January 01, 2014

Travel Notes

After eight years of renovation, St. Petersburg’s Shuvalov Palace is finally reopening. The world can now view the famous Fabergé collection acquired by Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg in 2004 for $100 million.

The centerpiece of the collection is a set of nine Easter eggs that the famous jeweler made for the Romanov family to mark historic events, like the ascent of Nicholas II to the throne or Russia’s war with Germany. Most of them hid a “surprise” inside – the first egg made, for example, contained a golden hen, which in turn, matryoshka-style, concealed a ruby crown. Carl Fabergé and his assistants made dozens of similar eggs, each a small masterpiece that have come to symbolize the over-the-top wealth of the tsarist family and the ingenuity of the empire’s jewelers.

The Shuvalov Palace, renovated to the tune of an estimated $30 million and leased through 2056 by the Link of Times Foundation, is also famous, and is as poshly appointed as the insides of a Fabergé egg. The palace, perched on the banks of the Fontanka River, was built in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It belonged to Dmitry Naryshkin, a courtier who was married to Maria Chetvertinskaya, a favorite of Tsar Alexander I. Dmitry threw lavish balls in the palace, attracting all the beau monde, from the emperor to poet Alexander Pushkin. The palace eventually passed to the Shuvalov family, who owned it up to the revolution. Until it closed for renovation in the mid-2000s, it housed a string of mundane Soviet offices and slowly fell into disrepair.

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