St Petersburg

St Petersburg – The home of Elena’s Uncle Edward a retired Russian Astronomer who resided on the grounds of the oldest observatory in Russia at Pulkovo on the nest to the International Airport on the outskirts of the city. Uncle wanted to show us so much but we had only a few days before taking the Trans Siberian Rail to Elena;s home city of Chelyabinsk.

 

peter-paul-fortressThe Peter and Paul Fortress is the original citadel of St. Petersburg, Russia, founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and built to Domenico Trezzini’s designs from 1706-1740. Lacking the fame and tourist appeal of the Hermitage or the Mariinsky Theatre, the Peter and Paul Fortress is certainly no less of a St. Petersburg landmark. The first structure to be built in St. Petersburg, and is the birthplace of the city, it never served its intended defensive function. Instead it’s had a rich, hugely varied, and sometimes sinister history as a military base, a home of government departments, the burial ground of the Russian Imperial family, the site of groundbreaking scientific experiments, and a forbidding jail that held some of Russia’s most prominent political prisoners.

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Pavlovsk is the youngest of the grand Imperial estates around St. Petersburg. Named in honour of Tsar Pavel, this fine neo-classical palace and its extensive landscaped gardens are stamped with his taste and even more so with that of his wife, the German-born Maria Feodorovna. Although there was no love lost between Pavel and his mother, pavlovskCatherine the Great, it was she who originally presented him with the 362 desyatinas – 607 hectares – of land around the Slavyanskaya River. Perhaps it was the impossibility of living with her son at Tsarskoe Selo, combined with the desire to keep him and his family reasonably close, that prompted her to do so, although the official reason was the birth of her grandson, the future Alexander I.

Although lacking the dazzling splendour of the estates at Tsarskoe Selo and Peterhof, Pavlovsk is well worth visiting both for the treasures in the elegant palace and for the charming, rambling park, which is one of the largest and finest English-style landscape gardens outside the UK. Both the Park and the Palace at Pavlovsk were victims of wanton destruction during the Nazi occupation, and the extraordinary restoration project was not completed until the mid-1950s. Fortunately, there were extensive blueprints available for all aspects of the estate, so what you see now is almost entirely faithful to the original designs.

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