St Petersburg – part two

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Catherine’s Palace at Peterhof (Petergof is the Russian spelling)

It was a warm day and I didn’t envy the staff in their period costumes. The picture shows the north side of the palace, or what was called the carriage courtyard.

The palace originated in 1717 by command of Catherine 1 of Russia. If you like a good tale look her up, because Voltaire  commented that her life was was nearly as extraordinary as that of Peter the Great himself.

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Views before we entered the palace, which was behind me.

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As we entered the building we went were asked to pass through security. I could see two men sitting at a desk watching us, so I climbed the small flight of stairs and entered the building. Only after passing through an archway did I realised that I’d passed through an X-ray machine, and shouldn’t have done so due to my pacemaker . . . .I checked the machine – it wasn’t working and didn’t look like it had been used in months, so I didn’t expect an ill affects. Normally security X-ray machines are very visible, with attentive staff, and I just wait to be patted down.
Before entering the viewing area of the palace we were given paper overshoes to cover our outdoor shoes, so as to protect the flooring.

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Two pictures to try and show how large the palace is – you can just see a small group of tourists. I was standing in the middle, which is the picture above my X-ray comment.

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Now facing the other way.

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Everywhere I looked I saw gold and more gold. Some real some not, but which is which?

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Afternoon tea?

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A piece of fruit?

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The ballroom or Great Hall – our party was only twelve so not sure how many parties were going around. The room was 800 sq mtrs (8611 sq. feet) and in its day it took 696  candles, framed by mirrors, to light the Great Hall after dark. Note the ceiling  . .

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Tried for a better view of the ceiling, but . . .I didn’t have the flash on . .

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Part of the dance floor. Everywhere was elaborate to show power and wealth.

Now here’s a tale – Catherine 1 (as she became) had been a maid in the household of Peter the Great (he was born 1672 – died 1725) and he reigned as Tsar from 1682 to 1721 and then as Emperor of all Russia from 1721 to his death in 1725.

He took a fancy to Catherine and it is thought that they were married in secret in 1707 – and they had twelve children, but only two daughters survived in to adulthood.

Peter the Great moved the capital to St Petetersburg in 1703, and while he waited for the city to be built he and Catherine lived in a three roomed log cabin, which his soldiers had built in three days.

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This is the historic site, but the cabin is inside this building, which was built later to protect the original log cabin. They lived as a normal couple, she looking after the children and the cooking and Peter tending the garden.

What Catherine suggested during a battle against the Ottoman Empire in 1711, is the bases of Voltaire’s comment. After the battle Peter the Great was so appreciative of her suggestion that he married Catherine again in 1712, but this time in public, and she became the Tsarina and later Empress.

They had two surviving children Anna 1708 & Elizabeth 1709. Both were illegitimate, but after Peter married Catherine in public, he legitimised the children.

Elizabeth was very like her father and he treated her as his favorite. In 1724 Peter betrothed Elizabeth to her cousin, who was a prince of impeccable background. By 1727, she was seventeen, her fiance had died, her parents had died, and her half nephew was on the throne. In 1730 her sister Anna became Empress on the death of her husband. She reigned until her death in 1740. There followed a year of regency until Elizabeth seized power and became Empress. She died in 1762 on Christmas Day.

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Elizabeth was extravagant with her clothing – she had 15,000 dresses – see a sample of one above. She never wore the same clothes twice.

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We passed in to a more private area of the palace .
Nicholas I – reigned 1825 – 1855.
He created the first Russian secret police.

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Alexander III of Russia 1881 – 1894

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   Alexandra Feodorovna (6 June 1872 – 17 July 1918) – the Empress of Russia.
She died from a single shot to the head.

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Nicholas II of Russia – reigned November 1894 – March 1917.
Shot five times in the chest, 17th July 1917.

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I think this is the State Study of Alexander I.

There is so much to see, that a single day might not be enough, and to absorb all of the information is a feat in its self. A ‘bucket list’ destination for anyone thinking of visiting Russia. For me, the visit exceeded my expectation.

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Finally the Amber Room.

Photographing isn’t allowed so I had to download from the internet.

The original Amber Room was intended for the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin, but it was installed at the Berlin City Palace. It was designed by a German sculpture and a Danish craftsman. It remained in Berlin until 1716, when Frederick William I, the King of Prussia, gave it to his friend and ally Tsar Peter the Great. Eighteen boxes were shipped and it was installed in the Winter House in St Petersburg.

In 1755 Czarina Elizabeth ordered the room to be moved to the Catherine Palace. The room covered about 17 sq mtrs (180 sq feet) and the Amber walls were studded with semi-precious stones, and backed with gold leaf. The estimated value today would be around USD $142 million.

In June 1941 the room was looted by the German army, and they dismantled the whole room within 36 hours and shipped it to Königsberg, Germany (which is  Kaliningrad today) and the room was installed in the castle. Alfred Rohde, a German art expert, took control of the Amber Room because his specialty was amber.

The room was on display for two years while he studied every aspect of its creation. In 1943, the end of the war was in sight, so he was ordered to repack the room and send it to safety. In August of 1944 the city was bombed by the allies and destroyed and the castle became a ruin.
Alfred Rohde managed to ship out part of the room, but he suffered from Parkinson’s disease, so he and his wife decided to stay in the city, which was now under siege by the Russians, during the battle of Konigsberg. The battle ended on 9th April 1945 with a Russian victory.
Rohde was fifty three, when he died in hospital on the 7th December 1945, and took the information about the Amber Room with him to his grave.

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As usual with famous losses or finds we have the ‘curse’ –

according to the curse Alfred Rohde and his wife died of typhus (he didn’t), while the KGB were investigating the room (I don’t see the connection, but who am I to comment?),

General Gusev died in a car crash after talking to a journalist about the room  . . .another long bow . . and German army solider, Georg Stein, who was an amber room searcher, was murdered in a Bavarian forest in 1987 -connection??

The reconstruction of the room began in 1979 and it took twenty five years.

President Vladimir Putin, and the then-German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, dedicated the new room to mark the 300th anniversary of St Petersburg.

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The flag of St Petersburg.

 

 

 

 

Author: 1944april

Traveled a great deal - about 70 countries - first foreign country I suppose was Wales, which was only 80 miles away from where I was born. Visited each Continent, except Antarctica, and I doubt that it is on my bucket list - too cold. I love Asian food, Australian wine & British beer & trying to entertain by writing.

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