Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Tsars' palaces

Posted by Hippo Bean at 8:59 PM
I saw rows and rows of soviet apartment blocks but new modern ones with glass and steel were getting built. with a population of 5 mil, I was wondering where all those people lived since the city proper was not that big. the hour drive to Catherine's palace in Pushkin was a nice way to see the greater st Petes. Good tram system connected the outskirts to the city center and the city had a nice underground metro with chandeliers and marble columns, although not quite as ornate as the moscow ones. We didnt try it though. pity.

Pushkin was a small lovely quaint town. this was where the russian government put the foreign dignitaries. Cottages, they called them, actually grand 2 story single houses crowded in the town, surrounded by green gardens with trees. Like a nice summer place to be. Loved it. Another stunning classical baroque architecture, the Catherine's palace was built to impress. enormous didnt even qualify it. we paid a brief visit to the family chapel next to the grand building. nice little intimate church. Not sure if all the imperial state houses still showed their original colors, but Cath's palace was now sky blue. I loved the vibrant colors of these russian palaces. Somehow this palace lacked a grand entrance and staircase. the staircase we've entered was not even as grand as the one in the Mikhailovsky Palace which was just a duke's palace. Gosh more gold everywhere. We just about seen enough gold. Strangely this place had all painted ceilings with no chandeliers! Walking from room to room, I began to wonder if the palace's inhabitants knew that one day chinese tourists would walk through their chambers. Katcha told us that was exactly what Cath had in mind. to tell people how rich she was. I remember my childhood friend A told me when she went back home and saw that her house in Taipa had turned into a local museum and she went it and said "oh, it's my room" and now tourists were walking in it. Must be a strange and funny feeling. Hm. We stole a few photos in the packed like sardine Amber room. What's the point of prohibiting photography only in this room? Although it wasnt the original amber, this room was still floor to ceiling in amber. amber not my thing. just look brown to me and i actually didnt find it all that spectacular. but others might disagree. This palace had the most romanovs mementos. paintings of them filled 1 room even with one of a boy Alexei. Poor kid. We strolled through the massive gardens and the leafs were just about to starting turning orange brown. On the Cameron Gallery, one could get excellent views of the back of the palace and the palace church on one side, and the English garden on the other. Very nice view of the blue palace amidst green orange brown trees.

After a buffet lunch, we drove to Pavlovsk palace, the 18th-century Russian Imperial residence built by Paul I, now part of the World Heritage site of St Petes. this palace was occupied by the Germans during WWII. The palace curators removed most of the treasures of the palace and dug holes 3 meters deep to bury/hide the statues, for the german wouldnt dig deeper than 1 meter. Other treasures, the curators hid them behind fake brick walls in the basement. For 2 and a half years the German didnt know the palace's treasures were all around them. The german burned the palace to the ground when they fled. All the palace's hidden treasures remained intact. Quite a triumphant story. Pavlovsk I liked very much. Smaller in scale, more intimate. Not many foreign tourists here. Still richly decorated and furnished, but none of the over the top extravagance as the other palaces. Here one can feel at home. A short walk in the gardens behind the palace where a small tranquil lake was situated, the pale yellow palace was reflected on it, it looked like the one in the sound of music. I really did like this palace very much. Nice way to round up St Petes visit.

Being in St Petes literally reduced me on my knees. I didnt expect it to be so westernized. Its excessive grandeur spoke of the old glorious imperial days of the tzars, with so much gold and excessive extravagance, and no wonder the common folks revolted. I've tried unavailingly to find out what the old Lenningrad's days used to be. No one would venture to speak of it. Most of the population was young and seemed to live in good times with plenty of money to spend, plenty of western commodities to buy. True the history was enormous here. One could see the architecture, grand palaces and state buildings all around. But the present is modern and western. Gone were the Lenningrad days, controlled, isolated and enclosed. Now it looks like a capitalist world. Passing by Tchaikovsky's house was a sentimental moment I didnt expect. I've enjoyed St Petes and loved it very much.

Catherine's Palace photos:

Pavlovsk Palace photos:



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