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Gatchina Parks and Things to Explore
May 8, 2016 16:10


Gatchina is an ambivalent place in all respects. Knight's castles, humpbacked small bridges and postcard views coexist here with the traces of life of surrounding chavs and simple cottages interfering the secured zone.  Unlike Pavlovsk or Peterhof, Gatchina administrative status is a regional center in the Leningrad region, but the museum-reserve is managed from St. Petersburg. 

Silvia Park
 is located to the west of the Gatchina Palace, behind a stone wall with the Sylvia gates. During the time of Grigory Orlov they bred pheasants here for hunting. And during the reign of Paul I on the spot of Pheasant’s Place a regular garden was made on the perimeter and it was fenced. There is little that remains from the fence. On the part of the city along the border of the park a brick fence passes and Krasnoarmeyskiy Prospect comes after it. 

Kolpanka River separates Sylvia from the Menagerie’s Park. During the reign of Paul I the park represented a space of regular planning, modeled under the sample of one of the gardens of the estate of Chantilly, the residence of Prince Conde, and its beauty is not inferior to Versailles. The Sylvia Park became a kind of reminder about traveling around Europe, which Paul, as a heir, has taken it under the name of Count of the North. The name of the park, repeated in Pavlovsk, also goes back to Chantilly, where was  Sylvia's house, that is, the forest nymph, a pond and a park with the same name. However, the prototype of the Gatchina Sylvia is another garden of Chantilly - Small Park. If you compare the plans of Small Park and of Gatchina Sylvia the resemblance is noticeable even from a distant observer of garden art. These "variations on the topic" were very common in the XVIII century, and the new environmental conditions rule out the blunt copying. By the way, so-called "Album Count the North" was kept in Gatchina for a long time. It was drawings of the estate and gardens of Chantilly, presented to Paul Petrovich by the host. 

Unfortunately it has not been kept up to actual time as it was sold to France in those days, when the Soviet government actively traded by cultural valuables, and actually it is kept in the Museum of Conde. Today Sylvia bears little resemblance to the French fleet. This overgrown and swampy terrain, incised by "trident" – by three alleys, extending from the area in front of the Sylvia gates. Along the alleys the fir trees are growing, that were planted in the middle of last century. Pavilions “Ferma” (Farm) and “Ptichnik” (Poultry Yard) are preserved among the park constructions of the XVIII century. As well as the bridge near these pavilions and the remains of the dam with a cascade and Naumahiya pool are also kept.

Book transfer to Gatchina from St. Petersburg

Farm on the outskirts of the Sylvia Park, on the bank of Kolpanki (Pilnaya) is a typical construction for the park of the XVIII century. Animal Farm as a luxurious mansion complied with the fashion to the approach to the nature, with idyllic rural life and decorative shepherdesses representing the great ladies. Maria Feodorovna followed this fashion and imitated the Queen Marie-Antoinette, for fun of a woman milking the cows in Versailles. Similar facilities exist in Pavlovsk: Farm and Dairy place. Gatchinskaya Farm resembles a cozy manor house: the front facade of the building, facing the river, covers the outbuildings. There is a round room with a dome roof inside the central building. A pavilion with a well was built near the farm that is preserved to this day (but the well is lost).

The Silver Lake

The Silver Lake stands out among the other reservoirs of Gatchina by its special clarity and silver glow of water. This is due to the fact that there are  numerous springs coming from the lake bottom that form  shiny swashes on the surface, which were called "griffins". The springs do not make the lake overplanted. Due to the color of water the Silver Lake is also called as the Emerald Lake. The water clarity creates optical illusions. It is like the lake becomes invisible at certain angles. Clear water allows one to see the lake almost to the bottom. Therefore, it is here, where the submarine invented by Semyon Dzewitsky was tested  in the presence of the royal family.The Grotto Echo is located on the shore of Silver Lake. Silver Meadow stretches between the palace and the lake.  An underground passage from the Gatchina palace to the shore of Silver Lake is a favorite attraction for tourists. In the water it ends by the cave with the unique acoustics.

Echo in the grotto repeats the spoken sentences and answers to the questions. The most popular question, of course is: "Who ruled here?" The reply is reflected many times from the walls and the ceiling: "Paul! Paul! Paul!" The exit from the cave, surrounded by rocks and planted by shrubs, looks very natural, but in fact it is a decoration.

The pass with the length of 120 meters begins after the secret door of the Main bedroom, and is downstairs to the basement of the palace, and further to a tunnel under the Silver Meadow. This tunnel was created with Grigory Orlov for fun, as an attribute of a romantic castle, but Paul Petrovich liked it, who lived in constant expectation of plots and attacks. Underpass was kept in operational readiness in case of the required escape. Some boat always was on duty in the marina of the Silver Lake. As known, it did not save against the conspiracy. Such place inevitably creates the legends about the ghosts. A phantom of the murdered emperor is seen almost everywhere, where Paul lived, and even underground at the palace of Gatchina.

Forest Greenhouse, one of the many Gatchina greenhouses, was built in 1795 according to the design of Brenna at the site of the old greenhouses in Orel. It was modeled under the sample of the best European greenhouses of those years and, apparently, it was inferior to none in any respect. 

Five large windows of "emerald glass" were out to the south and gave enough light for heat-loving plants, citrus fruits and berries. Exotic plants of the greenhouse were as a decoration for main rooms of the palace during the receptions and balls. The greenhouse burned down during the Great Patriotic War.  Top floor attic, roof, windows, all the interiors and decoration were disrupted. However, even its ruins make the impression of an unusually grand structure. It is located near the amphitheater, on the road leading to the Grand Palace.

Poultry Yard is an intricate large building located in opposite side from the farm on the bank of the Kolpanka river. It was built in the late XVIII century by the architect Zakharov. In this place, even during Orlov, they bred pheasants for hunting. 

The Poultry Yard served the same purpose; only the range of the birds has been extended. Besides pheasants they bred geese, turkeys, peacocks and other birds. The building is very expressive: long side wings part from the main part of the building to the sides and they end with round towers. It is interesting that the facade should have been decorated by the images of eagles, but the project did not have time to be implemented. In 1844, a very ramshackle poultry yard was dismantled and rebuilt, preserving the original appearance. Now the building requires the restoration again. 

Hunting in Gatchina Park

The largest of the Gatchina parks was designed for all types of hunting. This is evidenced by the name of "The Menagerie", i.e. the place where the animals were bred and kept, that condemned to the shooting, including the rare ones. Grigory Orlov, a big fan of this kind of fun, arranged the hunt for the Queen. Paul I did not like Orlov, as well as all the favorites of his mother, but the hunt attracted him too. 

Hunting impressions were also associated with the estate of Chantilly, where "the Earl and Countess of the North" became the participants of a model court deer hunting. The Gatchina Palace is decorated with a painting depicting the culmination moment of this action. During the reign of Paul the forest area of the Menagerie was landscaped: crossing alleys were made from one end to another and thirty thousand lime trees were planted. Deer, hares and wild goats live in the park.

During the reign of Nicholas I they continued to improve the park. Imperial hunt was transferred from Peterhof to Gatchina. Office buildings and pavilions for rest were built in the menagerie: Jaeger house, sheds and barracks, various pens for animals. A special high fence made of fir stakes stretches along 8 kilometers. Stream canal of the Gatchinki River has been extended. Therefore another lake with artificial islets was formed there.

Read also: Gatchina Palaces and Castles

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Author: Anna Dorozhkina

Tags: Gatchina Leningrad Region    

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