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St Petersburg the Great Part 3 – Environs

Environs of St Petersburg (South) is the third part in the series of posts about – in and around – my native city (see also Part 1 and Part 2). By the environs I mean those places of interest – some of them connected with the royal past, with famous people and some of them just beautiful places –  which can be reached from St Petersburg and which are situated in St Pete itself (suburbs) or the surrounding it Lenigradskaya Oblast (the St Petersburg region, you see, we still refer to it as Leningrad in this case). As usual, there are so many photos of the places around Peter, I had to really restrain myself from publishing them all at once. In this post there will be photos taken by me in 2011-2013. I will try to be brief ; )

the White Tower, Tsarskoye Selo

We’ll start our journey from the most recent journeys – this one was to the newly restored White Tower in Pushkin, or Tsarskoye Selo, one of the multiple royal residences near St Petersburg (to the South). The current name of the town is Pushkin, which refers to its being a place where young Alexandr Pushkin studied and read aloud his first verses. Behind the windows of this place called Lyceum Pushkin studied and you can still visit it, a characteristic example of an educational institution in the early 19th century Russia. But I was talking about the White Tower, where I have never been before – now you can mount it and see the park, the palace, the town and far away the golden domes of St Petersburg cathedrals (hidden from the eyes of the enemy during the Second World War, they were such an easy spot to aim at!). There, in the background, the Catherine Palace with the church cupolas:

view from the White Tower, Tsarskoye Selo

Inside there are some Gothic and not much so rooms, where knights would have felt quite at ease 😉 But actually children now come there for some interactive games and workshops. The ceiling in one of the chambers is indeed a unique creation by Adam Menelas – this and some other objects in the park were designed for the emperor’s children, to play in and about =)

inside the White Tower, Tsarskoye Selo

The Catherine Palace in the – logically – Catherine Park was badly damaged during the Second World War, really. The splendor one sees now is a long and tedious work of many talented people, to recreate these works of art (the famous Amber Chamber is inside this Palace). The combination of blue and white (+ GOLD, of course) makes me somehow think of Greece, haha.

Catherine's Palace, Tsarskoye Selo

The entrance to the territory of the Palace from the side of the Alexander’s Park. A very exquisite wrought iron gate with … gold, for sure. The royal double-headed eagle, the crown… Looks nice against the blue sky:

Catherine's Palace, Tsarskoye Selo

A large part of the Alexander Park is the styled (pseudo) China Town (or rather, Village), which is occupied by some large companies as a residential area… yep.

China town, Tsarskoye Selo

But some of the objects are open to public and – finally – restored. Like this Chinese pavilion above or this Chinese Bridge which just about several years ago was a horrendous rusty construction hardly reminding you of anything like this:

Chinatown, Tsarskoye Selo

In the background is the Catherine Palace, it’s a long building with enfilades of shining chambers (it’s now a museum, too popular with the foreign tourists in the summer, cannot recall when I was there last…). It’s funny that Alexander’s Park is free of charge while Catherine Park can be accessed for free only in the evening, which we did:

tree alley in Tsarskoye Selo

Alleys of carefully trimmed trees are running from the Catherine Palace towards the other end of the Park – for sure these days they are already all covered in leaves. You almost expect to spot Alice with tins of red and white paint somewhere in between. I’d rather meet Cheshire Cat, though 😉

tree alley in Tsarskoye Selo

There are also pavilions, a pond, bridges and statues, ah, yes, also gardens – a real mixture of French, English and Italian landscape gardening. Rather different from the Alexander’s landscape park which has among others styled ruins of medieval castles, belltowers and even a local Mount Parnassus. This is yet another part of Alexander’s Park, Fedorovsky Gorodok which is a weird place, also styled (pseudo old Russian style), used to house the royal bodyguards – now they say the Russian Church is supposed to restore it. Did not notice any change yet…

Fedorovsky ensemble, Tsarskoye Selo

Looks quite sinister… But must have been really beautiful, imagine the same in white colour, all polished and clean…

Fedorovsky ensemble, Tsar

Well, all polished and clean is this church, St Nikolay Chudotvorets Church in Pavlovsk, another royal residence with a landscape park (a wilder type) right next to Tsarskoye Selo – this church was built in the beginning of the 20th century although it’s in the pseudo old Russian style. Used to belong to the military forces in the 19th and rebuilt in the 20th century, used as workshop and warehouse during the Soviet times.

St Nikolay Chudotvorets Church, Pavlovsk

Next to it is this Soviet statue of a woman in sorrow, there’s a rifle at her feet and she has lost her hand (in some battle of the World Revolution?). Dunno where she came from and why she is on the territory of the church and what these ruins are either.

near the church, Pavlovsk

We came to this church because we saw it from the hill near this castle – another ‘toy’ of our tsars, actually Pavlovsk itself (as the name indicates) was a ‘toy’ of Pavel, the emperor who got killed in the castle he built to be safe in… Well, as for this castle, it was built for his wife and called Marientahl (Mary’s Valley, also known as castle BIP), late 18th century (now a hotel), it has a movable bridge just like in a real fortress:

Mariental Castle, Pavlovsk

Pavlovsk, as I read in the book about St Pete in the early 20th century, was a livelier and a more popular place than the boring Tsarskoye Selo as it held philharmonic concerts in summer – right in the railway station building! The railways organised them for free getting all the money from the tickets, as those wanting to get away from the smog of St Pete were numerous. Now it’s all the opposite – there are of course crowds during summer weekends in Pavlovsk Park but Tsarskoye Selo is much more crowded:


This should be all in luscious green now. Love birch trees – there’s something really Russian in them… they are fragile, plain and… dual – black & white.

birch trees in Pavlovsk

A very Russian view indeed (also in the Pavlovsk Park, in early autumn):

Park, Pavlovsk

And if we travel a little bit further in the Leningrad region, we can find this mansion (late 18th century) which used to belong to Nabokov family and now houses the museum of the writer. The village is called Rozhdestveno and it is situated in the Gatchina district, Gatchina being YET ANOTHER residence of the prolific Pavel – he seems to have left traces almost everywhere over here! And they also baked some great pies in Gatchina for the sake of which the trains made a special stop at the station. As for the mansion, it’s not in its best condition but transports you somewhere to the early 20th century:

Rozhdestveno manor

The exposition represents the interior of a typical early 20th century mansion in Russia + it’s Nabokov‘s museum since 1987. I have not been inside but the park is nice (it was in autumn) and the view from this hill is amazing, there’s a river nearby and some village houses and of course the birch trees:

Rozhdestveno village

Some minute walk away there are two red caves and springs for the young speleologists and risk-loving photographers:

Caves near Rozhdestveno

There are lots of nature-related places over here but we do mostly visit those posh royal parks, I have to admit… Once we also went to this place called Maryino manor in Adrianovo village (Tosno district, deeper to the south from St Petersburg)  now very much appreciated by the couples planning their marriage ceremony in the open air:

Maryino manor, Lenoblast

The mansion which used to be Stroganoff’s residence was rebuilt in the early 19th century – the aforementioned Menelas from Scotland (with such a surname!) worked here too – and now among others it has some weird flowers all around and it holds a museum of old carriages, collected from all over the region – cannot believe they are still preserved somewhere in the villages… I liked this one:

Maryino manor, Lenoblast

The manor with its pond and park is very close to the road but still looks as if secluded, there’s also a pseudo-Gothic church nearby, all in ruins of course…Well, I do have a thing with ruins, it’s true, but I would also wish these places were better looked at – now it’s happening here and there and it’s a good thing, be it to attract tourists and gain money, I don’t care.

Well, the environs are inexhaustible, of course, I’ve only covered several places in the Leningrad region to the south of St Petersburg – and there are more to the north, closer to the Gulf of Finland (and Finland itself), with its typical Karelian landscape – pines climbing over the stones and rocky slopes. If you ever get here, consider such places as the fortress in Vyborg with a beautiful Mon Repos park nearby and Kronstadt with its military ships… It suffices just to start : )

Bon voyage!



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