Saturday, 9 July 2016

Rundāle Palace

Rundāle Palace

We are stopping off on our way back from Vilnius to Riga to see Rundāle Palace near Bauska. It is the grandest in the Baltics and was one of the locations used for the BBC's War and Peace. It was designed by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli for Ernst Johann Biron, later Duke of Courland, in 1735-36, an era when Latvia was part of the Russian empire.

The park was also designed by Rastrelli and was totally renovated and replanted between 1979 and 2009.

As we approach, we can see that the Palace is rectangular, with the entrance leading to an open courtyard at one end. Our first view is above. The design is restrained and each window has a pleasing geometric pattern below it.

Our first decision is to walk around the outer perimeter, the other side of a shallow sort of moat. We were quickly rewarded when the sun came out briefly, making the Palace look even more inviting.

Here is the left side of the outer perimeter. The weather is not looking good!

At the corner we turn right, now parallel with the garden façade of the palace. We can see that a series of avenues radiate out from the rear façade and extend into the woodland beyond.

At the far corner we admire the line of trees …

… walk towards the palace again, to turn the final corner and arrive at the main entrance.

This is a very impressive space and happily most people seem to arrive at the side entrance so it is almost deserted.

The ground floor has a series of beautiful vaulted passages.

Upstairs, the rooms have been restored to a state of staggering opulence. As an illustration, this is the Duke's Bedchamber. The blue ceramic structures are for heating.

To be honest, it is hot and crowded and the rather over-the-top decorative style is not really our taste, so we do a whistle-stop tour and head outside. The grounds are divided into a series of zones: rose garden, parterres, etc. Here is one of the parterres.

This panoramic view, from a postcard, gives a better idea of the overall layout, although the plantings have grown a lot since it was taken.

Conditions: cloudy, rain threatening.

Distance: 2-3 miles.

Rating: four stars. Imposing, a bit overwhelming and the interior rather over-the-top.

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