The Last Czars


My mom recommended The Last Czars (on Netflix) to me because she knows I have a thing for Russian palaces. The first episode was spectacular so now I’m recommending it to you.

It’s unexpectedly part costume drama and part documentary, so you get all the eye candy while also learning something. It’s always a dance (picture pun!) with shows like this because you never know how far the writers bent history, so the documentary elements give it a trustworthiness that leaves you feeling very smart.

The show starts (and spends most of its time) in good old St Petersburg, land of palaces so wide you can’t fit them in the frame:

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Don’t worry, you also get to go inside the palaces.

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And you get a whole lot of beautiful nature shots when a guy named Rasputin decides to walk across the country.


War & Peace & Palaces

War & Peace (2016), a BBC miniseries based on Tolstoy's novel, is one of the most stunningly beautiful things every transmitted through a television.  It is filmed in Russia, Latvia, and Lithuania - places that Western tourists rarely go due to tight visa restrictions and cultural differences - so I was unprepared for the epic scale of opulence.  These palaces (of which there are many) make Downton Abbey look like a Toll Brothers McMansion.  

Right off the bat, we are assaulted with beauty:

The Winter Palace in St Petersburg, Russia

The Winter Palace in St Petersburg, Russia

Each room is decked out with gilding, textiles, feathers, tile, tchotchkes,....

Every shot is framed like a work of art.....

And even when there is no architectures or furniture in a shot, it is still a work of art.....

Bruegel - Winter Landscape with Bird Trap (1565)

Bruegel - Winter Landscape with Bird Trap (1565)

Hendrick Avercamp - Golf Players on the Ice (1625)

Hendrick Avercamp - Golf Players on the Ice (1625)

...but there is no shortage of architecture.  When the characters are overwhelmed with city life, there are country homes....

....but the country can grow so tiresome, so it's back to the city!

Michael's Palace, now the Russian Museum, in St Petersburg

Michael's Palace, now the Russian Museum, in St Petersburg

And FINALLY someone pays a visit to a rich friend....

This is the Catherine Palace, located outside of St. Petersburg, Russia. It was the summer residence of the Russian Tsars.  I know the above image makes it look ginormous........but this places is even bigger!  It loops around to form a massive courtyard. 

And, of course, what better place to go for a ball!

And if you are already slummin' it in the city, why not check out an intimate opera....

....and another ball!

It is impossible not to fall in love with something so beautiful, so don't blame Natasha for falling for an incest-loving cad.  Looks matter.