Friday, October 22, 2010

Long Time No Post

After receiving a surprising amount of hate mail concerning my lack of posting, I've decided to get my act together and sit on Friday night and write blog posts (not that I would be doing anything better, it's snowing outside and I have no urge to battle snow in mid-October). I have more than two weeks, and a giant cruise down the Volga to cover so I'm going to try to punch these bad boys out as quick as possible. Two Wednesdays ago our excursion was to Pushkin, formerly know as Tsarkoye Selo, which is home to the famous Catherine Palace. I've been in Russia for almost four months now, and I can tell you by this point, I was pretty much palaced out. It's kind of a "you've seen one, you've seen them all" type deal. Painfully, and sometimes grossly ornate palaces, often (or so it seems) filled with second rate art works that didn't quite make it into a museum. I have to say though that Catherine's Palace was an exception. The palace is an eye-catching shade of robin's egg blue and is covered in gold and white trim. The interiors are huge, lined with gold leafed sculptures of cupids, angels, and human figures, and mirrors, all a refreshing change from the endless enclosed rooms of other palaces. The Catherine Palace (named for Peter's wife, not Catherine the Great as many believe) is also home to the amber room, a room paneled in amber. The original room was stolen by the Nazis in World War II as they gave the palace the stereotypical German treatment (IE completely ransacking the place) and was lost for decades. I believe it was recently discovered that the panels were destroyed in a fire accidentally set by the advancing Red Army somewhere near Koenigsberg, but I could be mistaken. The room has been painstakingly restored however and is now a proud symbol of the new Russia. The room is awe inspiring, even though it doesn't cover the entire room (the original was a gift from Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, and was meant to cover a room a quarter of the size) the amber is beautiful as it is, but it has been carved into picture frames, trim, and about anything else you can imagine. I wish I could have taken a picture, but unfortunately the army of babushkas guarding the room were quite vehement about enforcing the no photography rule. I've decided, if I ever become the Theocrat of a country, I'm going to build myself an exceeding opulent palace like the Catherine Palace, complete with my own Amber Room, which will take up the ENTIRE room. The rest of the afternoon after the afternoon was spent rather peacefully wandering the extensive gardens and grounds of the palace.

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