inner at the Dreilinden Hunting Palace (Jagdschloß Dreilinden), near Potsdam, hosted by His Royal Highness Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia.
“Twilight still lingered at the edge of the forest” recounted German author, Theodor Fontane, as his horse-drawn coupé started to wind its way through thick forest for a dinner at the Dreilinden Hunting Palace (Jagdschloß Dreilinden), near Potsdam, south of Berlin.
“Not a flash of light, not a glimmer of daylight anymore”, continued Fontane as his coupé went deeper into the forrest, “the branches, pushed into each other from right and left, arched so densely above us”.
As the coupé jolted through the dark, it took one final sharp bend in the road and stopped. “Unforgettable picture! ”, exclaimed Fontane as he arrived at the isolated rustic hunting villa of Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia: the ‘Red Prince’, because of his trademark hussar uniform. This was Friedrich Karl's refuge for almost five months each year.
“A stream of light spilled out of a double-winged door onto a rounded forecourt surrounded by fir trees while, further back inside the door, was a colourful tangle of uniforms and liveries”.
“Our coats slipped off our shoulders; and the next moment we were stepping out of the entrance hall into a large hallway behind it, from which a straight stone staircase with light iron railings led up to the rooms on the first floor.
“Here at the entrance the prince received us, addressing a gracious word to all; the most gracious to the newcomers. But before words could become conversations, the dining room right next to us opened up, with its table, smothered in lights, and glittering with gold equipment and peculiar devices from the world of hunting”.
Fontane was about to take his seat at the legendary Round Table of Dreilinden: Die Tafelrunde von Dreilinden. In addition to the Prince and his adjutant, only ten male guests were ever invited to these informal dinners where rank and birth were parked at the door. The guests were a hotchpotch of past and present military elite mixed with renowned authors, poets, professors and inventors. Invitations were highly sought; but highly scarce too.
Guests took their place at the table on one of twelve upholstered armchairs that sat beneath a huge antler chandelier that glowed with 66 lights. A hallmark of dining with the Prince was Champagne served in tall silver goblets which had been gilded on the inside, and are depicted with the sommelier on the top-right of the menu.
Amongst the more regular guests was writer Balduin Möllhausen - a terrific raconteur at any dinner – who dedicated the poem The Hermit of Dreilinden (Der Klausner von Dreilinden) to his princely host for his birthday in 1879. Möllhausen was often called upon to recite the poem – that praised the Prince as a General and a hunter - and pen new ones for the round table dinners. So much so, that a book was published, Blaubuch von Dreilinden, containing all the dinner party favourites.
The menu on this website is from 1876 and depicts the humble Swiss-style hunting palace, named after the three giant Linden trees in the forecourt, along with the prince’s staff in their liveries.
Outside the hunting palace is depicted the Hærulf Runestone: a Viking era stone carved in the 10th century that has since been returned to Denmark. Prince Friedrich Karl pilfered the stone as war booty following the German-Danish War of 1864, where he had been supreme commander of the Austro-Prussian army that conquered Jutland.
The menu offers guests pigeon breasts with truffles; cod in crab sauce; and a goose liver terrine before a dessert of woodruff ice-cream – a traditional dessert flavouring in the German’ Spring when woodruff (Waldmeister) blooms.
"Nice wines, brilliant food, informal conversation" noted Fontane in his diary of a dinner at Dreilinden in November 1881.
At meal's end, cigars were circulated. Each guest had his own porcelain ashtray with each comically depicting two frogs mimicking human behaviour: from arguing, playing music or becoming highly inebriated.
21st May 1876
Suppe à la Princesse Frèderic
Soup named after the host's wife, Princess Friedrich of Prussia
Small brioches with a gruyere cheese filling, to accompany the soup
Kabeljau mit krebssauce
Cod dressed in crab sauce
Hammelrücken garni Bohnen
Roast saddle of mutton with buttered green beans
Taubenkotelettes mit Trüffeln
Pigeon breasts with truffles
Gooseliver Loaf (Pain de Foie Gras)
Putenbraten mit Salat
Roast turkey with Salad
Compote made from Mirabelle plums
Waldmeister – Gefronnes
Butter und Käse
Butter and cheese
Prince Friedrich Karl: (seated at the right of the table) hosts his dinner guests at the famous Dreilinden Round Table (Die Tafelrunde von Dreilinden). beneath the antler chandelier. The image appeared in Theodor Fontane's book, "Fünf Schlösser".
Dreilinden Hunting Palace (Jagdschloß Dreilinden): served as Prince Friedrich Karl's refuge for five months each year was more a "princely villa" than a palace.