Author Topic: Visiting the Palace  (Read 32392 times)

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PAVW

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Visiting the Palace
« on: February 02, 2004, 02:56:04 PM »
I will be in St. Petersburg in the first half of August this year.  I would like to see as much of the Alexander Palace as possible as it and the lives of the Imperial Family have long been of interest to me.  I would appreciate any advice or recommendations anyone might have for making the trip a success.

Thank you very much!

Offline Alice

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Re: Visiting the Palace
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2004, 05:10:45 AM »
I'd also like to visit St Petersburg one day . . . is the Palace open to the public at all? Are there tours available?

Offline pers

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Re: Visiting the Palace
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2004, 05:55:53 AM »
The question is how much Russian you can manage.  If you have a basic grasp of the Cyrrillic alphabet, then you shall have no problem negotiating the metro and the train to Pushkin.  I am going again next summer.  You can also take the hydrofoil in summer right in front of the Winter Palace to Peterhof - this is a whole day's outing at least.

The last when I visited the Alexander Palace, only the Private Wing was open to the public, which I suspect is still the case.  I do not know whether the Russians are in fact going to restore the Private Wing to its former self (as in 1917) or whether it is just going to be exhibition rooms (as currently).  Maybe there is too little money to restore the whole palace as it probably needs a whole new roof which must be pretty expensive.

Tours are conducted in Russian, and I did not see any English guides and I must have been inside at least three times.  You best guide of the rooms is by far this very website.  A wonderful time to visit is in June during the Pushkin Festival which is held in Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo).  Oh my, and do NOT forget the wonderful china you can buy at the Lomonosov Factory shops in St Petersburg.  It is worth carrying it as hand luggage around the world back home.
I cannot help you if you don't know some Russian at least.  I have not gone on organized tours.  I normally book myself into one of the city hotels for 10 days and at leisure go to the opera, ballet, churches, palaces and art museums.  There are wonderful restaurants as well.  

The palace is definitely worth the visit.  Some of the original furniture is there, e.g. Nicholas and Alexandra's twin single beds, and the whole of the new Study.

Galina Alexander

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Re: Visiting the Palace
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2004, 09:20:22 AM »
On the subject of restoration:please bear in mind that Alexander Placae has been ''renovated'' by Alexandra before they moved in as newly weds. So there would be a bit of controversy on how to restore it- to it's former classical style glory or to do it a la ''modern''(which was much critisized by contemporaries. Read Yusupoff).
Ye, I strongly agree that these web site is a very best guide one could have. I am Russian, but still did not get very much from a couple of texts on the walls and a guide. Thank you everybody for your interest in Russia.
Have a pleasunt trip to St.Petersburg.

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Re: Visiting the Palace
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2004, 09:46:14 AM »
It is interesting to note Galina, that Alexandra was indeed originally criticised for her very "modern" Art Nouveau designs, including hidden electric lighting which we take for granted today; but also remember that for twenty years, nothing was changed at all, and by 1914 she was again being criticised for having such "old fashioned" and out dated rooms! As always, Alexandra could never "win" in the court of public opinion!! From what we understand, given the fact that the Palace was preserved virtually intact until WWII, any restoration will almost certainly return it to the original state it was in the day the Imperial Family left.

dbw

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Re: Visiting the Palace
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2004, 04:37:40 PM »
Hello, all.

This is my first post, though I have been a big fan of the Alexander Palace website since 1997.

In the summer of '97 I took my 10 year-old daughter to St. Petersburg. I had been a student of Imperial Russia since my college days and had very specific requirements of what I wanted to see. One was Tsarskoe Selo, particularly the Alexander Palace, which was undergoing some restoration and not regularly open to tourists. I arranged to see at least the exterior and grounds with a private car, driver and interpreter. This was not as expensive, then at least, as one might think. I was also able to see the apartment building where Rasputin lived and a private tour of the Youssoupoff palace.

If anyone would like the e-mail addresses of the company who made these customized arrangements and/or my guide in St. Petersburg--a fantastic lady--so kind to me and my daughter, you may e-mail me at: willingham@vvm.com

Doug Willingham

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: Visiting the Palace
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2004, 08:06:30 PM »
When Nicholas and Alexandra moved into the Alexander Palace they renovated the left-hand wing - which was really the only part of the palace they could redo since in the the right wing ground floor were already the rooms of his mother and deceased father.

The right wing was separated from the rest of the palace by a beautiful two story Music Room.  This room has been remodelled several times during the course of the 19th century.  It had lovely paintings and pilasters of artificial marble.  because it was two stories tall it completely cut off the second floor as wel;l from the rest of the palace.

In 1901 Nicholas and Alexandra realized they didn't have enough space for their children, staff and themselves.  There were other problems with the heating system of the palace, plumbing and electricity.  They had two choices - to move out of the palace, move to the right wing or to remodel part of it.

Their choice was to replace the Music Room with more rooms for the children and their staff, a small palace clinic and two new spacious rooms for their own use.

Alexandra's brother Ernst Ludwig assisted Meltzer and Alexandra in the design of the Maple Room and the New Study of Nicholas II. Ernst Ludwig was the organizer of the Darmstadt Artist's Colony and the leading patron of Art Nouveau in Germany.

The Maple Room was one of the greatest examples of Art Nouveau interior decoration in the world.  If it had been built in Darmstadt - rather than Russia - it would have received the acclaim it deserved.  Unfortunately, in the 1920's the Maple Room fell victim to changing tastes and the bad reputation poor Alexandra had been smeared with by people like Felix who wrote such vicious nonsense about Alexandra and the Alexander Palace.  It was easy for him to do it, she was dead and couldn't defend herself!

Now, it was only in the Maple Room and the New Study that Alexandra ever really tried to do anything showy in her rooms.  All the furniture was new and expecially designed for these rooms.  The carpets and fabrics were all of the finest quality.  The woodwork was a marvel.  When they were built the Maple Room and the New Study were ultra modern and chic - it is too bad the style was already on it's way out and ten years later it was looking dated.  It didn't help that the extraordinary popularity of Art Nouveau among the middle-class had made the elite artistic and aristocratic classes look down on it... The Bolsheviks always pointed at Art Nouveau as a decadent style and used the Maple Room as a conspicuous example of the 'bad taste' of a woman they depised.

Bob

dbw

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Re: Visiting the Palace
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2004, 08:40:52 PM »
Very good points, Bob, about the Felix/Bolshevik viewpoints of Alexandra's Art Nouveau. I confess to having been influenced a bit by both in my assessment of her taste. Still, those chintzy, English interiors do seem a bit limited for the palace of a Tsar, in spite of her apparent effort to make a cozy home for her family.

Regards,
Doug

Offline londo954

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Re: Visiting the Palace
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2004, 02:07:35 AM »
I check the tsarkoe Selo website regularly looking fo rupdates on teh restoration. I think it would be more historically correct to restore it to the 1917 original at least for the Imperial wing.
I am writing a book on the archtiecture and art of Imperial russia whihc has been ten years in the making I started with Kennet's book THE PALACES OF LENINGRAD which was done in the 60's and early seventies and it conaitned only a paragraph on the Alexander Palace which by then would have been occupied by the Navy......Thanks to your efforts I understand the navy has vacated and the restoration is underway...keep the pics coming no matter how old they may seem its wonderul to see the lives of N& A come to live.
Are their pics available of the other wing and more on the private rooms

Almedingen

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Re: Visiting the Palace
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2004, 07:00:48 PM »
This message is for Bob Achison.  I was wondering what you found to be the most suprising thing about the Alexander Palace when you became involved with the palace project.  Also, have you had any surprising finds?  What has impressed you the most?

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: Visiting the Palace
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2004, 09:58:20 AM »
I first went in the palace in the 1970's - a Russian friend of mine and I just walked in the front door.  There's a small vestibule there with a guard station.  They seemed shocked to see me.  My Russian friend said we wanted to see the rooms of the palace.  We were taken upstairs and there was a small window in a wall, no bigger than a CD case, they looked at us and told us all the rooms were destroyed and nothing survived.  They also told my Russian friend something that scared him because he grabbed me and we left the building as fast as we could. My first impressions were on that first entry that the vestibule (leading to the semi-circular hall) was very small.  You could see carved cornices and there was a beautiful door leading into the hall.  Someone had opened the door when we were there and I could barely see chairs and the curved apse in the far side of the hall facing the garden.  The inside of the hallways were very dirty because it was winter and you could "smell the plumbing".  I tried to take in everything I could since we were only there 10 minutes or so.  I knew it wasn't true that all the interiors had been detroyed because of the cornice.  That was my fisrt trip inside.  Later I went back a number of times and was always thrown out - that seems to be the story of my life with the palace!

In the early 90's I was lucky to be one of the first two Americans to tour the palace - that's decribed in "The Boy Who Dreamed of the Palace".  I went back five times after that.  Maybe I'll write more about those trips later.

wigstrom

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Re: Visiting the Palace
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2004, 10:03:46 PM »
I visited the Palace for the second time last October and can confirm much of what has been said about the palace and the difficulties associated with trying to find an English speaking guide.
The first time I visited was over 10 years ago and the palace was not open to the public so all my friend and I could do was walk around it and the grounds and walk up to the doors and windows.
This past October we were able to take a tour and fortunately we had a Russian guide who could translate into English for us what the Russian guide was saying.
Our guide was not employed by the palace but somehow knew the Russian guide so they allowed him to follow her tour and translate into English what she was saying. She was actually quite informative and knew more about the palace and the family than I had expected. It was interesting to see the restored study of Nicholas and the anteroom or waiting room to Nichloas' chambers that seemed to have survived. They have placed a few of the original furnishings in the rooms and one can get some sense of the original decor, especially in those two rooms of Nicholas and the drawing room of Alexandra (the room in which hangs the Gobelin tapestry depicting Marie Antoinette). It is sad to see what little remains. You are only allowed to view the private apartments of Nicholas and Alexandra. One is not allowed in the the center of the palace where the formal rooms are located nor in the other wing nor on the second floor. It would be very interesting if they were to open up those portions of the palace.  

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: Visiting the Palace
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2004, 06:56:13 PM »
Some of the furniture you saw was made for a movie that was filmed in the New Study - it's pretty vile stuff - badly made.  The window coverings looked limp and cheap to me last time I was there.

I suspect any furniture that might have survived from the Maple Room or the New Study would be at Pavlovsk rather than at the Alexander Palace.  Kuchumov, the former curator of the palace and my mentor, had the furniture from tehes rooms sent there rather than to the Catheriene Palace after the war.  Pavlovsk has lots of things from the Alexander Palace - very few of them are marked as coming from there....

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: Visiting the Palace
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2004, 07:02:57 PM »
The center rooms are pretty much as they were after WWII - they only had new wood floors put in (the Germans pulled them up for firewood) and windows replaced where necessary.  The far wing had more damage to it in WWII plus it had been used as living quarters for party officials and NKVD officers after the late-20's when these rooms were shut down as exhibit rooms.

The Formal Reception Room furniture is in a number of places, I assume the Catherine Palace People have put back what they have.  I think they have the curtains, too.  Lots of damage was done to this and other rooms when they were cleaned up.  Original window hardware disappeared, plumbing marks in the floors vanished, original heating vents are now gone and doorways were punched through walls, etc...

helenazar

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Re: Visiting the Palace
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2004, 04:59:23 PM »
This message is for Bob Atchison:

Dear Bob,

Have you ever considered organizing a group trip to St Petersburg and maybe some other related Romanov places for the involved with this website? It seems like many members involved in these discussions would be interested in doing something like that, I know I would be! Up until this point, I haven't known many people who wanted to travel there with me, they are just not interested in this stuff, so in the past I have gone alone and plan on going to St Pete's again this May. But it would be so much more fun to go with a group who is also into all that, and since we all seem to have this strong interest in common, I think it may be possible to get a tour like this organized. Not only would this provide us company of those who share our interests but we may also be able to get cheaper group rates. Since we all come from different geographic areas, we could conceivably meet up in St Pete's and tour these places together... What do you think? Does anyone else think it may be something that could work?
Helen