Day 9 (March 27, 2015)   Pushkin: Catherine Palace


   This day we’ll go to Tsarkoye Selo in Pushkin, the place for visiting the Catherin Palace.

   We could visit Alexander Palace as well as it is here too, this was we would spend the entire day in Pushkin. .

Aerial view of Catherine and Alexander Palaces


Long way down to Saint Petersburg metro   No rushes for leaving the hotel this morning as we’ve read in forums the earlier time for visiting Catherine Palace for the people is not part of a group is 12 PM to 2 PM, so we leave at 10 AM to get there just before noon.

   We follow the steps in the St. Patersburg card’s guide and get out from the metro at Moskovskaya station. We follow the people looking as tourist to choose the exit to the street. This takes us to the wrong side of the square, although it could be the right one tomorrow. This is the point from where the vans to the airport leave, it explains why the most of the tourists we were following had a bag with them. As the guide explains, we must look for the vans behind the big Lenin statue, which is now at our left across the road. We go downstairs again to the pass way to cross the street and going out by the right place.

Lenin statue at Moskovskaya Square

   We ask “Tsarskoye Selo” to the first van we see and the driver just stop eating from a can to welcome us and give us a couple of tickets by 35 rub each. We choose two seats inside the quite empty van. This is number 342.

Building at Moskovskaya SquareChurch in our way to Pushkin

   It doesn’t wait to get full and leaves as it is just a few minutes after. It is getting full in the way, though. After a while we do the same than yesterday: moving to the seats behind the driver and asking “Palace?”. He says No and points forward so I’m confident now we’ll be call.
Entrance to Catherine Palace big courtyard
   Somehow, once we can read we’re in Pushkin I can see a sign pointing to the Palace in one of the stops. He says it is still not our stop, it’s just one more and we get out the van in a short street with stands full of souvenirs at both sides and the Palace at the bottom.

   We go directly to it without stopping for any shopping and follow a group with a guide because we think they can take us to the entrance but they get in through the fence in the closed courtyard which we cannot access. The guard points us to the other side of the palace.

   There is easy to know where we must go as the line marks the spot. It’s 12 PM and the line is quite long. Somehow, this is not working as we thought. This wait is eternal because they open every 20 minutes approximately but between these times big groups of students arrive and get preference. We talk to the man behind us and he explains: this is the worst week to visit Saint Petersburg because is school holidays and then they organize trips to visit cultural places of the city as it is free for them. This explains too why yesterday we found the Hermitage full and had to wait that lot in a low season.

Lines for Catherine PalaceCatherine Palace fašade

   We get inside after one hour and fifteen minutes waiting outside. Inside we get another surprise: this place is no longer part of the St. Petersburg card, so we’ve paid this day of card for nothing. The web site is still having Catherine Palace in the list for the card but the page in the card guide has a stamp with the word “cancelled” on it. We pay 400 rub for each ticket and leave out coats in the cloakroom and join the crowd in the entrance. When we manage to reach a place when we can see the guard, he allows us to get in after pointing him we’re only two. We finish this way the worst part of the visit so now we are going to enjoy it. We go upstairs through the groups stopped and follow the path through the halls.

Staircase at Catherine PalaceDetail of doors in Catherine Palace

   First we walk through the halls by one side and then turn back to go through the same halls by the other side, which follows long after them to a lot of new halls. This makes we pass through the huge ballroom twice.

Ballroom at Catherine PalaceHall at Catherine Palace

Dinning room at Catherine PalaceHall at Catherine Palace

   Photos are allowed here, except for the most famous place: Amber Room. It is beautiful, with the walls covered by genuine amber.

Amber Room at Catherine PalaceHall at Catherine Palace

   The palace is wonderful and it is a must do. When we’re back to the cold outside is past 2 PM, so we leave the garden to go to lunch. In the street with the souvenirs we were before we could see some restaurants, but the rates showed outside are for tourists, far from the local prices. We finally get into a small place upstairs having the poet giving name to this area as theme: Pushkin. This is Cafe Bake'n'bards and Eva eats Stroganoff steak and I have delicious stew with a salad to share by 1210 rub.

Catherine Palace's chapel sideCafe Bake'n'bards

    It’s around 3:30 PM when we’re back at the garden which, as happened in Peterhoff, have the sculptures covered by wooden boxes. Some parts of the Palace fašade are in works with the scaffolding with a cover painted as the palace itself to help with our pictures.

Catherine Palace
Catherine PalaceFrozen river in palace's garden

   We see some palazzos around the garden when we’re exploring it and pass across a frozen river. The garden is big and we can imagine how beautiful and green this must be in summer.

Catherine Palace's gardensCatherine Palace's gardens

Catherine Palace's gardensCatherine Palace's gardens

   We reach a frozen lake. I’d like to have a picture in the middle of it but I don’t dare to jump in as the ice is not looking strong enough for me.

   We leave the place the van left us and keep waiting for the appearance of the next. The wait takes more than 30 minutes until we can get into van 342.

Frozen lake at Catherine Palace's gardensFrozen lake at Catherine Palace's gardens

   When we leave the metro in Admiralteyskaya is 5:45 PM. As these are our last minutes at daylight in this city we delay the rest in our room to explore the park around Isaac’s Cathedral and see the popular Bronze Horseman statue.

Bronze Horseman statue in Saint PeterburgNicolas I monument atSt. Isaac's Square

   We then rest but go out for dinner for a nice good bye to this fantastic city. We choose a restaurant in our own street where we’ve seen before we’ll be able to taste pelmeni and borscht. Before that I book a taxi for tomorrow morning at reception desk by 1700 rub because we have too much baggage as per going all that way in metro.

View of Vasilievski Island

   Restaurante Gogol is more than we expected: it’s looking as a house in century XIX, and even the waiters and waitresses are dressed as that period. The food and service are excellent here. Borscht and pelmeni are fantastic and, even we’re full, we still share an apple pies dessert. With all this, we even expected a more expensive bill than the 2250 rub we finally pay. A happy ending for our stage in this city.