Catherine the Great gave the land and her architect – Charles Cameron to the future Paul 1st to celebrate the birth of his son and heir. Having disposed of her husband (Peter 3rd) in order to take the throne she later had Paul murdered, but that’s another story !! Paul and his wife Maria Fyodorovna commissioned the Great Palace while they went off – incognito – on a major shopping binge around Europe buying up everything they saw including clocks, porcelain, tapestries, paintings and furniture. To accommodate this extreme case of retail therapy the palace had to be extended with the addition of taller and more elaborate wings.
The grounds were landscaped and included lakes, fountains, bridges and other pavilions and palaces.
Another friendly squirrel and a golf-cart full of lilac babes off to serenade the tourists.
Then onto Gatchina – originally presented by Catherine the Great to her then lover – Grigory Orlov – upon whose death she passed it on to Paul 1st as a spare palace. A huge very different palace where Paul used to endlessly drill his small army of soldiers as he became increasingly paranoid – for good reason as it turned out.
The Nasis bombed the sh1t out of it in WW2 and renovation still continues with quite a long way to go. An enormous park with all the trimmings including the extraordinary Birch Palace which resembles a pile of logs but inside contains a very ornate suite of rooms for entertaining etc.
More costumed entertainment before we departed for the Priory Palace. I should explain at this point that due too the immensely complicated rules relating to guides and museums in Russia we were lumbered in Gatchina with a guide whose mastery of English was minimal and whose specialist subjects seemed to be Heaven, kissing icons and his hero Paul 1st. After a couple of hours of this as we headed towards the Priory Palace and I was losing the will to live, all I can say is that it has something to do with Paul 1st, The Knights of Malta (for some reason Paul was Grand Master), Jerusalem and needless to say Malta. So no further questions please …………..
Then back to the city for a final frenzy of museums, churches, icons and of course mammoths !!