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Anyone interested in Peter the Great’s best friend and oft-rumoured lover, Prince Menshikov, will be fascinated by this testament to Menshikov’s growing vanity and general hubris. While Peter was building Monplaisir at Peterhof, Menshikov began his own palace at Oranienbaum (Orange Tree), 12km further down the coast, a grand enterprise that eventually bankrupted him. Peter was unfazed by the fact that his subordinate’s palace in St Petersburg (the Menshikov Palace) was grander than his own, and likewise Menshikov outdid his master in creating this fabulous place. While not particularly opulent compared to the palaces that Elizabeth and Catherine the Great favoured, by Petrine standards Oranienbaum was off the scale.

Following Peter’s death and Menshikov’s exile, the estate served briefly as a hospital and then passed to Tsar Peter III, who didn’t much like ruling Russia and spent a lot of time there before he was dispatched in a coup led by his wife, Catherine the Great.
Spared Nazi occupation, after WWII Oranienbaum was renamed for the scientist-poet Mikhail Lomonosov. Now known as Oranienbaum again, it doubles as a museum and public park, with boat rentals and carnival rides alongside the remaining buildings.

Menshikov’s Grand Palace impresses the most with its size, though many of its decrepit rooms are still under renovation. Beyond the pond is Peterstadt, Peter Ill’s boxy toy palace, with rich, uncomfortable-looking interiors. It is approached through the Gate of Honour, all that remains of a toy fortress where he amused himself drilling his soldiers.

Worth a peek also is Catherine’s over-the-top Chinese Palace. It’s baroque outside and extravagantly rococo inside, with a private retreat designed by Antonio Rinaldi including painted ceilings and fine inlaid-wood floors and walls. Check out the blindingly sumptuous Large Chinese Room, done up in the ‘Oriental’ style of the day.
Perhaps Oranienbaum’s best feature is the several kilometres of quiet paths through pine woods and sombre gardens, with relatively small crowds; again it’s a lovely place for a picnic.

Sights & Information
Chinese Palace (admission R50; о 10am-5pm Wed-Mon May-Oct)
Grand Palace ([Sj 423 1627; adult/student R50/15; (S 10am-5pm Wed-Mon May-Oct)
Peterstadt (admission R50; о 10am-5pm Wed-Mon May-Oct)
Public park (admission free; о 9am-10pm)

Don’t count on being able to get anything beyond snacks or chocolate bars at Oranienbaum. The best option is to pack a picnic and enjoy it in the park.

Distance from St Petersburg 41km
Direction West
Travel Time 45 minutes to one hour
Bus There are marshrutkas to Oranienbaum from
outside metro Avtovo.
Train The suburban train from St Petersburg’s Baltic
Station to Petrodvorets continues to Oranienbaum.
Get off at Oranienbaum-I (not II) Station, an hour
from St Petersburg. From the station it’s a short walk
south, then west at the Archangel Michael Cathedral
(Sobor Arkhangela Mikhaila) along Dvortsovy pr until
you reach the palace entrance.

Adv: Hoodia Gordonii

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