20 November 2016

After breakfast I traveled to the Kadriorg area a few miles from Tallinn Old Town. Attractions had yet to open so I strolled through the massive park.

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Stumbled on a particularly well-groomed plot surrounding two frozen ponds.

A full loop around the park put me in the lovely gardens of Kadriorg Palace.

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Following his successful capture of Estonia during the Great Northern War (1700-1721) Tsar Peter I commissioned there the construction of a residence. He named his colorful new palace for his wife (literally ’Catherine’s Valley’), but would not live to see it completed.

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The quaint building where the royal couple stayed on multiple visits to the uncompleted palace was a highlight of my stroll around the park.

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Surely the pride of the palace is her magnificent great hall. Designed by Roman architect Nicola Michetti, it has been described as the ‘Baroque Pearl of the North’.

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Catherine’s initials still grace the hall even though she rarely visited the palace following her husband’s death.

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The intricate stucco decorations are enhanced by an impressive series of ceiling paintings that depict Ovid’s Metamorphoses as an allegory for Russian victory in the Great Northern War.

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While the great hall has been preserved in her original form, the remainder of the palace underwent significant renovations under Tsar Nicholas I (r.1825-1855). Kadriorg was then on visited by generations of Russian royalty, but only on sporadic summer holidays. The royal bedrooms, offices and so on are now assumed by impressive foreign artwork.

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In 1934 the head of the interwar Republic of Estonia, Konstantin Pats, moved into Kadriorg. He controversially redesigned many parts of the interior, namely the library, which now houses an exhibit of Russian Graphic Art.

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In front the palace stands the Swan Pond occupied by a gazebo in the middle. It was frozen as well.

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Just behind the palace stands the purpose-built Presidential Palace. Constructed in 1938, President Pats lived there for only two years before Estonia was occupied by the Soviets. It housed the highest regional authorities under German and Soviet occupation, but resumed her original purpose after Estonian liberation in 1991. The Honor Guard stands watch 24 hours a day.

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I ended my tour at Kumu, the Art Museum of Estonia. Built in 2006, it is the largest museum in the country.

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I spent my limited amount of time visiting the permanent exhibition. I was thrilled to find it arranged in chronological order, rather than thematic. I particularly enjoyed the works of Johann Koler, a nineteenth century Estonian whose style is classified simply as ‘history painting’.

I also enjoyed Eduard Ole’s early 20th century paintings of musicians.

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Called a taxi to the airport at 1:00. Flight was delayed a few hours, used the time to blog.

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Arrived in Vilnius at 6:30.

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