Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The Amber Room At Catherine's Palace
In June 2007, My partner Dan, his parents and I spent 4 days in St. Petersburg, Russia. One of the highlights of that trip was our visit to the famous Amber room located inside Catherine’s Palace at the Tsarskoye Selo. Our tour guide was from Red October Tours which, by the way, if you ever plan to visit, is highly recommended. They're pricey, but well worth it. Red October provides private tours for very small groups (there was just the four of us and our guide and driver)that are given priority entrance without having to wait in the long lines. In addition, certain areas, such as the Hermitage treasury, are closed off to the public while you take your exclusive tour. Red October provides a truly VIP experience. The tour guides are well versed in their history and speak very good English.
There is a rich history involving the Amber room. It's been herald by some as one of the great wonders of the world.
The room's origin begins with King Frederick William of Prussia who gave Peter the Great the original inlaid amber panels after Peter admired them in a room in Frederick's palace. The 16-foot jigsaw-looking panels were constructed of over 100,000 perfectly fitted pieces of amber.
The original Amber Room represented a joint effort of German and Russian craftsmen. Construction of the Amber Room began in 1701 to 1709 in Prussia.
The room was designed by German baroque sculptor Andreas Schlüter and constructed by the Danish amber craftsman Gottfried Wolfram and remained at Charlottenburg Palace until 1716 when it was given by Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm I to his then ally, Tsar Peter the Great of the Russian Empire.
In Russia it was expanded and after several renovations, it covered more than 55 square meters and contained over six tons of amber.
During World War II the German army invaded St. Petersburg and looted the Amber room. The Nazis dismantled the amber panels and shipped them to Königsberg. Much mystery surrounds the fate of the amber room panels, and many Russians believe that they still exist somewhere in Germany.
(Original Amber room prior to the World War II invasion by Nazi Germany)
Knowledge of its whereabouts was lost in the chaos at the end of the war. Its fate remains a mystery, and the search continues.
In 1979 a reconstruction effort began at Tsarskoye Selo, based largely on black and white photographs of the original Amber Room. Russian artists began recreating the amber panels using the old techniques that were archived.
Financial difficulties to the project were solved with USD $3.5 million donated by the German company Ruhrgas AG.
By 2003 the titanic work of the Russian craftsmen was mostly completed. The new room was dedicated by Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder at the 300-year anniversary of the city of Saint Petersburg.
Click here for a video coverage by National Geographic.