Historical and architectural masterpieces, residencies of Slavic presidents have become true tourist attractions. Built in lavish, decorative styles with large gardens and parks, it’s not difficult to see why many of us wish to visit and experience some of the Presidential estate atmosphere as well.
Chateau Lany, Czech Republic
Right outside of Prague, Krivoklat woods of the village Lany hide the astonishing Baroque style official summer residency of Czech presidents. Originally built as a wooden house in the 14th century, Chateau and its surrounding land was bought by Rudolf II who remade it into a palace somewhat smaller than the current one. During the 17th and 18th century, the estate had many owners, who were all notable and wealthy people. During these centuries, it received its final characteristic Baroque appearance. Purchased by the Czechoslovak state in 1921 for the purposes of it being one of presidential residencies, it underwent significant renovations and alterations under the guide of architect Josip Plecnik. As notable as the Chateau itself is the park that surrounds it. With many greenhouses and an artificial lake, many consider it to be a perfect match to the luxurious Chateau.
Except for a beautiful park, there is also a game park of 3000 hectares, which was intended for hunt as a way of entertainment for President’s guests. A number of Czechoslovak presidents were very fond of Chateau Lany, and loved to spend as much time as possible at the estate. One of them was the first Czechoslovak president Tomas Masaryk, who was allowed to keep living on the estate after his abdication. Eventually, he and his family were buried at Lany. After Masaryk’s death, Lany was not used as frequently, with other presidential estates being favored by his successors. However, Chateau Lany once again became a favorite summer residence during the time Vaclav Havel was in the office.
Grassalkovich Palace, Slovakia
Located on the main square in Bratislava, Grassalkovich Palace is a breathtaking Baroque palace surrounded by a large estate featuring a French garden. Easily accessible by foot, it is one of the historical tourist hot spots in Bratislava. Featuring a large garden that is today a public park, visiting the so called president’s alley is certainly time well spent. Enchanted by the garden he saw during a visit to a Canadian governor, Slovakian president Schuster decided to plant an oak on the left side of the park in 1999. Since that year, it has become a tradition for every foreign president who visits the estate to plant one as well.
Built in the 18th century for the Croatian aristocrat Antal Grassalkovich, it served as a classical concert venue in the next few centuries. Many notable musicians, such as Joseph Haydn premiered their famed work here. A good friend of Maria Theresa, Grassalkovich also hosted many balls and formal affairs for the Habsburg royal court in the palace. Until the 20th century, the estate was owned by many noble and high ranking individuals from the political milieu. However, Grassalkovich palace was seized by the Territorial Military Command in 1919. During the Second World War, the estate was officially adopted as seat of a president of the First Slovak Republic. Communist period brought substantial damage to the estate, since it was used as a ‘House of Pioneers and Youth’ for schoolchildren. Only in 1990s did the restoration and renovation of the Palace start, and after it was finalized in 1996, became the official residence of Slovakian president. Today it can be visited only once a year, during the ‘Day of Open Doors’, which is usually sometime in June. However, the lavish garden, which often features some works of modern art such as sculptures and installations can be visited at any time.
Konstantin Palace, Strelna
Chosen as a perfect place for a summer residence by Peter the Great, today Strelna is a home to one of the most luxurious palaces in Russia. Partially designed by Jean Baptiste Le Blond who worked on the creation of Versailles (known to be Peter’s favorite architectural inspiration), its construction was eventually put on hold due to architect’s death. However, as the successor of Le Blond to carry on the project appeared an Italian architect Nicola Michetti. Yet, the work did not go as planned, and the project was temporarily abandoned, with disappointed Michetti returning to Italy. Despite certain efforts of Empress Elizabeth, there was no progress to the building of a palace during her rule. Inherited by the Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich, the palace was eventually finished under the command of architects Andrei Voronkhin and Luigi Rusca. Ever since then, the palace was used by Romanov family branch that stemmed from Konstantin Pavlovich. After the Revolution, Konstantin Palace was used first as a secondary school, and then even as a naval base by the Germans during WW2.
Completely destroyed during the War, the Palace renovation only started in 2001, after current Russian president Vladimir Putin chose it to be his official Saint Petersburg residence. Renovated largely in accordance to Le Blond’s original drawings, today it features a large number of fountains, bridges and canals, with its park being all the way to the Gulf of Finland. Known for a large collection of world famous art, its wine cellar is also said to contain some of the most expensive wines in the world. Visits and excursions are available year round, and are warmly recommended by tourists and locals alike to all those who visit Saint Petersburg.