“Versailles is smoking in the corner” (Yekaterines I palace at Pushkin)

“Versailles is smoking in the corner” is an urban Russian saying to describe the beauty and magnitude of the Yekaterina’s palace: usually small people are smoking in the corner in order not to disturb the important people, so this verse is said in reference to how important and big is this palace (and sometimes in reference to the Peterghof palaces).

Pushkin (Tsarskoe Selo) is a small and quiet town in the southern outskirts of Saint Petersburg, off highway E95. The most famous point in Pushkin is the Yekaterina palace which was built by Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, and  is named after his wife / her mother – Yekaterina. It was used as one of the family summer palaces and was occupied the Germany Nazi during WW2, destroyed, burned and in recent years it was reconstructed almost in full. The palace is huge, with lots of satelite palaces, gardens and halls. One of the most attractive and famous things is the “Amber Room” – a room in the middle of the palace (in the second floor) that was fully covered with Amber. The Nazis stole the amber, shipped it to Konigsberg, what happened to it is unknown. In 1982 the Russian government gave an order to rebuild the room, the work was finished after 20 years and an investment of $12,000,000 when it was opened by Vladimir Putin.

The Amber Room at Yekaterina’s Palace in Pushkin

For us the visit was a big disappointment – not because of the place – it is amazing and beautiful, but due to the HUGE number of tourists that where there during our day (it was weekend) – we had to wait 1 hour in the queue to enter the place, and then to wait inside the palace for 2 hours (!) before we could move to the next room. In general the palace itself is not so big (it could be seen in 20 minutes) but we spent there more than 4 hours, while the management lets you stay in the amber room for no longer than 2 minutes.

I took, as an example, a photo of the main hall (it is 1000sqm in size!), one photo while I raise the camera upwards, to avoid people, and then below, a “normal” photo:


The main hall is 1000sqm (yes, 1,000 square meters of an open space!), the wall art was coated with gold… sometimes you wonder about the over wealth that the Royals had while the peasants could hardly find a peace of wood to warm their shacks in the cold winter.


The Palace staircase, we waited there for another 30min just to enter the main hall.


When built, the external statues where all gold coated. One day Empress Elizabeth looked at the palace from the garden, and a reflection of the sun made her think that the palace is on fire. She ordered to paint all the gold in green colour, which was reconstructed when the palace was renovated in the 20th century.


A look from the street’s main entrance to the Palace.


Gold, and more gold.


Elizabeth liked to eat, the Palace has many fancy dining rooms



That’s me, I put my smiley face in the pucture so you would recognize that those pictures are actually the ceiling.


Each room was decorated with precious stones in different colours, in this room – a green stone which I couldn’t identify.


Each room was decorated with art work, some of them were just full of it.


A look at the main palace from the garden


This is how the place looked when the Nazis occupied it


The Nazis completely destroyed all the inside and stole the art that was left behind, most of the art was moved out by the Russians prior to the invasion.



Yekaterina's palace entrance in 1944, after the war the the damage by Nazi occupation

Yekaterina’s palace entrance in 1944, after the war the the damage by Nazi occupation


The magnificent gardens have a huge lake and artificial streams, bridges and gardening work.


The water canals and bridges


A look at Yekaterina’s Palace gardens



The park’s map: gardens, castles and palaces

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