As they do every week the Derzhavin Institute had this week arranged a variety of different trips, excursions and events for students to attend. Within minutes of arriving to my first day of classes on Monday I had already signed myself for one of these which looked promising. So it was that, after spending the previous evening experiencing the more unusual side of the St Petersburg’s artistic work, I spent much of my Saturday surrounded by the more traditional beauty of the Catherine Palace and gardens at Tsarskoe Selo, or Pushkin if you wish to use its administrative name.
Apparently the disappearance of the last few clouds from the sky gave the residents of St Petersburg a similar idea as the Palace grounds were heaving with those wishing to catch a glimpse of the interior of the Tsars’ famous summer house. Thanks to our wonderful and incredibly patient guide Valariya, the experience of the Derzhavin group was not that of an hour and a half wait in a line of people almost as long as the palace itself, but rather that of a relaxed stroll around the Palace’s gardens and Pavilions.
Once inside we were met with another queue, but this on was much smaller. After a short wait we were ushered up through the entrance stairway into the main hall of the palace. That which was not either a window, painted with pure white, or gilded with gold leaf, was a mirror to reflect the splendour of the former. We were told that the room had been designed by the famous Restreli, a name which you will hear in many of St Petersburg’s finest buildings. Given the sheer number of details present in the room's gilded sculptures and vast ceiling mural its seems impossible that anyone should be able to imagine such a room let alone create it.
Whilst no other room in the palace was quite as grand as this one they complimented it perfectly. Dining rooms, parlours, portrait rooms and everywhere gold and finery.
Perhaps one of the most impressive things about the palace is that a large part of it is a reconstruction. Whole sections of the palace were destroyed by fire during the German occupation of Pushkin and the surrounding areas in Word War 2. The Amber Room especially is almost entirely a modern reconstruction, only a few pieces of the original room, which was looted by the German Army prior to the fire, have been found and sent back to Russia.
For some the degree to which the Catherine has been recreated might be a negative, as if you’re seeing a copy and not the real thing, but for me it’s not so important. All buildings are repaired overtime, simply some more than others.