Gatchina is the favorite residence of the emperor Alexander III. The place where brothers and sisters of future last Russian emperor Nicholas II spent their childhood. Alexander II’s death from hands of terrorists influenced moving of the imperial family to the country. The wonderful Gatchina palace was designed as a castle. Catherine the Great’s favorite Alexey Orlov was the owner.
There were rich hunting grounds, all nobility went there to hunt. The palace has been built as a real castle with its labyrinths and the stone arches. They say that there’s a nymph Ekho living there in one of the underground tunnels. After death of the earl Alexey Orlov Catherine the Great redeemed the residence into property and presented it to her son Pavel Petrovich.
Prospering of Gatchina fell already on reign of Alexander III, the tsar-peacekeeper. In his reign there were no wars therefore Russia could recover and begin to breathe freely. Very few people know but electricity appeared for the first time in Russia not in the Winter Palace but at the Gatchina residence. There it was applied at first in the house of one of royal officers to check how it affects health, and then it was applied in the palace.
Personal rooms of the emperor and his family are filled with home comfort and warmth. There you understand that they were just people, though holding a special position. Alexander III was an ordinary person, loved the Russian simple food, baggy trousers, adored everything that had something to do with Russia. All churches in the new Russian style were constructed either in his time or during that of his son Nicholas II. And there, in these rooms, in the park of the Palace, he spent time with the family. He was especially attached to the younger daughter Olga.
While in Gatchina, you should visit the Priorate Palace. The history of the Order of Malta is directly connected with Russia, though representatives of the Order do not not like to mention that. Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Malta by deceiving the knights and they had no place to go. They remembered Russia. The emperor Paul I was a romantic emperor, since his childhood he had been fond of reading books about knights. That book which inspired him and got to fall in love with a romantic image of a knight in the shining armor is still in the Priorate Palace.
As a result of negotiations knights of the Order of Malta moved to Russia, lived in present Vorontsov Palace in St. Petersburg in Sadovaya Street. There still is the Maltese chapel. The palace was a temporary residence for them. Paul I had a new castle built for the knights. It is small, isolated, standing alone on the bank of the Black Lake. The Priorate palace was supposed to be their castle. Its construction was carried out using a unique technology when layers of the pressed clay were soaked in limy solution.