Outside the city of St. Petersburg lie numerous palaces which have served throughout history as the get-away, or summer palaces of the tsars. Such is the case of Catherine's Palace, named after Catherine I, but really shaped by Empress Elizabeth and later by Catherine the Great. Built in a lavish rococo style with elaborate gilding throughout, the interiors are exceptional.
The Church of the Resurrection with its gilded cupolas greets you on the east end as you arrive.
Every room is like a wedding cake
with flourishes and swirls of gold.
The Empress Elizabeth's inaugural gown graced one of the rooms. Without a doubt, the most famous room, which could not be photographed, is the Amber Room, which is a complete room of panels made of over 6 tons of amber, and backed with gold leaf and mirrors. So remarkable was the room that it was often called the "Eighth Wonder of the World." At the onset of World War II, docents tried to remove the panels to preserve them, but they were so brittle by that point, that they feared destroying them, and chose instead to try to camouflage the panels by covering them with wall paper. The Germans were not duped however, and removed the entire room when they looted the palace. The mystery of where the original pieces of the Amber Room ended up remains today, and is an intriguing and ongoing search. The room was restored to its original appearance and reopened in 2003 at the cost of $12 million dollars, taking 20 years to finish.
A short drive from Catherine's Palace is the palace of Pavlosk, the home of Catherine the Great's son, Paul. Definitely a more classical facade, one might be fooled by what lies inside. I know I was, when given the option of buying a photographer's pass to take pictures, I opted not to spend the money and regretted it as soon as we entered the first room. My sneaky husband did manage a few quick photos in one of the bedrooms when he saw my jaw drop.
Can you imagine this opulence?
Reminded me of Marie Antoinette's bedroom at Versailles.
Cupids whispering, "Sweet dreams...."
The day we left St.Petersburg, we had glorious weather, and it was the perfect day to visit the gardens of Peterhof, the favorite residence of Peter I.
Ofter referred to as the Russian Versailles, the Grand Cascade fountain featured above was based on Louis XIV's Chateau de Marly. The gardens are interspersed with statues and some 120 fountains.
The interesting thing is that none of the fountains on the property are driven by pumps. The Grand Palace sits high on a bluff overlooking the cascading fountains which lead to the Gulf of Finland. Water is supplied by natural springs and collected in reservoirs. The difference in elevation drives the numerous fountains between the palace and the gulf.
The gardens are laid out in the style of a French garden
of the 17th century.
No wonder this location has been designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Truly a playground of beauty.