Monday, January 23, 2012

happy birthday Friedrich...and danke for the potato
Friedrich der Große, the Great, "der alte Fritz": 2012 marks the 300-year anniversary of his birth. He was an advocate of "enlightened absolutism," read the French philosophes, played the flute and tried to reform and modernize Prussia.

In December, during our visit to Sanssouci in Potsdam, we noticed potatoes on his gravestone near the place. I had to look up why, and found out he helped introduce the potato to Prussia.
the gravestone in Sanssouci
Here is one account of the legend:  "Frederick the Great of Prussia saw the potato's potential to help feed his nation and lower the price of bread, but faced the challenge of overcoming the people's prejudice against the plant. When he issued a 1774 order for his subjects to grow potatoes as protection against famine, the town of Kolberg replied: "The things have neither smell nor taste, not even the dogs will eat them, so what use are they to us?" Trying a less direct approach to encourage his subjects to begin planting potatoes, Frederick used a bit of reverse psychology: he planted a royal field of potato plants and stationed a heavy guard to protect this field from thieves. Nearby peasants naturally assumed that anything worth guarding was worth stealing, and so snuck into the field and snatched the plants for their home gardens. Of course, this was entirely in line with Frederick's wishes."  From

statue on Unter den Linden
 "Fritz" display at bookstore (Dussmann)

"In meinem Staate kann jeder nach seiner Facon selig werden."


  1. Diese weiss ich nicht! Vielen dank.

  2. Hi Kathryn,
    I don't know how much you know about TED, but check out this conference coming to Berlin