Thursday 24 April 2008

Bathroom at Majestic Catherine Palace Not Worthy of Royal Attention

Catherine Palace
(Tsarskoe Selo)
Pushkin, Russia

Where is it?

The mens and ladies toilets are across the hall from the building's only cloak room. Since you must check your coat to get in, you can't miss them.

What's it like?

This majestic summer house rivals the opulence of the Hermitage (located about 20 minutes away in nearby St. Petersburg), especially in its extravagant decor and impressive art collection. (Though the Hermitage's collection dwarfs this one considerably.)

Built in the mid 1700s, it served as the summer residence for the Tsars, including Catherine the Great, who took it upon herself to remodel the building from its original design into its current glory. Highlights inside include the legendary Amber Room (which surround you in ceiling-high amber walls) and the Great Hall, which stretches more than the length of a football field and boasts the biggest single-piece ceiling mural I've ever seen.

I visited in winter, so I didn't get to experience the vast gardens of the palace, though I've seen pictures and have been told that they rival Versailles in terms of grandeur. Hopefully I'll get to return one day.

Ironically, the bathrooms here have much in common with the ones I visited at the Hermitage. No, they don't have fixtures made of stainless steel, nor did I find much unflushed human waste in the commodes here when I visited. But the sharp smell of urine tinging the air was unavoidable and unmistakable, and many of the urinals contains unflushed urine.

Of course, given that, these were also much cleaner than the Hermitage toilets (though still were not perfectly clean, if you know what I mean). A strange, very dated wallpaper pattern hangs on the walls, and large dark beige tiles cover the floors. The stalls are similar to the Hermitage's in that they stretch almost from floor to ceiling and the urinals have very long white-painted plywood dividers between them.

Toilets and urinals are both made of white porcelain though show significant wear and tear. Unlike the Hermitage, they had the capability of flushing (even if that wasn't used in regards to the urinals). The sink area features three simple basins fitted into a fiberboard counter, with three mirror panels hanging overhead and divided by dim fluorescent bulbs, which hang vertically -- almost like a thematic extension of the humble toilets found at Country Ham 'n' Eggs in Sebastian, FL, if you think about it.

Marks out of 10:

5. That pungent stink of urine keeps the score low, I'm afraid and almost was a 4 but it's still far and away better than the toilets I visited in the Hermitage, and for that I had to give them some credit.

Comments to the Management:

Air freshener. Air freshener. Air freshener. Then give the fixtures a good scrubbing, because they need it.

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