If you ever want to understand why the Russian people were angry with the Tsars, all you have to do is take a short trip on the Moscow Metro to Tsaritsyno Station and visit the associated city park, located on five hundred year old royal estate south of the city. The estate changed hands over the first few centuries between families of the aristocracy. However, in 1775, Catherine the Great was riding through the area and fell in love with the picturesque countryside. She ordered a summer ‘cottage’ to be built on the spot.
The architect Vasili Bazhenov spent the next ten years building a palace on the rolling green hills. Bazhenov designed an elaborate landscape of bridges, paths, and arches.
When it was almost complete, the tsarina came to inspect the project. She hated it and thought the rooms were too cramped and dark. She ordered it to be torn down. She never returned. Can you imagine the thoughts going through the man’s mind as ten years worth of work was destroyed? He was removed from the project although many of his auxiliary buildings survived.
Matvey Kazakov presented the tsarina with a new plan for the main palace building which she approved. He spent the next ten years building the structure. However, Catherine died before it was completed. The buildings sat in disrepair, abandoned, for two hundred years. The inside was never completed either and the palace was literally a shell of stone walls.
In the mid-eighties, the Soviets decided to restore Tsaritsyno and now the estate is a wonderful park for Moscow residents, complete with ponds, fountains, restaurants, greenhouses, and other delights. It’s definitely worth the day’s trip to see this stunning tourist location. The metro station is within walking distance of the park itself.
So if you’re in Moscow, go see the final version that Catherine never got to see herself. You won’t regret it!