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All around the world many cultural sites are being restored by Governments and private groups in order to rediscover history and appreciate the beauty and value of architecture.

In Athens a 25 year program restored many important buildings of the Acropolis, the work requires expertise and scholars, archeologists, historians and artisans and buckets of money.

Barcelona will complete the Sagrada Familia Church in 2026 with the donations of tourists who pay an entrance fee.

Versailles continues its restorations of the chateau bringing back elements that were neglected for decades with a comprehensive program of restoration of furniture, the gardens and fountains and other buildings.

Berlin has done much work in the last 30 years since reunification changing the look of the city making it more people friendly and restoring its 18 Century look.

Everywhere you go it seems much is done to enhance the heritage component of cities. All this work also brings more tourist dollars or Euros as the case may be.

Russia under Vladimir Putin has also done much to enhance its heritage. Restoring countless monasteries, churches and palaces. Last week the Alexander Palace re-opened to the public after 8 years of restoration.

In the case of the Alexander Palace which is located in Tsarkoye Selo some 25 Km from St-Petersburg, it was a gigantic effort and a costly one. The original palace was built by Catherine the Great for her grandson Alexander I and his wife. They did not like living in the palace and so remained in their suite of rooms at the Great Catherine Palace across the street. Around 1820 the palace became the Official Summer Residence of the Heir to the Russian Throne. Finally in 1894, Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra moved in and made it their private residence. They would live there until August 1917, when they were exiled to Siberia. The Palace was closed by the Bolcheviks and turned into a museum until 1939 when the invading Nazis and Spanish Fascists troops laid siege to St-Petersburg (Leningrad) for 900 days.

Before the arrival of the Nazis, the Soviet Government rapidly emptied the palaces all around Tsarkoye Selo of their most valuable contents shipping them East for safe keeping. In the case of the Alexander Palace not all the contents could be shipped off due to time constraints. Some less important art works where hidden in the basement. This did not stop the looting and vandalism by foreign invaders. In 1945 with the end of the war, the damage was assessed and no one believed that the Alexander Palace and its park would be restored given the amount of destruction. However some officials of the Culture department started to work on saving and restoring what they could. The Palace was re-opened to the public with limited displays but it all had a very sad look. The roof leaked and some rooms were beyond salvage.

Only in 2014 did very serious work start to restore the palace to its former glory as a private residence of the last Tsar and his family. On You Tube, you will find recent videos of the opening of the Palace to the press and experts explain how the final results were achieved. Some 6000 personal objects, from clothing to paintings, vases, other bibelots, books, even personal diaries kept by the Tsarina until 2 hours before her murder are in the collection returned to the Palace and placed in the various rooms. The Bolcheviks kept everything and catalogue it all. It is in many way ghoulish and says a lot about Lenin and company. The children’s toys are particularly poignant, they will eventually be placed in their bedrooms on the second floor.

The work done in the restoration is spectacular, fragments of tiles, fabric and wallpaper have all been reproduced meticulously. In one room, rare Brazilian Rosewood called Palisander, panel the walls. The Tsar and his family could walk back into those rooms today and find them as they left them in August 1917, in all its splendor with all their personal items, clothing, family photos etc.

The Palace will be their memorial, though the family was murdered in a dark cellar some 103 years ago, this refurbishment is eerily real.