revisiting the Amber Room

revisiting the Amber Room

The highlight of Catherine Palace in Pushukin in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg in Russia is the Amber Room.

The numbers of the visitors in the room is limited, so you have to wait for your turn and photography is strictly forbidden (so the photo above is the photo of a guide book).Saint Petersburg in Russia

One member of our tour was told off because he tried to take one.

According to Lev, our guide, the panels of amber were given to Peter the Great from the Prussian Kingdom.

In those days, the current Kaliningrad, the detached territory of Russia which is famous for amber productions, was called Konigsberg and it was ruled by Prussia.

This area on the Baltic Sea has been well known amber source since before the ancient Roman era, which we learned in the Amber Museum in Lithuania. 

Peter the Great left these amber panels in storage in the Winter Palace but his daughter, Elizabeth decided to make the Amber Room in Catherine Palace.

But they did not have enough panels to make up one room, so the half of the room are surrounded with ordinary walls with mirrors so that it looks full of amber.

When the German forces invaded this area during the second world war, Germans stole the panels and took them back to their original Konigsberg, but later they were all destroyed by a British air raid.

That is the accepted theory, but this time, Lev said that they found a part of the original panels underground in Potsdam in Germany and it is used in the current room.

The Amber Room we saw was the result of the restoration work which was started 1979 and took as long as 24 years to complete. It has been open to the public since 2003.

Actually, this was my second visit to this room.

When I saw it for the first time about 13 year ago, I had an impression that it was dark and over decorative, but this time it looked simpler than my memory.

And in my memory there had been more reddish pieces, but in fact there were not so many, so maybe at that time I was only surprised to see the pieces of red amber for the first time.

By the way, Stalin started reconstructing Catherine Palace, this aristocrat mansion, soon after the war, apart from the Amber Room.

Saint Petersburg gardenThough the most people lost their homes and had difficulty finding food, by reconstructing this gorgeous palace, Stalin tried to uplift people’s feeling and externally, he tried to show that they were recovering quickly.

On another note, in Russia they still have the conscription.

Lev told us an incredible story which actually happened during his time in the army.

When their superior’s visit was announced, the soldiers were ordered to paint the grass around there green.

Unbelievable, but this must have happened not so long ago, because Lev looked in his thirties.

Before we parted, Lev sincerely said “I was very happy to look after you today” and that was because he led a group of Indian tourists last two days and they were very difficult customers.

He said “At the meeting time, only about 20% of them were on the bus, so we went out to look for the rest. Then when we came back to the bus, only two or three people were left there…”.

[ Aug.2017 ]