27 November, 2013
St. Petersburg is a favorite destination for tourists thanks to its beautiful sights and history. But another thing that makes the city so worth visiting is actually not the city at all, but the suburbs of the city, known as the Prigorod (Пригород). Each of these smaller towns has its own royal estates, parks and more to see. Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit one of these towns known as Gatchina (Гатчина). Located just a few kilometers from St. Petersburg, this small town (by Russian standards) has been the site of much turmoil in Russian history, which is still visible and worth seeing today.
After arriving in Gatchina, we quickly realized the thing to see was the grand palace, surrounded by a large English garden. On the outside, the palace looks very different compared to his counterparts in St. Petersburg and Pushkin. Whereas those were designed in a neoclassical style, Gatchina took on a much more medieval appearance and was expanded several times to become the sprawling complex it is today. It was one of Catherine the Great’s (Екатерина II ВеликаяI) favorites and once boasted exquisite interiors, which now, unfortunately, only exist as reconstructions in a few rooms, as the entire palace was burnt nearly to the ground by Nazi forces during the war.
Ironically, one of the most interesting rooms to see is the Chesma Gallery, which was once decorated with grand neoclassical décor. But now, only shows the extent of the damage the Nazis brought on. Only charred ashes remain.
Gatchina makes for a good weekend destination outside of the city. Entrance to the palace is free with a student card and the bus there only costs about 70 RUB each way. You can also take a train for a little over 80 RUB with a student card.