Around St. Petersburg: The lavish decorations and beautiful artwork in the grand imperial palace from the era of the Tsars will leave one dazzled.
Catherine Palace, 25km from St. Petersburg, is located at the center of Tsarskoe Selo, the grand imperial estate, and was built between 1744 and 1796. It’s a large palace, filled with lavishly decorated rooms, beautiful wood and metal carvings, and an impressive interior design. One can’t but help imagine the glory of this place during the time of its significance.
The Amber Room
The palace was ransacked by Nazi army during WW2. The devastated exterior and interiors were meticulously and beautifully restored and the restoration work still continues. One particular room, the Amber room, was completely plundered and its decorations went missing – what actually happened is still a mystery. Whether the Germans took the exquisite artwork away or was everything lost during a fire under the Red Army’s occupation – nobody knows. However, the Amber Room was restored using German funds in 2004 and, it is absolutely breathless. It was very rich, very detailed and filled with delicate woodwork. I can see why this room had so much significance. The only room in which photography was disallowed was the Amber room.
The only way one can enter the palace is through a Tour guide. However, once you are in, it is easy to slip away and explore the place at your own pace. I went with the Russian tour since it was convenient and my friends translated the narration for me, but they do have English language tours. The tours cost RUR500 (USD25) back in 2008.
Getting there and away:
25km south of St. Petersburg is a quaint little town of Pushkin where Catharine Palace and the park is located. Marshrutkas operate frequently from St. Petersburg, and we hopped on one early in the morning. This is an ideal one day excursion.
Marshrutka (shared van) can be hailed from outside Moskovskaya Metro station and they take about 30 minutes (Fare: RUR25). Suburban trains run from Vitebsk station.