Saturday, November 11, 2017

Baltics Cruise July/August 2014 - Russia pt.3. Catherine Palace.

We left Peterhof Palace and our driver and guide took us to a small local restaurant where we had lunch before heading for Catherine Palace.

The Carriage Courtyard.

It looked so pretty, almost as if it had been created by Wedgewood.
I have copy and pasted from the Visit Russia site as they can describe it's history much better than I can.
"The Catherine Palace is the former imperial palace, one of the largest in the vicinity of St. Petersburg. The palace is located in the town of Pushkin (formerly Tsarskoye Selo), 25 kilometers south of St. Petersburg. Both architectural trends of each of the periods, which the palace survived, and personal predilections of Russian tsars of that time reflected in the history and architecture of the palace. The palace was built in 1717 under the direction of the German architect Johann Friedrich Braunstein as the summer residence of Empress Catherine I. In 1743, Empress Elizabeth asked the Russian architect Mikhail Zemtsov and Andrey Kvasov to expand and beautify the palace. Exactly during the reign of Empress Elizabeth the palace acquired its present form and style. In May 1752, she asked the architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli to rebuild the palace, because she considered it too old-fashioned and small. After the dismantling and grandiose reconstruction, which lasted four years, the modern palace was completely built in the Russian Baroque style. July 30, 1756 the presentation of the 325-meter Palace shocked the Russian dignitaries and foreign guests. A huge size of the Grand Palace is seen immediately. In addition, the symmetrical axis system of the overhead porticoes of the palace facade corresponds to the basic spatial coordinates of the park plan. The final touch in the construction and decoration of the Catherine Palace was the Main Staircase in the Rococo style, created in 1863 by the Russian architect I. Monighetti. After the October Revolution, the Catherine Palace was turned into a museum. During the German occupation, the ensemble suffered, the palaces were looted, many of the exhibits were burned. Nowadays, the ensemble is fully restored by restorers N. Baranov, A. Kedrinskiy, N. Tumanov, etc. Today, the exhibition of the Catherine Palace is opened in 32 rooms. The most interesting place of the palace for tourists is the famous Amber room restored by 2003. The main decoration of the Amber Room was made at the beginning of the XVIII century in Prussia, in 1716 it was presented by King Friedrich Wilhelm I to Peter I; in 1746 it was completed and fit in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, in 1755 it was moved to Tsarskoye Selo. During the Great Patriotic War, the decoration of the Amber Room was removed by the German occupiers to Koenigsberg. The further fate of the room was unknown. Since 1979, there have been the restoration work of the Amber room, by the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg it was completely restored by domestic restorers, including by funds of German companies. The fate of the original exhibits of the room is still under a veil of legends and myths."


The main entrance.



The Grand Hall
Only a set number of people can go into each room at a time, but as we had taken a small private tour we were able to go in early and avoid the the crowds.


Detail from the ceiling.




Another of the elaborate rooms.






Every room that we viewed amazed us with the opulence.
The Red Room
Yes, this is The Green Room.
Replica of  Empress Elizabeth's ball gown. 





Painting of the Palace before the Great Fire of 1820.



Painting showing the devastation caused by the fire.


Disclaimer 

*We also saw the Amber Room but were not allowed to take photos in there. I did a safe search and found this photo which is stated as being free to use and share.

After a tiring but very enjoyable day it was back to the ship to rest up for the next busy day sightseeing in St. Petersburg.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Baltics Cruise July/August 2014 - Russia pt.2, Peterhof Palace.

We had heard of all the gold and grandeur of the royal palaces of St. Peterburg but nothing really prepares you for the opulence.


Our first view of the Palace.

The Menager Fountain.

Looking down onto the Grand Cascade.

The statue of Samson wrestling with the jaws of a lion.

The Grand Cascade.

And again. There are 64 fountains and more than 200 bronze statues and other decorations.

A fountain in the lower garden.

There are also trick fountains in various places that spray the unwary visitor if they step on a stone that triggers it. These children must have found the stone at this fountain and are using it to cool down.

More statues and fountains.




Chess Hill, also known as the Dragon Cascade.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Baltics Cruise July/August 2014 - Russia pt.1

And on to Russia. We were there for 2 days and I took so many photos here that I decided to do it in several parts.
If you do your own thing in Russia you need to get a visa. If you take a ship's tour or a private tour it can be done under a group visa.
We took a private tour over 2 days. The tour company must be registered to be able to take you under the group visa.
We went with Alla Tours and there were 8 in our group which worked well.

The embankment on the Neva River with one of the pair of Sphinx in the background.

I hadn't realised how old the Sphinx were until I looked it up. I knew they had come from Egypt originally but was amazed to learn how old they were. This is what I read about them:

"The two magnificent sphinxes on Unversitetskaya Naberezhnaya (University Embankment), in front of the Academy of Fine Arts, are roughly 3,500 years old and are considered among the finest examples of Ancient Egyptian colossal sculpture kept outside Egypt. They once stood on the Alley of Sphinxes in front of the tomb of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. For nearly two centuries, however, it has been the waters of the River Neva rather than the Nile that reflect in their bottomless eyes."
"The sphinxes were discovered during excavations in the 1820s, and were soon written about by the great French Egyptologist Jean-Francois Champollion. At the beginning of the 1830s, they were bought in France on behalf of the Russian Emperor and shipped to St. Petersburg. Carved from pink granite, the sphinxes weigh around 23 tons each, and the great neo-classical architect Konstantin Ton designed their pedestals and the granite pier, with its bronze lamps and griffins."


One of the gryphons.


The English Embankment.


The Imperial Academy of Arts on the Academy Quay of the Neva River.


St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral built in 1753.




We weren't allowed to take photos so I stood in the doorway with the flash turned off and hoped no-one would notice.


The subways in Russia are very ornate. Our tour included a trip from one station to the next. It was incredibly noisy.


Our guide said the trains are so punctual that you can set your watch by them. Not like British Rail then!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Baltics Cruise July/August 2014 - Tallin, Estonia.

So on to Tallin in Estonia.
If we haven't organised a tour we take the hop on hop off bus, and that is what we did here. We usually do the full route first to decide where we want to get on and off.


This is the Russalka Memorial to those who lost their lives in the Gulf of Finland in 1902 on the Russian naval vessel of that name.
We decided not to get off here as we wanted to spend more time in the Old Town later.


The United Methodist Church.


The Parliament building.


By now we had arrived at the old part of the city so got off at the Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Church which was built in 1900. We decided to walk past there for now and have a closer look on the way back.


A little further on we came to St. Mary's Cathedral on Toompea Hill. This is the oldest church in Tallin and was built in 1240.



Inside there are many family crests on the wall.


Apparently there was a lot of one upmanship back then, and the families tried to have a bigger crest than their neighbours.


The organ is the largest in Estonia and has over 5,000 pipes.





Coming out of the church we had a good view of the Old Town.





A view of the other side of St. Mary's Cathedral.


We walked on and came to the back of Alexander Nevsky church.


Time was going on so we walked part way down the hill to catch the next hop on hop off bus.

 Heading back to the ship, we got a good view of the Old Town wall.

Fat Margaret Tower (Paks Margareeta) was built in the 14th century as a coastal defence. It now is home to the maritime museum.




St. Olaf's church.
We boarded our ship for our next port of call which was to be St. Petersburg, Russia.