A Brief History
The German architect Johann-Friedrich Braunstein built the first Summer Palace for Catherine I of Russia in 1717. The palace was later destroyed and rebuilt by Empress Elizabeth. From 1752-1756, the court architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli erected the new, more lavish residence in the opulent Rococo style.
Empress Elizabeth had expensive taste– this is the same empress whose last wishes were to gild the statues in the palace’s park. Located 25 kilometers outside of St. Petersburg in Pushkin, this palace was also inhabited and subsequently modified by Catherine the Great and her son, Alexander I.
The Summer Palace was greatly damaged in World War II so as a result, much of the palace has recently been renovated or is still in the process of being renovated. Today, it is possible to rent the Summer Palace and in recent years, this magnificent venue has attracted musicians like Elton John.
The Amber Room
Tourists can take pictures in all of the rooms in the palace, except for one: The Amber Room. The Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I presented this gift to Tsar Peter the Great of the Russian Empire. The room was designed by German baroque sculptor Andreas Schlüter with the aid of the Danish craftsman Gottfried Wolfram to resemble a jewelry box.
Tragically and rather mysteriously, the room was “lost” in the second World War. There are many theories and conspiracies about its current whereabouts but as our guide Nikolai put it, “Many stories mean no truth.” For the time being, one can see the reconstruction of this “Eighth Wonder of the World” which was meticulously copied from black and white photographs from 1979-2003.