In the beginning of August we visited Gatchina, one of the ex-royal residences of our Russian emperors, though less frequented and well-known if compared to Tsarskoye Selo or Pavlovsk. Gatchina is not situated that very close to St Petersburg either. It is thus considered the region, not a part of the city. The history of Gatchina is closely knit with Pavel, that prolific emperor who built or inherited and redesigned lots of palaces all around St Petersburg. Gatchina was inherited from Catherine the Great by Pavel and then pretty much loved by the royal family and used as a second residence or a place of refuge by the succeeding monarchs. Just look at that wall!
The palace pictured above, called Grand Gatchina Palace, was built by Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi in late 18th century and later redesigned in the 1840s. Its appearance is consequently quite weird: the corner towers look somewhat unfinished, the overall impression being that of an Italian palace/ castle (well, what else would you expect from an Italian architect : ). If you look at what was left after a fire during the Second World War and take into account the fact that it was completely ruined by the fleeing nazis, you’ll understand how slow and hard the restoration process must have been. Now the palace is just fine – and this very tower reminds me of Florence!
The first time we went there was back in school, it was an organized visit with a guide impersonating Pavel (I guess?) leading the way through the castle and even showing us the secret tunnel which would secure a safe escape to the Silver Lake. We were also hunting for a ‘treasure’ (don’t even remember what that was).
The territory of the Gatchina park next to the palace is really huge and I guess only know being actually taken under control (just a couple of years earlier the park was much less looked after). Still there are somewhat wild places where local people swim or sunbathe.
That day the sky was just great and even without noticing it I took a number of photos where the real star is the dazzling summer sky:
…and some more:
Moving closer to the popular swimming part of the park and still taking photos of the sky, be it a reflection in the water:
We made a large circle round the park and ended up at the Silver Lake again which was to become an epicenter for a light show that evening (we didn’t go). The sky was now painted with feather clouds. I remember calling these clouds ‘porous’ instead of ‘feathery’, the words being somewhat close in Russian, poristy / peristy (obviously inspired by the TV commercial of that ‘porous’ chocolate bar which was compared to balloons in the sky : ).
There’s another part of the park which we didn’t visit that time, so… Why not come to Gatchina on your own after all? I do hope I inspire you to see the good ol’ St Pete one day and, believe me, you will certainly come back as there’s always more to see.
More on St Petersburg and its region here.
There’s a series of photos on my native town’s architecture still ”marinating’ in the drafts. Will get to it eventually!