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Explore Oranienbaum Park

Located west of the city of St. Petersburg on the scenic Gulf of Finland, Oranienbaum Park incorporates some of the grand historic buildings of the area, including the Grand Menshikov Palace (not to be confused with St. Petersburg’s palace of the same name), the Chinese Palace, Stone Hall and the three-storey baroque pavilion known as Sliding Hill, which once served as the starting point for a rollercoaster-style ride down the hillside using wheeled carts or sleds.

The park itself has become somewhat overgrown, providing a natural haven for birds and wildlife. An enclosure is home to a number of deer which are tame, having become accustomed to human visitors. In parts of the park, the landscaped gardens that were created during the time of Catherine the Great’s reign are still evident, and visitors can enjoy refreshments at the café located in the neoclassical Cavalier’s Room while exploring the park and its historic buildings.

The land on which the Oranienbaum Park is situated was presented to Grand Duke Alexander Menshikov by Peter the Great in around 1710. Menshikov was engaged in the fortification of Kronshtadt on nearby Kotlin Island at the time, and took the opportunity to build what would be his seaside palace. It took a decade for the palace to be completed, and it was said that in his efforts to outdo Peter the Great’s palace being built at Peterhof, Menshikov became bankrupt. He was arrested and exiled in 1727, with the estate passing to the government. The palace was presented to the future Peter III, by his aunt Empress Elizabeth in 1743. Renovations were undertaken by baroque architect Francesco Rastrelli at the time, with Antonio Rinaldo making further alterations in 1762. The palace was later used as a Naval Cadet College in the late 18th century, and was occupied for a time by Alexander I and his brother Mikhail. Today the exterior of the castle remains impressive, but much of the interior has deteriorated, leaving little of its former glory behind. Nonetheless, it makes for interesting viewing when visiting the Oranienbaum Park.

Despite its name, the Chinese Palace located in the southern corner of Oranienbaum Park, is not very Chinese-looking at all. As one of the first major building projects ordered by Catherine the Great, the palace was built between 1762 and 1768 by Antonio Rinaldi and is considered to be an excellent example of late Baroque, or Rococo, architecture. Much of the interior of the palace has remained unchanged since the reign of Catherine the Great, and visitors will be delighted with the carvings depicting oriental landscapes and ornate Chinese lanterns, as well as the tapestries featuring exotic birds and plants.

A visit to Oranienbaum Park to be surrounded by nature, and explore aspects of the past, can be a richly rewarding experience when visiting the St. Petersburg area of Russia.


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