Tsars and Scarlett Sails

Tsarskoye Selo

Sasha and I took a day trip to Tsarskoye Selo (= Tsar’s Village) located in a small town outside of St. Petersburg called Pushkin. Tsarskoye Selo is the estate given to Catherine I by her husband Peter I (the Great!). However it was her daughter Elizabeth who developed the gorgeous palace at the heart of the grounds. It soon became a popular place for summer residency amongst the nobility. Later, Alexander I opened the Lyceum next to the palace which was attended by Pushkin. So we knew we were heading to a place of royal and literary significance!

We hopped on the elecktrichka and soon arrived at the grounds. We began by walking around the vast gardens and admiring the various features around the main lake.

However, we soon realised we should have begun queueing for the palace first. The whole estate was full of tourist groups who were easy to escape when wandering around – but when we were forced to queue for two hours to get into the palace we were a little disappointed. We eventually fought our way in, only to be jostled along in between huge tour groups. It was a shame that our experience around the palace was somewhat spoiled by the stress and crowds, particularly given that they only have about six rooms open to the public. Nonetheless we did manage to see the famous Amber Room (even though we weren’t allowed to take photos, obviously…). The original Amber Room was looted by Nazi soldiers when Pushkin was occupied in 1941. The location of the original components of the Amber Room are still unknown. Luckily the Room was restored to its former glory between 1979 and 2003, and is now open to the public.  We also enjoyed the beauty of the main hall, which was reminiscent of the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles.


We finished our day with a stroll around the far side of the palace which gave us an amazing view of some regal gates with the palace standing in the background.

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Scarlett Sails/ Алые паруса

I rushed back to St.Petersburg that evening for the Scarlett Sails event.  This is the highlight of the White Nights festivals that take place during the summer months in St. Petersburg . It features a free concert, a fireworks display and a huge ship with red sails which goes up and down the Neva River. This tradition begun after WWII when Soviet students were celebrating the end of their school year.

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It sounds a bit bizarre but I was told it was a must-see in St. Petersburg. I headed there with Martha and we tried to wedge our way to the front of the huge crowds gathered around the banks of the river. People were climbing up drainpipes and signposts just to get a better view! There were plenty of students there celebrating as well as lots of ordinary Petersburg citizens.

See you in a month, Piter!

I’ve come to the end of my time as a student at St. Petersburg State University. Leaving St. Petersburg wasn’t too sad though, as I will be returning here for a month in August. I have a placement as a volunteer at the State Hermitage and will continue to write my Year Abroad dissertation here. It won’t be quite the same as before because many of my Russian friends have returned home for the summer. But I’m safe in the knowledge that I still have time to explore the city and meet new people! However I will be moving into a new flat…I’ll let you know everything when I’m there! For now, I’m enjoying a month at home and making the most of British summertime which is considerably warmer than St. Petersburg ever was!

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