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I am spending some time in Pushkin. I apologize for silence and secrecy (but I have a reason for it), I have only few days left to stay, and I am planning to stop by at AP and Catherine Palace. I can fulfill minor requests in regards - taking some pictures of the particular places, but you must hurry with it.
It short description, how did I like changes in Pushkin/St. Petersburg for past 10+ years: I did not! Complete report will follow...

enjoy the gardens at Tsarskoe

I went through entire Catherine Park/Palaces, and took close to 2000 pictures, unfortunately time was very compressed.
Let me describe positive experience about this travel first:
1. despite huge amount of visitors, entire park able to distribute them across evenly, but I should give this benefit to its original architects.
2. I was glad to see, a lot of reconstruction and repair, but everything about Catherine Park, and structures located there.
3. Catherine Palace and Park in Excellent condition
4. Taxi in Pushkin arriving with in 4-5 min upon request and taking you to other Pushkin destination no more than $3-$5 per trip.

now lets review negative points about traveling to Pushkin/Tsarskoye Selo

1. Pedestrians should watch out for cars at all time, regardless of presence crossing zebra, and run crossing intersection, because car, will not wait for you.
2. Prices at Pushkin restaurants and quality of the food completely unreasonable, so bring your own sandwich, only possible to get from local stores normal mineral water (prices on the level of $1 per bottle), I would recommend Aqua Minerale (Coca Cola)
3. Pollution of the most of the cars on the really high level due to the bribe method acquiring smog check license, regardless of the car condition.
4. Drivers insist in most of the cases not to put seat belt, only my answer: "I have 2 kids, buzzing them off".
5. All of the restaurants without smoking restrictions, so if you can not stand smoke of cigarettes, tough luck for you... 
6. Prices for foreigners double or triple already high price of the museums
7. Catherine palace divided on two alleys east and west, east alley for organized tour buses and west for regular visitors, because of that, palace looks very small, if you have a desire to see entire palace, you have to ask specifically to take a second tour, and pay for second entry, or just simply sneak in the tail of the second group (in the main entry) and switch behind the yellow cable in the Great Hall joining one of the organize groups (this way you will miss only 2 rooms of the palace).

I could continue very long about my trip, but I don't want to discourage you to visit St. Petersburg / Pushkin
As much I love my hometown, where I grew up, I become very alienated from this place, and all experience of seen my friends and family give me great grief instead of happiness.

Hi Vladm--

I read your comments with great interest since I visited Pushkin and the Catherine Palace with a tour group in 1993. We were in Pushkin during just the late morning and early afternoon, our hotel accomodations being in St. P.  The Pushkin restaurant where we lunched was very pleasant and our meals were included with the cost of the tour, so I'm not sure what the restaurant charged us, but the food was quite good. However, I did notice that automobile regulations are not typically enforced, and smoking is almost the rule rather than the exception.

I greatly enjoyed our tour of the Catherine Palace. Unfortunately the Alexander Palace was not open at the time, though I did hike over and took a few photos of the palace from a distance. 

I should mention that during the tour of the Catherine Palace I purchased a large poster-size calendar for the 1993/1994 years, featuring a very fine artistic despiction of Nicholas, Alexandra and their children. Perhaps because we were visiting in August 1993 and 25% of the calendar time was in the past, it cost me just one American dollar for two calendars. (Although I understand that one American dollar was worth quite a lot in the Ukranian economy!) The seller neatly rolled them up and secured them and I was absolutely thrilled to bring home what I considered two very inexpensive treasures!

Our time in Pushkin concluded with a visit to the fabulous Pavlosk. Of course the entire day, from sunrise to sunset, could have been spent just at the Catherine Palace and Park, or just at Pavlosk!

If I could return to Russia I'd definitely spend more time at Pushkin; it is quite beautiful and historic, and obviously there's a great deal to explore.


P.S. I understand your feelings about revisiting your hometown. My hometown also has changed; of course, so have I! The passage of time does bring about changes, whether we like them or not . . .

I left Pushkin in 1995, 2 years after your visit, and changes I've seen, will be similar, from what you would see visiting Pushkin today. Restaurant prices, quite changed from that time, for example tea in one of the restaurants in Pushkin will be 200 rubles - about $8 US, honestly this is more than Ritz Carlton in Paris, service and environment not even on comparable level. Other restaurant served duck with raspberry vinegar sauce, but chef forgot to do reduction of the blend - my plate had 1/2 of the duck and 1/2 of the defrost raspberry literally blended with white vinegar, and duck probably died last year from running for its life, however price was about 680 rubles ~$25 US without garnish.

I not mind to pay adequate price for its service, if business owner asking that much, he/she discouraging clients to comeback. I am truly believe, I can find better places to enjoy my vacation elsewhere.


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