Today we visited the 3rd and last Rastrelli-designed palace of the Tsars. The massive Russian baroque palace (nearly 1 km in circumference) was built to impress. Set in the town of Tsarskoye Selo, this palace was used mainly in spring and fall. It was from here that Catherine staged the coup and seized the throne from her husband. The outside is covered in decoration and the interior was even more over-the-top than Peterhof. Many of the original furnishings and paintings remain. There were at least 3 dining rooms and place settings have been retained. The ballroom has been designed in the manner of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. The most unique room in this palace is the “amber room,” a room literally lined with amber mosaic. The room was gifted to Peter the Great by Prussia, sent to him in panels after he admired the room in Prussia. During WWII, the amber was not removed but the room was covered in plywood. The nazis did discover the amber beneath and the amber was stolen. Many rumours about its reappearance have circulated, but its whereabouts remain a mystery. The reconstruction, finding the amber pieces and fitting them into the shapes, took 30 years to complete.
Apologies, lots of my photos here were taken clandestinedly from roughly the perspective of my pancreas.
The rather drab cream structure is the Lyceum, the palace school, where Pushkin attended for six years and was the first graduate.
We visited a second palace today in Tsarskoye Selo, Pavlovsk. This was a gift to Catherine’s son who briefly succeded her as Emperor of Russia. The exterior was unimpressive but the interior was beautiful. Paul’s wife was an artist and her artistic sense is evident in the beautiful rooms and furnishings at Pavlovsk. Much of the artwork she painted herself, between having and raising 10 children. Paul married several of his daughters to European kings, following the pattern of Maria Theresa of the Hapsburg Empire who succeeded in peacefully taking power of many countries through strategic marriages of her 16 children, who included Marie Antoinette and her marriage to Louis XVI.
Sadly, this was our last evening with Willie as her visa was expiring and she had to head home. Another lovely feast at the Georgian restaurant near our hotel made for a fitting farewell evening.