Tsarskoe Selo – The Tsars Village – in Pushkin, 27km south of St. Petersburg, is where the famous Catherine Palace is located. There are several ways to get there and I chose the one most convenient for me – the train! It took 30 minutes by train from Vitebsky train station to Tsarskoe Selo. The ticket was only RUB 47, purchased at the machine in the station (don’t lose it since there will be an officer who checks the passengers’ tickets onboard and you will need it to open the gate to exit the platform. Right outside the station, there were several stops for the minivans (marshrutka). I took a K-371 which stopped just some meters away from the Catherine Palace and paid RUB 40 to the driver.
Since it was March, the park was still covered in snow, which looked nice to me.. But I’m sure in spring/summer the scenery would be grand! The palace from the outside looked spectacular in blue, white and gold. It was after all designed on a scale to rival Versailles. And just like other buildings and palaces in St. Petersburg, this one also suffered serious damage and was almost completely destroyed during World War II. The reconstruction and restoration began in the 1950’s and the result is what we see today – jaw-dropping to me.
I bought the entrance ticket inside at the counter but did not get an audio guide (unfortunately) because for that, I would have to leave my passport at the counter and I didn’t have it with me (weird, never had to do this elsewhere). The whole situation wasn’t really ideal to me because at that time the place was packed. There were several large groups of Chinese tourists and (what looked like) European students, and we had to wait for a while before starting the tour to let the other groups inside finish first. I didn’t get much time to view and check out the rooms, either. The museum staff kept pushing us to move quickly from one room/display to another, most probably to give space for the next visitors behind us. So basically it was just an enter-look-around-for-a-minute-take photos-then-move-your-ass-kind of thing. And somehow, it seemed that the staff thought I was part of the Chinese tourist groups. They kept telling me to move along with the group in front of me while I was intentionally walking slowly behind them, not wanting to be stuck among them. 😀
Outside, it was really nice, all white and serene. I saw some people playing snow balls and children running around in the snow. Inside, some of the rooms are heavily decorated with gilded sculptures and ornaments. It is all bling-bling everywhere… like The Great Hall, 800 sqm in size with gilded carvings all over the walls and mirrors that reflect the light from the candle lamps and the sun through the glass doors and windows. Remember when I said I had to queue? I soon understood why. Just look at these pictures! There was no chance for me to get even one clean shot without anyone in the frame!
Or how about these dining rooms? Definitely not for a dinner for two. 😁
There is one room in which visitors are not allowed to take any photograph (the museum is quite strict about this!). It is called The Amber Room, where the walls are fully covered in amber panels and carvings as ordered by Empress Catherine II in the 18th century. The recreation and restoration of the room were done post-war (the original panels looted by the Nazi during the war remain unknown until today) starting in 1983. Historically very interesting, but personally I found the room too much for my eyes. I felt like being drowned in the golden-orange sea 😀
As I went through the rooms in the Palace, I couldn’t help but notice the pretty floor-to-ceiling white-and-blue installations attached to the walls that looked like the Delft ceramics. It turned out that those are the heating stoves that were used to warm the palace during winter.
All in all, despite the jam-packed situation, I was glad that I made it here. It is worth a revisit, perhaps in spring or summer?