My favorite places to visit are palaces (and large houses if we’re talking USA). I’ve been to my fair share around the globe, and Russia is right at the top in terms of “palatialness.” In St. Petersburg, I had the pleasure of visiting both the Hermitage and Catherine’s Summer Palace. So here we go.
Right in the center of St. P the architectural ensemble of the State Hermitage, first built by Peter the Great as his residence, consists of the Winter Palace (the former royal residence of Peter and his successors) and a bunch of other awesome buildings that house more than three million works of art and artifacts, from Matisse to Michelangelo and everything in between!
We started our power tour in the Winter Palace, admiring the state rooms and baroque architecture.
My favorite room housed a peacock clock, given as a gift to Catherine the Great, once a week they wind the clock and the peacock shows her (his?) feathers, sadly today was not the day.
To get from the Winter Palace to the buildings that house the galleries (started by Catherine the great), you need to walk down a hall modeled after the Vatican, it was like walking to the Sistine Chapel, minus the Papacy!
My favorite painting in the galleries was a Matisse.
And a few Michelangelo’s were chillin’ in the galleries too!
The collection was impressive, but we really only had time to run through the Impressionists. I’ll have to go back!
About 30 minutes outside of St. Petersburg (via metro and mashutka bus) in the village of Tsare Selo (literally “Tsars Village”) lies the Summer Palace complex, a country retreat for the Tsars. The most impressive building is the Catherine Palace, completed in 1756 for Catherine the Great (obvs). It was almost completely destroyed by the Germans in WWII, but prior to the war Russian archivists had managed to document almost all of the palaces details and treasures. As a result, the palace underwent a major restoration, and opened to the public for the first time in the late 1970′s. Some of the rooms are still being restored!
You start your tour in the Great Hall, almost reminiscent of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, and make your way into more and more magnificent spaces including the famous Amber Room, which houses wall panels made completely of carved amber. The original panels are still “lost” but they were reconstructed with great detail and paid for by Germany (paybacks a b&t*h). No pics allowed in the room, so I smartly snapped one outside the doorway. Nyet to that!
Another section of the palace houses some rooms decorated by Catherine’s son Paul. He and his Momma didn’t get along, so when he had to live at the palace he redecorated, pink and green is an interesting choice, but it was mainly to piss off his Mom the Tsarina.
Other interesting artifacts included these beautiful teacups and the bed of Tsar Alexander III. Originally he used it when he was in the army, but preferred to sleep in it even when in his royal residences.
They were lovely sites, and gave me some great decorating ideas for my palace someday, if you know anyone who specializes in Amber Rooms, do let me know…