Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Archive for the ‘Palaces’ Category

Summer Palace at Peterhof

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 31, 2012

After visiting Catherine’s palace at Pushkin, we then went to the Summer Palace of Peter the Great.  Built to rival Versailles on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, the Palace Park is the most spectacular I’ve seen. It has the world’s largest system of fountains adorned with stunning gold statuary.

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Catherine’s Palace at Pushkin

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 31, 2012

Another day in St Petersburg, another palace!

Well, actually, this one was outside St Petersburg at Pushkin, a satellite town beyond the St Petersburg periphery.  En route, we stopped at the Victory Monument, a most moving memorial to those who died in the defence of the city, then called Leningrad.  It was besieged by the Nazis for 900 days, and the number of people who died each day of starvation was so great that they had to be buried in mass graves.  According to our tour guide, almost everyone in St Petersburg has lost someone in the war so this memorial is of great emotional significance to the people here.  View pictures here, they are much better than mine.

While Leningrad/St Petersburg fought off the Nazi advance, Pushkin was occupied by the Nazis.  En route to the Palace we passed a memorial to the Jews who were sent to their deaths from here.  They also ransacked the Palace, which was built by Elizabeth (of the Many Dresses) in memory of her mother.  It’s home to the famous Amber Room which was destroyed by the Nazis and like most of the rest of the Palace has been entirely rebuilt.

To see more of this exquisite palace, visit the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum website.

 

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Lavish interiors, in the Winter Palace at the Hermitage

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 30, 2012

One last post from me tonight, to share some of my photos from the Winter Palace at the Hermitage.  As we all know, all the Royals of Europe competed with each other to have the most lavish palaces and the most splendid art collections, and one thing we can certainly thank the Bolsheviks for is that they nationalised Catherine the Great’s extravaganza and added to it by nationalising all the other private collections in Russia as well.  (Mind you, they flogged off a fair bit of it when they were short of money most notably to American galleries and museums).

There are heaps of lovely books about the art works in the Hermitage and you can also see them online so I’ve confined myself to the interiors: massive chandeliers, some so big and heavy that none of us wanted to stand underneath them); tables inlaid with precious stones including one with grapes depicted in rubies; a gold clock in the shape of a huge bird which represents the ‘flight of time’; and massive urns made in precious stones such as jasper and lapis lazuli (which used to be placed lower on the ground so that they could be filled with chocolates for guests to help themselves).   There are rooms decorated with gold columns, frescoes, and tapestries, and also a ‘hall of heroes’ commemorating the great victory over Napoleon – where you will notice some green baize empty spaces amongst the portraits.  These empty spaces are those of heroes who died of wounds, and in the days before photography, not every man had a portrait suitable for hanging in a gallery such as this, but they commemorated their names anyway so that they wouldn’t be forgotten.  (The Duke of Wellington has his portrait in this gallery too, which pleased the British tourists among our group).

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Historic moments – in the Hermitage

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 30, 2012

I’ll bet many tourists walk through a small and (by the standards of the rest of this lavish Palace) somewhat nondescript room in the Hermitage without having any idea that they are on the site of one of the most momentous events in the 20th century…

Small dining room where Lenin’s Bolsheviks stormed the Provisional government

Source: Virtual Excursions, Hermitage Museum

This is the ‘small dining room’ in the Winter Palace where in 1917 the Provisional Government of Nicholas II met.  (See the photo at left). This Provisional Government was a token effort by Nicholas to meet the demands for political reform, but it had no real power because he simply revoked any reforms that they made if he didn’t like what they had decided.   It certainly didn’t meet the demands of Lenin’s Bolsheviks and so on the 7th of October, they entered the palace from the main entrance (at right) and the west side and captured the Provisional Government as they met in this dining room.

Over on the mantelpiece there is a clock, stopped at ten past two, because that was the actual moment when the October Revolution began.  There is a plaque next to it which explains the significance of the room, but because it’s in Russian, most tourists won’t realise where they are unless they have a tour guide or (presumably) a guide book.  (Actually, the Hermitage is pretty good with signage – a lot of paintings and artefacts are captioned in both Russian and English but not this room).

It was an amazing experience to be standing right where one of the most significant events in the history of the 20th century took place!

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St Petersburg – Antiquities in the Hermitage

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 30, 2012

Our friends and relations all know that this year Tim is studying classics at Monash, and that he very nobly briefly abandoned his studies to travel with me to Russia….

Well, this post is for him to show his tutor that he has not been slacking off while we’re away.  Today we spent most of the afternoon exploring the antiquities in the Hermitage, and since not many people travel to Russia, it’s quite possible that she has never seen some of the treasures that I have photographed here.  You’ll notice that I’ve also photographed some of the captions, but most of them were in Russian which made it a bit tricky to identify some of the pharaohs!

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Palacio Real, Madrid, 18.10.10

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 21, 2010

We were tired out from visiting the Sofia and Thyssen museums – but we just had to visit the palace in Madrid. On the bus tour they had told us that it had some unimaginable number of rooms (2500+) and although it is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, it is only used on state occasions and is open to the public most days.

We used our Madrid card for quick and easy entry.  The Madrid card, like the Dublin card, the Lisbon card and the Barcelona card, is a brilliant choice for tourists. You buy them online from Viator (or from the tourist office or airport if you haven’t planned ahead) and you flourish them in art galleries and museums to bypass queues a mile long. (Often there is a different door to use as at the Louvre, and what’s really good about bypassing the queue is that you can scamper up to the iconic paintings ahead of the mob and actually see them properly.) These cards offer free or heavily discounted entry to most attractions, discounts in restaurants and often free or discounted transport as well. They come in 24, 48 or 72 hour versions, and you can find out if one is available for the city you’re visiting from the Viator website.

Anyway, even if you haven’t got a card, the palace isn’t very expensive and it’s well worth the visit, especially the armoury which is just fantastic. There’s an armoury at the Wallace collection in London, but this completely outclasses it. There are dozens of life size knights in full armour on horses equally covered in beautifully decorated metal, but how they ever managed to actually fight anyone I cannot imagine – the weight must have been incredible.

You can’t take any photos of course, so I’ve sourced all the ones in this slide show from Wikipedia.

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After that, tired as we were, we visited the Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena as well!

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