, which was destroyed in the second half of the 20th century by Eastern Germany. It had been very damaged by the bombing attacks on Berlin in 1944-45, but it also represented everything communists hated… Divine Right Monarchy, for example. The City of Berlin has recently decided to rebuild the castle on its former location, in front of Lustgarten and Altes Museum: a lot of work ahead, guys!
This statue was so huge and impressive that legends soon began to pop out of the minds.
It was said that every New Year’s Eve, as the old clock chimed midnight and everybody was partying around, not paying attention to the statue, the bronze horse came to life, as well as its royal cavalier, and walked along the empty streets of Berlin.
Guys, you can imagine the fear you would feel when encountering such a thing in a desert street!
But I haven’t told you the story of how it came to Charlottenburg. No, it didn’t come by walking along the streets by itself. But it would have made a great story!
During the War, to protect the statue from bombing attacks, it was decided that it would be put on a boat and taken away for a while. But the statue was too heavy, and the boat sank in the Spree, near Tegel. Considering the situation at the time, fishing the statue out of the water was absolutely out of the question. So it stayed in the river, with the fishes, almost forgotten. Berliners had to wait for the end of the war to get the statue out of the water.
Originally, the statue laid in East Berlin. but when the war came to an end, Tegel was now in West Berlin: so it was decided the king and his horse would be put in Charlottenburg, another royal place.
Maybe that when the Royal Castle will be rebuilt, in a few years, the statue will walk by itself to its original location… ?
It would be a great (and sympathetic) monster in Berlin.