Peterhof and Catherine's Palace, Russia
Even more from Russia! I know it seems like a lot but in a country so rich in cultural treasures and history it's hard to narrow down what to send home.
Palaces! They got a million of 'em in Russia--believe me. These however, are two of the most impressive in the country and I got to tour them both. Peterhof (Peter's Court) was built by none other than Peter the Great. It was used as a summer residence and hunting lodge and was reportedly his favorite palace. Catherine's Palace was not named or built for Catherine the Great (although she enjoyed it, too) but rather for Peter the Great's second wife who was also his mistress for a time, Catherine I.
They are both terribly impressive and done in high rococo style (a good 50 or 60 years after it was fashionable in Italy and France by the way). They have 18 karat gold leaf this, marble that, inlaid ivory whatnot and hand carved hoo-ha all over the place. You get the picture. There is even a room in Catherine's palace that is made entirely of amber and was described as the 8th wonder of the world after it was completed but no photos are allowed in this room.
The thing I found most impressive about these palaces however was that they were both occupied by the Nazis during WWII and were consequently gutted, burned and destroyed by them. There was literally nothing left but a shell of the palaces, ash and rubble. Both palaces were painstakingly restored from pieces pulled from the rubble, well documented photos of every room and the foresight of some art experts and historians who hid 30% of the art treasures and saved samples of furniture, tiles, china, etc., before the Nazi occupation. Even more interesting is that the bulk of this restoration work happened under communist rule.
The photos below are: A view of Peterhof and the Grand Cascade from the lower gardens, the portrait gallery at Peterhof, A grand table setting at Peterhof, Catherine's Palace as you approach it from the gates, followed by a more detailed photo of the facade and finally Catherine's throne room, the first in an entire series of "gold rooms" in the palace.
Labels: European Travel, History