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Happy Birthday To You...da da dum dee dee dum......


Because of all of the world figures who came in for the celebration.... security was unbelievable.  In fact, the city was almost shut down to travelers.  Hotels were closed to everyone except dignitaries ... and cruise ships were not allowed into port.


How was our group an exception ?   Because we were staying on a private train ....which went to the outskirts of the city, each night.     Actually it was kind of nice, being just about the only tourists in the city. Oh how lovely not to see tons of tour buses. ( I think we saw only about 10, the entire time....and none of them had any Americans on board ).

So it was basically our little group and thousands of Russians.


Several of the normal palaces were closed to everyone except we went farther a field & got to visit some palaces that are not on the normal tourist agendas. It really worked out just beautifully !!




Peter The Great


The double-headed eagle ...symbol of Tsarist Russia ...with the gold dome of St. Isaac's in the background.


And speaking of St. Isaac's...... many visitors have viewed the outside ....but only a small percentage have seen the inside.  Here's an inside look at that dome.


And of course..... The Battleship "AURORA" ...which fired the signal shot for the Bolshevik assault on the palace in 1917.


Even the flowers were out in all their glory for this celebration.  I do believe the display rivaled Tulip Time in Holland.  It was glorious !!!


All of the bridges had been freshly painted and all the gilt touched up .... and because of the decreased tourist trade, traveling thru the many canals was quite entrancing.  The city is not known as "The Venice Of The North"  for nothing.


"Spruced-up" Church Of The Spilled Blood.'s not upside down. 

It's a canal reflection, silly !!!!


As well as the renovation of almost 150 historical landmarks ....the palaces & buildings along the canal passages had received "face-lifts".  This is the Sheremetev Palace. 

 Just a note here:  one of the Sheremetev descendants is married to one of the Yusupov descendants  ( who we met on a previous trip ).   This will all connect when you get to the Yusupov palace section.


These huge digital billboards had been installed all over the city, so everyone could see the mock battles,  activities and celebrations that were taking place on the river.


OKAY ......Ready For A Bit Of  "Palace Hopping"  ?




This was the residence of the future Tsar ..Paul I.

He and his "mum" ....Catherine The Great, didn't hit it off he stayed here from 1783 ,

 until her death, in 1796.  

 It was originally one of the palaces which Catherine gave to Grigory Orlov.


This was one of the "perks" of other places being closed. This was our first time here, and even though renovation from WW2 damage is still continuing,

it's a delightful place.

Of course, for me, it is always fascinating to watch restoration work.


As you can see....there weren't many people here.  

 Just us...and about 24 Russians.


Here, you can see the "before"...and  "after" of one of the rooms. 

This will give you an idea of what a massive undertaking, the restoration work was.


Love those parquet floors !!!    Even if you could afford it ...could you find anyone able to do this kind of work, anymore ?


There's even a secret underground tunnel .....that comes out.......


.....................HERE  !!!!




After Catherine died, the new Tsar Paul and his wife, made this into the Imperial Summer Residence. This was also our first visit to this palace.       It's just a little jewel !!!




Our horse-drawn carriages took us thru the delightful shaded lanes of the palace grounds, along streams, and past tiny bridges and gazebos ...

as we very elegantly made our way to the palace.


If you could manage to live long enough to enjoy it ...being Russian royalty wasn't half bad.



Ahhhhhhh ......there it is.....just ahead !!!!


"And  ...Thank You My Darling  , for a delightful ride !!!"

  As you can tell.......there weren't many visitors here, either  

Here is just a small sample of the fantastic parquet floors, silk wall paintings, unusual chandeliers & intricate ceiling work. See what I mean about it being a "jewel" ??




The Peterhof visit had been canceled, due to scheduled activities of the  visiting dignitaries.


 However, a few phone calls were made and we were given permission for a several hour visit .


 I believe the deal was, that we had to leave

2 hours before the contingent of diplomats arrived

( in order for a final security sweep to be made ).


The place looked magnificent beyond belief !!              What a change from the very first time we visited ...not long after the "break-up".


For many years, there had been no funds for restoration or even upkeep.  The inside of the palace looked dingy .

No lights were turned on - windows were dirty - paint was badly needed - & the furniture & gilt work were in sorry states of neglect. 


The outside was even worse. 

Once world famous for it's gardens & innumerable fountains .....Peter The Great's "baby", looked like a discarded old shoe.

Many harsh Russian winters had left their mark on the fountain & garden statues - the fountains no longer worked -

and the grounds were overgrown with lots of dead stuff.         I remember feeling so depressed and sad by the end of our visit.


Over the succeeding years,.... we have been back for quite a few visits - seeing a marked improvement with each visit. 

But the sight that greeted us this time just made our jaws drop open. 

I couldn't help thinking that Peter was looking on....& could almost hear him sigh... "At  Last !!"


Here is just a mini-look at the garden fountains  ( we have no idea how many there actually are ). This place is a "living fountain textbook"  !!!


My particular favorites are the  "trick fountains"  ( such as the one at the right ).

This particular one, has 5 metal tulips ..... with 2 benches nearby.

Now... when you bend down to look closely at a tulip ...  ( stepping on some stones to get that close ) ,

hidden  "triggers"  under the stones activate jets of water that squirt you in the face.

Surprised ... you usually take several steps back , toward the oak tree.         At that point, hidden pipes in the oak spray you with water.

As you retreat toward the safety of the benches , another device is activated ......... and you get it again  !!

I think Peter and I would have gotten on together famously !!!


But the "showpiece"

of the place is the Grand Cascade

with it's waters flowing down a "sea canal", (lined with water jets) and emptying into the Gulf Of Finland.


By the way ...all this is done by gravity alone.


 If we had to choose a favorite palace among all those we've seen , it would be hard to do.... but if the

 gardens of Peterhof and this 

particular palace could be         combined  then the "first place" slot would be filled.


Modeled somewhat after Versailles ... but bigger ... it possesses a charm that Versailles lacks.


Like Peterhof ... we've watched the process of restoration during our many visits here.


Time ... war damage ... and lack of funds under Communism, had a devastating effect on this site.

Catherine The Great


Unfortunately ... the visit here was canceled ... and we were not able to get permission to enter.

The ceremony to "unveil" the recently restored  "Amber Room"  was about to take place.

If only Roy was England's  P.M. ... we would have had an invitation .   DRAT !!

We've been watching the progress of that room  ( and yes ... contributing ) , like a newborn baby, for years !!!


For all of you who haven't had the pleasure of a visit to this place  ( not only our group members ) ...

I've decided to display a few photos taken on our previous visits here,

to encourage you all to keep this on your  "List of Worthy Sites to See"


The rooms here are a delightful variety

of styles.


But the most memorable thing ...

for us ..

are the fantastic parquet floors.


 In none of the many rooms will you find a repetition of any of the floor designs.

Each floor is completely unique !!



This has been one of the most sought after and elusive treasures in ages.

As you may or may not know, this room was covered in amber mosaic panels ... interspersed with long narrow mirrors, which reflected the light from gold candle wall sconces & chandeliers.

Empress Alexandra likened it to  being inside a giant jewel box.


During WW2.... the Nazis dismantled the room & carted away all of the panels ......none of which has ever been found again.


Luckily, old photos ( such as the one at the left ) well as drawings, have been found.  So painstaking and costly years have been spent, in an effort to recreate these intricate mosaic panels, for installment in their original state at the Catherine Palace.


The photos below ( from our previous visit ), show the restorers at work ..... as well as one of the smaller completed panels






This was reported to be a favorite dwelling of Empress Elizabeth  

 ( Peter The Great's daughter ).

This is one massive place  ( 350 rooms )   and houses one of the most extensive art collections in the world.


 They say, if you spent just 2 seconds viewing each piece of art .... would take you several years to see it all.

Empress Elizabeth


Tsar's Private Theatre


   Now here's a room that most people never get to see,

because it's not on any of the tours.


   On a previous trip, we were invited to attend a fantastic gala private ballet performance here,

which featured stars from every major ballet company in Russia.


   It's a very intimate little theatre ...

which holds about 200 people max.


There were only about 120 of us there that evening,

so it was quite comfortable.




This is the place where Rasputin was murdered. Prince Yusupov &  several members of the Tsar's family, poisoned - stabbed & shot him ...then dumped his body into the canal here ( not far from the front door ).


And this is Prince Yusupov's descendant,  Xenia Yusupova - Sheremeteva.  You may recall that I mentioned her  ( under the photo of the Sheremetev Palace ) earlier on.  We met her on a previous visit . She's about our age & is a real hoot to talk with !!

This photo was taken , the evening we attended a private concert here,


This is the little ballroom where the concert was held.


As you can see, from the number of chairs, it was a nice intimate gathering.


Several of the stars from the latest opera at the Kirov  treated us to a delightful varied program. 


The champagne was pretty good too.


The rooms here are uniquely varied   ( it even has a formal Theatre with brocade curtains, balconies & all the trappings ).

Even though some of the rooms are quite ornate ........ as palaces go , this one is extremely  "livable".

We really felt quite comfortable here.


Prince Felix Yusupov


Wax figures in the hidden basement room,

where the event took place.


Grigory Rasputin

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