Some days before the New Year, I was lucky to see a friend in the town of Pushkin not far from St. Petersburg, in the North-West of Russia. Of course, I couldn't miss the chance to see the architectural masterpiece of the 18th century which is often compared with the French Versailles - Catherine Palace (Ekaterininsky Dvorets). This was the imperial summer residence of the Romanovs, which was turned into a museum after the October Revolution.
The palaces and parks of the unique Tsarskoye Selo ensemble suffered significantly during the years of World War II. The Catherine Palace, which had been in the occupied territory for twenty-eight months, was found half-ruined by 1944. Some park pavilions were partially or completely destroyed; the reconstruction has taken decades and required Russia's most prominent restoration specialists and artists to recreate the former splendor of the place.
The residence unites the best examples of Baroque and Classicism architecture. You can admire the luxury decoration of the Great Hall and the Golden Enfilade, including the world-famous Amber Room, revived to a new life after its mysterious disappearance in the course of World War II. The museum boasts as well a rich collection of fine and applied art. Perhaps summer or early autumn are the best time to visit it, but I doubt I will be able to travel back to Russia in the upcoming 6 months.
This huge ballroom looks even larger because of the high windows and the mirrors on the walls. As the palace was used as the summer residence, I guess that the visitors didn't suffer from the cold that much.
The story of the Amber Room resembles a historical detective. Let's see what Wikipedia tells:
*The Amber Room was intended in 1701 for the Charlottenburg Palace, in Berlin, Prussia, but was eventually installed at the Berlin City Palace. It was designed by German baroque sculptor Andreas Schlüter and Danish amber craftsman Gottfried Wolfram. Schlüter and Wolfram worked on the room until 1707, when work was continued by amber masters Gottfried Turau and Ernst Schacht from Danzig (Gdańsk).
It remained in Berlin until 1716, when it was given by the Prussian King Frederick William I to his then ally, Tsar Peter the Great of the Russian Empire. In Russia, the room was installed in the Catherine Palace. After expansion and several renovations, it covered more than 55 square metres (590 sq ft) and contained over 6 tonnes (13,000 lb) of amber.
The Amber Room was looted during World War II by the Army Group North of Nazi Germany, and brought to Königsberg for reconstruction and display. Its current whereabouts remain a mystery. In 1979, efforts were undertaken to rebuild the Amber Room at Tsarskoye Selo. In 2003, after decades of work by Russian craftsmen and donations from Germany, the reconstructed Amber Room was inaugurated at the Catherine Palace.*
This is the authentic 18-century china set, one of the oldest in Europe.
The Catherine and the adjacent Alexander parks cover a total area of 300 hectares: you will see secluded pavilions, bridges and marble monuments, as well as exotic structures in the style of Gothic, Turkish, Chinese architecture that create romantic atmosphere.
The Admiralcy building is now a restaurant.
In the southern part of the Catherine Park, behind the Great Pond, the ascent to the artificial earth mountain leads to the Ruined Tower. Here are the Gothic gates cast in Yekaterinburg in 1777-1778.