Gatchina, which is the name of both the city and the park-palace complex, dates to the 15th century, when it was a small Russian village. The main attractions of the most distant of St. Petersburg's palace suburbs are an expansive park with a network of bridges for island-hopping and a grim-looking palace—resembling a feudal English castle—that has unfortunately deteriorated over the years. Probably because Gatchina lacks the splendor of the other suburban palaces, it's usually not included in prearranged tours, and thus is rarely visited by foreign tourists. Because it does offer a chance to escape from the crowds for a while, however, it's worth a visit. Keep in mind that few restaurants are available, so be sure to bring along a lunch that you can enjoy on the shores of Silver Lake.

The name Gatchina is a bit of a mystery. One popular suggestion is that it comes from the Russian expression gat chinit, meaning "to repair the road." Others believe it comes from the German phrase hat schöne, meaning "it's beautiful." In its current state, both expressions could apply.

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