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A View of the Old Park.
If on leaving the palace you wish to see the parks of Tsarskoe Selo, you must either go on foot, through the Church entrance into the garden, or, if you prefer driving round the Church Wing under the Lyceum, pass through the first park gate, which is near a small fountain, having the form of a swan. A marble staircase leads from the drive to an avenue, which runs along the palace. In this avenue, opposite the center of the Palace, stands a bronze model of the monument of the Empress Catherine the Great at St. Petersburg. Here begins the central avenue leading to the Hermitage. During the reigns of Peter and Elizabeth, a Dutch Garden was stretching along both sides of this avenue, but under Catherine II it was transformed into an English Park. It goes, sloping from the palace to the canal, and is divided into two parts by the broad Generalsky Avenue. On the first slope near the palace, besides clipped alleys, during the first half of the 18th century, there used to be elegant arbors, galleries, shrubberies, and trellis work.
The Upper BathHere on the bank of a small lake stands the Upper Bath. From the center of a second lake rises a bronze statue of Theseus. The bath was built in 1778 by the Nilov, and was destined for the members of the Imperial family, staying at the Grand Palace. Under Catherine II, this pavilion was at first called the New Bath, to distinguish it from the old bath, which being in the Church Wing of the palace, was destroyed in 1777. Afterwards, towards the end of Catherine's reign, the new bath was called Their Majesties' Bath, to distinguish it from the Knight's Bath, which stands a little further off in a thicket, and is now known as the Lower Bath.
The interior of the Upper Bath was rebuilt and redecorated in 1811 by Engineer General Lieutenant Betankur.
Until 1911 it was a one-storied stone pavilion of four rooms consisting of a cabinet, an octagonal hall, a room with a large bath in the floor, and a vapor-room with a high couch. There are also small vestibules and a boiler room.
All the rooms, except the vapor and boiler chambers, have French floors and are decorated with frescoes by Baretta, which were restored at 1880. The Lower Bath was built by Nilov, and consists of a round central hall and of four round bath rooms at the sides. These rooms are lighted by small round windows: they have massive marble baths, the pavement is mosaic and the decoration of the walls is very simple. This building suffers much from dampness, traces of which are to be seen on the walls and ceilings. The Lower Bath is not heated.
Once in the summer of 1780 the Upper Bath was, for a few days, used in a most extraordinary way. General Major Kashkin, Governor of Tsarskoe Selo, received the following letter from Bezborodko, the Empress' famous factotum:
"May 6th 1780".All this, Kashkin carried out in accordance with Her Majesty's wishes, and Count Falkenstein, that is the Austrian Emperor Joseph II, was the victim of deception. The real inn of Tsarskoe Selo, run by a Frenchman on the outskirts of town, did not probably inspire the Empress's confidence in its comforts and facilities.
In 1910, a museum was founded at Tsarskoe Selo in memory of its 200th anniversary. His Majesty gave his acquiescence to place the museum in the building of the Upper Bath. Here are collected draughts, plans and sketches of buildings at different epochs. There are also engravings and pictures, kept in different parts of the palaces, portraits of historical agents, who lived in Tsarskoe, models of palaces and pavilions, belonging to the 18th century. Here are collected also the presents, offered by the deputations on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Tsarskoe Selo. To complete the Museum it is intended to occupy the free rooms in the Hermitage, which stands a short distance away.
In the second part of the garden, the space between the avenues, was occupied by fruit trees. The legend says, that the magnificent firs, which grow on the banks of the Rybny Canal, were planted by Peter the Great. Before 1742 the other side of the canal was covered with a wild thicket. When Elizabeth Petrovna ascended the throne, she ordered her gardener Lamberti (the famous diviner, who predicted to Elizabeth, that she would be an Autocratic Russian Empress, and fixed the date, when she would come to the throne 6 years before the time) to transform this thicket into an orderly garden with straight avenues of clipped trees. In this new part of the gardens Rastrelli began to build the Hermitage in 1746. First of all a canal drain with draw-bridges was dug round it, in order to ground, and the water from the canal was led into the lake (canal), which was dug out along the course of the Vangazia Brook. In July 1750 the whole of the open space between the building of the Hermitage and the canal which surrounded it was paved with black and white square marble slabs in chess-board order. The canal was lined with stone and surrounded by a stone balustrade.
The Hermitage.The Hermitage is a two-storied stone building, in the center of which is a large hall with four galleries and small pavilions at their ends. The lower story is occupied by kitchens and servants' quarters. One can ascend to the hall from the lower story by means of an elevator or by means of a narrow staircase. The upper story is luxuriously decorated with gilt-carving and stucco-work in Rococo style, the painted ceilings are the work of Valeriani, the Gradizzi (father and son) and Peresinotti.
At the end of the reign of Elizabeth Petrovna, the Hermitage was covered with iron, painted in white and green, and the top of the stone balustrade was ornamented with wood-carved gilt figures; similar statues also stood on the stone balustrade between the marble paved space and the canal, which surrounds the Hermitage.
Interior of the HermitageThe peculiarity of the Hermitage consists in the fact, that it was built for dinners, at which no servants were to be present. With the help of an ingenious mechanism five tables can be lifted from the lower story. These tables have special elevators for plates and dishes, which are provided on their tops with slates. All one has to do is to write the order on the slate and to pull a string; the plate disappears; the servant below places the required food or drink on a tray and raises it to the table. 35 persons sit at table at the same time.
If the guests at the Hermitage, wished to dance before supper or after dinner, at a given signal all the tables sunk, as by magic, an inlaid French floor took their place, and the dining room was quickly converted into a ballroom.
On the 7th of Sep. 1754, the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna invited, "all the foreign ministers to see Tsarskoe Selo". "The ministers and other high personages," says the report of the Harbinger-of-the-Chamber, "having inspected the palace, the park and the menagerie, came in three carriages to the Hermitage. They sat down to dinner at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and the tables were changed twice; once with roasts, and afterwards with dessert. Everything went beautifully, and the palace servants managed the office function perfectly. Before dinner the ministers, examined with great curiosity the mechanism and afterwards, when they had finished their dinner, the tables being lowered and their places having been taken by the French floor, every one was especially surprised."
During the reigns of Elizabeth and Catherine, dinners were often given in the Hermitage to distinguished foreigners and ambassadors. Sometimes, especially on very hot summer days, grand dinners and suppers were given there for the whole court.
The avenue, which leads from the entrance to the Hermitage, brings you after 150 or 200 paces to a dam between the second and the third lakes, which were dug out on the spot of the old Vangazia Brook, the dam itself and the bridge are ornamented with blocks of stone, over which the water cascades. This place is called Green Bridge.
On the other side of the second lake, just beyond Green Bridge, at the crossing of two carriage roads, stands a small iron arbor.
The dam between the first and the second lakes is likewise decorated with rough blocks of stone, and is called Devil's Bridge - a footpath crosses it to the opposite bank. These dams were built in 1777 by the architect Gerard.
A few steps from Devil's Bridge, on the bank of the first lake, stands a small rostral column. It was erected on the 4th of October 1771, by Catherine II, in commemoration of the exploits of Count Theodore Grigorievich Orlov in the Mediterranean sea. The column is of blue marble with white veins, brought from Olonetzk; it stands on a pedestal of white Siberian marble. The brass plate with the inscription is modern, the old bronze plate being lost.
The inscription says:
"1770. Feb. 17. Count Theodore Orlov, with two Russian warships, sailed to the peninsula Morea in the Mediterranean sea at the post Vitulo, landed his soldiers, and went himself to Modone to join the Christians of that land. The Captain Barkov, with the West Spartan Legion, took Passava, Berdoni and Sparta; while the captain, Prince Dolgoruky with the east Spartan legion captured Calamata, Leoctari, and Arcadia; the fortress of Navarin yielded to the Brigadier Hannibal. The Russians were only 600 in number, and did not ask , "if the enemy was numerous? but where he was? 6000 Turks were taken prisoner."On the other side of the lake a footpath leads to the top of a hillock , made of the earth, dug out of the three lakes in 1774-76. This hillock is called Trifonov in honor of one of the gardeners. On its top there used to be a wooden arbor with a granite foundation. The interior was of wood and along its wall was a granite seat called a "canape" in the 18th century. On the roof of the arbor was a pigeon house. The arbor was decorated with statues and busts; the light roof and walls were supported by iron rods, which together with the granite canape still remain. Every winter the lake at the foot of this hill was used as skating rink, but lately it has been moved to Colonist's Lake. The path runs up to the granite canape, then descends on the other side of the hillock and leads to a dam on the shore of the great lake, near the chief harbor with boats, in the neighbourhood of the Admiralty.
The Great Lake of Tsarskoe Selo was dug out in the first half of the 18th century, probably during the reign of Catherine Alexeevna. In 1749 at the time, when water was being led to Tsarskoe Selo through the Vittolovsky Canal, the lake had been enlarged and deepened round the central island with the octagonal galleries of square logs.
Ever since the Tsarskoe Selo parks have existed, the Great Lake has been the center of their interest. Catherine the Great, Alexander I and Alexander II were all three especially fond of walking along the paths which run along it. All the Autocratic owners of Tsarskoe Selo have given much care to the decoration of its banks. One of the most beautiful views of the palace is to be seen from the lake; at the same time the most beautiful scenery opens from the palace windows on the lake and on its picturesque banks. The view of the Catherine Palace from the Admiralty was mentioned by Pushkin in the following lines:
"There on the quiet lake the Naiads splash in idle wave; and there in silence immense castles are mirrored, mingling with the clouds. Was it not here, that the earth-born gods spent their peaceful days? Is this not the Russian Minerva's temple?"Here, on the dam, near the boats, the Emperor Alexander I used to meet the head gardener Liamin daily. The Surgeon Tarassov says in his memoirs:
"Towards seven o'clock in the morning the Emperor drank green tea with, thick cream, and ate toasted white bread; then, having made a preliminary toilet, he called me to examine and bandage his leg; after that, he finished dressing and went into the garden through his private door, leading to His Own Avenue, from which he always walked towards the dam of the Great Lake, where usually Chief Gardener Liamin and a great company of birds (swans, geese, and ducks), were ready to meet him. Awaiting his arrival, baskets with food for the birds had been made ready and the Emperor was greeted with the birds' different voices. Going up to the baskets, his Majesty would put on a pair of gloves, specially laid for him, and begin to distribute the food among the birds. After this he would give the gardener Liamin his orders, respecting the garden and park, and proceed with his walk."