People who visit the colony of Alexandrovka in Potsdam south of Berlin are both impressed — and surprised. As football's World Cup is set to begin in Russia, we explore a fairytale village from the time of the Tsars.
According to a legend, it all started with a song sung by a few Russian soldiers who were held as prisoners by Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars. Perhaps it was a sad song that expressed the homesickness of the infantrymen.
Prussian King Frederick William III loved the song so much that, after the war, he asked his close friend, Russian Tsar Alexander I, to leave some singer soldiers in Potsdam, the Prussian capital south of Berlin. The Russian Tsar not only agreed, but even sent a few more guardsmen to the Prussian court.
Both allies and friends, Prussian King Frederick William III and Russian Tsar Alexander I enter Paris in 1814.
During a trip in 1825, Russian Tsar Alexander I suddenly died at age 48. Deeply saddened by the passing of his friend, Prussian King Frederick William III ordered the foundation of a Russian colony in 1826 as a "remaining monument commemorating the ties of friendship" between him and the Russian Tsar.
In the honor of Alexander I, the colony was given the name "Alexandrovka". A fruit garden was also symbolically planted.
The king hoped that the Russian-looking houses and the Orthodox church would help the colonists feel more at home, and that Alexandrovka would forever be a Russian island in Prussia that would maintain the language, culture — and of course song.
But this hope was not fulfilled as the Russian language dies out among subsequent generations of colonists. And yet Alexandrovka has continued to symbolize the close ties between the two nations.
Click through the picture gallery above to explore a Russian island on the edge of the German capital.