On our second day in St. Petersburg during the 16-day Baltic cruise we began on June 1, 2013, we were driven one hour to the town of Tsarkoye Selo 30 km (18 miles) from the city in order to tour Catherine’s Palace.
When we arrived there was a mix-up about our pre-arranged tickets and the whole group had to stand around for about a half hour until a lady from the tour company came running up to straighten things out.
This huge building and park-like grounds were almost completely destroyed during WWII and throughout the building they had images of what the various rooms looked like before they were restored. 57 of the massive halls were ruined and over half of the building has now been painstakingly restored its former grandeur. Thankfully, unlike the Summer Palace in Peterhof, we were able to take photos inside.
You cannot get a sense of the massive scale of this place except from the air. I found these two photos on a tourist information site so hopefully I haven’t infringed on someone’s copyright. I couldn’t find a credit for the images and the site was in Russian. Obviously we did not come close to seeing even the entire main building let alone the rest of the complex. And, yes, if you see something that looks like gold it is gold. There was originally over 200 pounds of gold on the exterior alone – today it is gold paint, not gilt
. The magnificent Grand Hall is over 154′ long and 56′ wide (47m X 17m) and has a beautiful parquet floor and elaborately painted ceiling. Between the light coming in from the windows and all the mirrors the room fairly sparkles.Magnificent artwork and treasured masterpieces are everywhere. Each chair is a different pattern of hand-painted silk.The blue and white dutch-looking columns in the rooms are fireplaces or heating stoves.
After our tour inside the palace concluded we had some time to wander around the grounds. The ChapelFrom Catherine’s Palace we were taken the short distance to Emperor Paul I’s Palace at Pavlovsk.