Dubbed the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ the location of the original Amber Room is still a mystery.
Gifted to Peter the Great by the King of Prussia in 1716. This extraordinarily beautiful room glowed with tons of amber and other semi-precious stones and backed with gold leaf. Originally installed in the Winter Palace, in 1755, Czarina Elizabeth had the room moved to the Catherine Palace in Pushkin. Additional amber was shipped from Berlin as Italian designer, Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli extended the design to fit a larger space.
There the room remained in splendour until, in 1941, Operation Barbarossa was set in motion with over 3 million German soldiers invading the Soviet Union. As the German army began its approach to Pushkin, a desperate attempt was made to disassemble the Amber Room and hide it from the invading forces. When it became obvious that this wouldn’t be achieved in time an attempt was made to hide the room behind a layer of wallpaper.
The Germans had lists of art treasures it wanted to acquire and was a priority as they progressed through the countries they invaded. They knew exactly where to find the Amber Room. Within 36 hours, its reported, they managed to disassemble the entire room and pack it in 27 crates. These were then shipped to Konigsberg and reinstalled in the Castle Museum.
When the writing was on the wall in 1943 and defeat became likely the Germans again dismantled the room and re-packed it in its crates. It’s at this point that the mystery begins. Konigsberg Castle was destroyed along with the city in allied bombing raids in 1944. Did the Amber Room survive hidden safely away or was it destroyed in the bombing? Nobody seems to know although many historians have tried to solve the mystery.
In 1979 it was decided to build a new Amber Room. Construction began and took 25 years to complete at a cost of over 11 million dollars (US). The new room was opened to mark the 300-year anniversary of St Petersburg by Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder in a unifying ceremony.
The room is on display at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve at the Catherine Palace outside of St Petersburg.
The Amber Room is just one of the many spectacular sights we’ll be visiting during our 19 days Cultural Exploration of Russia’s two great cities and ancient Golden Circle towns departing Moscow on 22nd August 2019.