In the Palace of the Empress

Friday, March 4, 2011

We got up on the late side today (either our bodies haven't adjusted to the jetlag yet, or all the walking from yesterday just tired us out). Our plan was to talking the suburban train out to Pushkin (the Tsar's Village) to see the Catherine and Alexander palaces, but after struggling to find any sort of directions online (and dreading trying to make our way through a Russian train station where we didn't even have tickets), we went down to talk to the nice folks at the front desk. Their recommendation was to take an "excursion" from Nevskiy Prospekt, and we're glad we did!

But, that's getting ahead of myself. The excursion started at 2pm, so before we left on that, we swung up to the Church of the Savior on Blood, which was only a short stop from our hotel. It looked very much like the classic Russian church (at least as portrayed by Tetris), so it was a blast to see it up close. The exterior was so pretty and ornate.

After a light lunch, we headed back to snag the bus for our excursion. We shared an English-speaking guide with a four-some of French tourists, and he kept up a running commentary of our trip out of the city.

The palace itself is huge. 984 ft long, decorated end to end with gold leaf, statuary, and columns. Very impressive!

Once we made it inside, we had to put on pretty silly looking little booties so that we didn't mess up the floor, and then we were free to follow our guide as he described the many rooms in the palace. The first one that we hit was the Grand Ballroom, which was head-to-toe mirrors, gilt, and candles. The majority of it had been re-done since a fire destroyed it in the early 1900s, but the ceiling was the original (and had some pretty sweet perspective tricks going on in it)

We also saw the Amber Room (but you'll have to check it out on Wikipedia, because they didn't allow pictures), and a dining room containing a replica of one of the Empress' coronation gowns. My main question was, how did she fit through any of the doors?

Shortly thereafter, we got to back at how many rooms we'd passed through. I promise, no mirror trickery in this one!
Tomorrow, we visit the Hermitage, and then take our first overnight train trip!


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