Dairy on Peacock Island
At the end of the 18th century, Jean Jacques Rousseau’s call to “return to nature” inspired European nobility to construct mock farms where they could enact their notions of the “simple country life“ in staged surroundings. In Prussia it was King Frederick William II and his mistress, the Countess Lichtenau, who dreamt up a pastoral hideaway on Peacock Island, far removed from courtly etiquette, with its very own dairy where they could milk and savor the sweet milk of their well-kept cows.
Built from 1794–95, the same time as the Palace on Peacock Island, the Dairy’s exterior was designed to resemble a monastery gone to ruin. The ground floor accommodated the cows that the royal highnesses milked themselves. Thereafter they proceeded to the whey room, where today’s visitors can view the churn used by Countess Lichtenau to beat the cream to butter. Wooden butter molds with the peacock motif also still survive.
The double door on the upper floor opens onto the Gothic Hall. Its magnificent décor has an even more overwhelming effect when visited after having enjoyed the pastoral simplicity of the surrounding areas before reaching this room. Created by renowned artists, it is a masterpiece of early neo-Gothic interior design that is unparalleled in the Berlin-Potsdam region.
Other showpieces from the original interior decoration are the Bohemian crystal chandelier and a table made of oriental agate with carved snake feet.
The exhibition in the dairy farmer’s former living quarters on the ground floor documents Peacock Island’s various phases of redesign. A game of skittles and Russian slide, which was a favorite pastime of the royals during the 19th century, are also on display.