Tsarskoye Selo or Puskin, Catherine's Palace

September 19, 2005

Our first day was a tour of the Winter Palace of Catherine the Great.   It is 30 or 45 minutes from our boat.   There was a lot of historic detail provided by our guide about Catherine and Peter the Great.   Impossible for me to remember.   These first two photo were taken on enroute to the Winter Palace.   The street scene reminded us of Thailand country towns.

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When we arrived at the Winter Palace, it had not opened — the gate was closed.   Note the double headed eagle, a Russia symbol of the czars.

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But at the gate was a small band consisting of a tuba player, a couple of baritone players, a drummer and the leader, a trumpet player.   For the most part they played rousing marches and for such a small group they were good.

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This is a palace and a park.   In 1711, after Catherine was declared "the true Sovereign", construction was started of a large scale residence.   Then when Elizabeth, daughter of Catherine, became Empress in 1741, she turned the old mansion into a luxurious palace.   The front of this palace, the view of this first photograph but not totally displayed, is over 2,400 feet long!   An Italian architect by the name of Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli was commissioned to provide the elegance which accounts for the luxurious Baroque appearance.   Rastrelli remained in Russia and was the architect for many palaces and churches, greatly influencing architecture in Russia on the whole.

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The first floor was nothing remarkable.   There was a huge area for groups to gather, souvenir shop, money exchange window and restrooms.   I would guess that the first floor was mainly for the staff of the palace.   Certainly, there must be a large number of servants, a large kitchen, laundry, storage, etc.   There was a large stair case to the second floor where we visited most of the rooms.   The following four photos are of oriental porcelain found on the walls of the stair case.  

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The most unusual thing, unusual at the time, was an area where everyone was given cloth booties to put on over their shoes.   We could not imagine what we were going to see.   This next photograph is one of many that I took of the floors of this Palace.   Each room had a different design.   This design was found in the Great Hall, a ballroom of 9,106 square feet.  

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From here, there will be photographs with little narrative.   Only that of great importance or interest will be written.

The Great Hall

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Dining Rooms

The first two dining rooms were the Cavalier's Dining Room and the White Dining Room.   Of course the floors were not of the same design.   The blue and white ceramic "structure" is a heater.   Most rooms at two of these, some had more.   Being a heater, they are rear loaded with coals so as not to disturb those in the room.

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Other dining rooms are the Crimson Pilaster Room, above, Portrait Hall and the Green Dining Room.   The Palace was occupied by Nazi soldiers during the Second World War.   They plundered the entire Palace.   Note the black and white photo below.   It is amazing the work that has taken place to recover from this pillage.   In this area is the Amber Room, an entire room with inlaid amber panels originally designed by Rastrelli in 1755.   All the amber was stolen by the Nazis and taken back to Germany.   Much was tracked down and returned by Germany.   Germany also paid to Russia about 4 million dollars as restitution for damages during WW II.   Unfortunately, NO PHOTOS ALLOWED.   This is a scan of a postcard and it does not do the room justice.


The Amber Room

Portraits of Catherine and Peter

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Concluding on the inside of the Winter Palace, the Green Dining Room and the most beautiful table I've seen.

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The Architecture and Catherine's Hermitage

With the weather clearing nicely, the outside of the Palace displayed all its detail.   The gold onion domes sparkled in the morning sun.

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Catherine had her own Hermitage, a place to go to get away from all the busy activities, a place to go to relax and perhaps read a book.   Although meant as a place where she could be alone, this Hermitage could dine 40 or so guests with ease.   A lift from below brought the dining table completely set with the finest china and food to the dining room level.   Unfortunately for us, this building was undergoing restoration and we were not allow inside.

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At this point we made our journey into the city of St. Petersburg.   For continuing into the city, click below.

Next   —   City of St. Petersburg