Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tsarskoye Selo: Summer Residence Of Russian Czars

Of all places, we got lost in Pushkin.

Since the Catherine's Palace (Tsarskoye Selo) is only allowed to be toured with a group, the palace was packed during our visit; there were probably 40 to 50 groups at that time. Towards the end of our tour, a few people in our group decided to use the restrooms while we waited outside. Due to the flood of visitors, it was so packed that we got pushed or dragged with the flow of people that we lost sight of our own group. Imagine the fright and anxiety I felt being lost in a sea of people taller than I am and speaking different languages. It's a good thing our tour guide designated a wait area just in case we got lost, so we hurriedly made our way there. After 45 minutes of frantically waiting for our tour guide at the meeting point, I couldn't stop pacing back and forth while controlling the urge to cry. Well, after about 50 minutes, our guide finally showed up, only then I could breathe relief.

Why exactly was I frightened? Because (1) our immigration experience was a "little" unfriendly, Philippine passport holders got even worse treatment; (2) there's an unspoken unfriendliness or uneasiness towards tourists or more specifically US citizens; and, (3) people we spoke to, to ask for directions didn't speak English or were just not interested in helping; they just shrugged their shoulders and walked on. Maybe my feelings were wrong or maybe I had preconceived feelings towards Russia due to too many history books I've read regarding the sticky US-Russia relations, but it seems that the other travelers in my group felt the same way. It was sort of an unspoken truce that it is NOT a good idea to get lost in Russia or else you'll have a hell of an experience dealing with immigration authorities.

After all the hassles, St. Petersburg is a very interesting place to visit and that our experiences there are priceless. This city has so much to offer to the world. There are just a few things to remember while visiting St. Petersburg:
  • for now, it is best to join a tour package, so that you don't have deal with procuring a visa that would cost about $600.00 per person (for US citizens)
  • be ready to sweat - there's no air conditioning, in the tour buses and even in the museums
  • drink lots of water - if you visit in the summer, expect the museums packed, humid and hot
  • practice your Russian - learn a few phrases as English is not widely spoken (yet)
  • be neat and make sure there are no erasures when filling up immigration forms - Russian immigration is very strict with erasures
  • stick to your group
  • be respectful and follow rules - museums there are well guarded and there are people monitoring visitors all the time
  • carry cash - taking photos inside museums and shows are paid
So now that you have a few tips to ease your way into St. Petersburg, you're ready to enjoy the beauty and splendor of this city. Believe me, St. Petersburg is one beautiful city.

Today, we'll visit Pushkin and enter Catherine's Palace (Tsarskoye Selo)

These are the five golden domes of the Palace Chapel. It is rumored that over 200 pounds of gold were originally used to gild these domes, but our guide said that these days, they use paint. "More than 100 kilograms of gold were used to gild the sophisticated stucco fa├žade and numerous statues erected on the roof. It was even rumored that the palace's roof was constructed entirely of gold." (Source)

Built for Catherine I of Russia, wife of Peter the Great, who ruled Russia for two years after his death. When it was first built, the palace was a simple two-storey palace but it was the Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Catherine 1, who built it to its grandeur today. (Source)

The north side of the palace. This palace is 17 miles south of St. Petersburg. It is beautifully constructed and designed. It is impressive with its bright paint and its massive length of 740 meters or 2427 feet.

Tour groups waiting to be admitted.

This painted ceiling is one of the first things you'd see as you enter the palace.

According to our guide, the palace's rooms are gilded every three years. This is the stunning palace dining hall.

Real gilded Apples.

Painted ceiling - Dining Hall.

The dining room flanked with two tiled heaters; the tiles came from Denmark.

More photos to come from my visit to the Catherine's Palace.


  1. that gold room is something else! :) grabe. i think i will be too shy to go inside in my ratty clothes :P

  2. kayni, i understand the somehow unfriendly attitude towards philippine passport holders for i've experienced that many times myself, by why is there an unspoken unfriendliness or uneasiness for US citizens?

  3. It's too scary talaga to be lost in such crowd. Glad that untoward incident was compensated with St. Petersburg's grandeur.

    Btw, I like your watermark-KD Photography. =D

  4. @ Kate, I agree. The place looks too elegant.

    @ Angeli, Last year, there was an issue of Russian spies living in the US and they got deported. I think that even now, there are remnants of distrust between the two countries. Kasi, US citizens have to get a visa to enter Russia. Parang walang open communication between the two.

    @ Lene, I agree. This place is really amazing. Thank you for liking the watermark; I thought I'd change it into something shorter.

  5. incredible. you know we just saw this cruise that targets this part of europe - the one that departs from copenhagen and we're thinking that's our next cruise :)

    is this the same one you took?

    copenhagen - berlin - st petersburg - talinn - split - etc?

  6. It's a beautiful palace but there is a bit too much gilding for my tastes. I have heard stories about Russian immigration from people over here too. But then, in my experience, no immigration officers are friendly anywhere. I had an immigration officer (or whatever they are caled) barking at me in O'Hare a few years back because my son was crying (he was 2). I felt like strangling her.

  7. @ Loree, I understand how mean immigration officers can be, but the distinction with Russian immigration was the strictness and making you redo the paper work if they saw just a bit scratch or erasures and a lot of unnecessary shouting.

    I agree. The gilding is too much too lavish.

  8. @ Photo Cache, Yes, that's the one :).

  9. As usual wonderful pictures..and oh, i love to touch the gilded apples haha

  10. WOW. Golden apples.

    Pero sana bumait naman ang mga taga-immigration.

  11. oh my gosh! that place is so awesome!!! grabe!! i want to go there! the grass looks so inviting that i just want to lie down there!

    i was about to tell you that it's nice to get lost in a foreign land once in a while when you suddenly come up with a list why it's not the best situation to be in in russia! he he!

  12. A year back at work, the guy occupying the table on my right was Russian. I guess it's just the manner of moving and their voice tones (I noticed how each nationality has similarities in their voice tones. I can spot a German talking, but if they do at my back, I would think guy A is talking until I turn to see guy B instead)which are so stiff that gives us the impression that they are unfriendly. Even the girls seem aloof until you get to befriend them and prove otherwise. I work for a company whose vendors are Russian companies.

    Oh, I wish Russia is just within our means to see. Nice photos you've got :)

  13. Kayni, ang galing mo na magkuha ng pics! Clap clap talaga!

  14. And you make me green with envy with your travels hahaha

    Hi Kayni, I missed you :)