St. Petersburg--July 26, 2005--Pushkin, Catherine's Palace, Yusupov Palace, Cossak Show
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This morning we traveled to Pushkin or Tsarskoe Selo (185-204). This was the summer residence of the Czars until the revolution. Known originally as Tsarskoe Selo, it was renamed for the poet, Pushkin, after the Revolution. Catherine's Palace is the main attraction here--it has a bright turquoise facade spanning almost 1,000 feet (186). The palace is named for Catherine I, Peter the Great's second wife, Their daughter, Elizabeth, eventually completely rebuilt the palace, and later, Catherine the Great made significant changes to its interiors. The Palace's most famous feature is its Amber Room (197), built entirely out of amber panels. In World War II, these panels disappeared and several theories continue to the present day regarding their whereabouts. In 1979, the Russian government gave up hope of recovering the amber and for the next twenty-five years, 30 craftspeople created new amber panels, recreating the room in all its glory. Six tons of amber (80% of which was wasted) was used in the recreation at a cost of about $12 million. As we were leaving the grounds, we encountered the cute lass in photo 203 who was singing a Russian song and receiving many donations.
In the afternoon, we were off to the Yusupov Palace (208-225), formerly the home to one of Russia's richest families. The family was very close to the Czar and even had a special box reserved for him in their palace theater (223). Like many places we toured, there was a musical group entertaining during the visit--many of these groups were outstanding and several had given concert tours in other countries. After their performances, sales of their CDs were brisk.
The Yusupov Palace is known for one event that happened here in 1916. Rasputin (225), a religious mystic, was close to the royal family because he supposedly could alleviate the Czar's son's blood disease which previously had resisted medical treatment by attending doctors. The existence of the son's illness was unknown to the general populace, many of whom were jealous of the strange hold that Rasputin seemed to have on the royal family. Eventually, Rasputin was lured to this house on the pretext of a party but then poisoned. The poison was ineffective so he was then shot several times by one of the Yusupovs. The shots too proved ineffective and Rasputin ran outside only to be shot several more times, beaten and then dumped in the adjacent river in the cold December night. Eventually his body was found and later tests showed he died by drowning. We found many in Russia seem to have a respect and admiration for Rasputin while in America many think of him as a madman.
In the evening, there was another musical show at the theater in the Pulkovskaya Hotel. It was across the street from the Victory Monument (229-230), erected on the 30th anniversary of the end of World War II. It commemorates the victims of the Leningrad siege and its survivors. The show (231-239) was similar to that of the prior evening but this time included a bit of audience participation by some passengers on the cruise (232).
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