(In this column, globetrotters Divine Lee and Victor Basa look back on their travels and regale us with their fun, intriguing, exciting, and often wacky stories.)
Photos by Victor Basa
D: I have always been a fan of dynasties and family sagas. So it’s no wonder that when I was younger, I would gladly skip watching Disney movies for Spanish teleseryes. I think I got my overdramatic streak from it (yes, I’m the type who would run to the E.R. screaming and shouting, as if my life depended on it...and this was for only a bad case of eye stye). During our last trip to Russia, it was pretty obvious that I’d be learning more about the Romanovs (Who knows, maybe I am related to the “lost” Anastasia?), but one thing that caught my attention during our tour was another clan: The Yusopovs. The Yusopovs were not royalties like the Romanovs, but with their lifestyle, heritage, and fortune, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills have got nothing on them! Let’s start our story by touring their palace!
V: I first heard about the name Yusopov when I was searching for places to visit in Russia. Upon further research, I learned that the family was involved in the brutal murder of the Russian mystic and claimant of prophethood, Rasputin. The Yusopovs were a Russian noble family that descended from the Khans of the 10th century, but they were more known for their incredible wealth and philanthropy. Although they weren’t royalty, they had immense influence and power. Browse the gallery for my travel notes!
- Yusopov Palace
D: The palace is by the Moika canal, so it's also called Moika Palace. But, I think Yusopov is more commonly used now.
V: The palace is along an impressive canal known as the Moika, where it gets its name as well. Yusupov seems to be more associated with the structure though. This was a candid photo of me stretching after riding in a tour van and enjoying the crisp St. Petersburg air.
- Royal chair
D: This chair is so inviting. Haha! But other than stating the obvious, one thing that’s different about this palace is it actually feels more like a home than a museum. Most of the things are properly maintained. However, our tour guide said that after the “escape” of the Yusopov family, most of the items were stolen. I can’t even imagine how much stuff they had before the escape.
V: This chaise lounge, complete with fleur-de-lis design and extensive use of gold, demonstrates the opulence of the Yusopovs. I’m impressed by how well they’ve maintained this mansion; I believe other pieces were reproduced or replicated since a lot their property were stolen during their escape.
- Couple shot
D: We took advantage of this mirror for another couple photo! Well, in this photo, you can see the ornate details of the furniture. Compared to other palaces I have visited, the Russians' are by far the most grand and elaborate.
V: Every inch of the palace was so detailed, I just couldn't help but admire their design ethos. Anyway, since I'm the designated photographer, I'm rarely in travel photos. Good thing there are couple shots!
- Bright lights
D: I just had to show you this chandelier. This chandelier is as big as my whole living room at home! I asked the tour guide if the Yusopov had plumbing and electricity, and she said yes. I just couldn’t imagine having the servants light each and every candle on this chandelier daily.
V: Imagine having to clean this thing, or even change the lightbulbs! LED chandelier, anyone?
- Red room
D: Most of their bedrooms have an ante room or receiving area. And these very bedrooms are also passageways to other rooms.
V: Just like in a real palace, most of the rooms are connected to each other, so the occupants can interact and go about their day and business in private.
- Home theater
D: This is by far the best room in the house. THEY HAVE THEIR OWN THEATER... complete with opera boxes. The Yusopovs were that rich that the performers would perform in their homes and not in the opera house. Also, the Yusopov children would perform for their parents in this theater. Now that is what I call a MAJOR PRODUCTION! My mini plays back when I was younger only consisted of pillows, blankets, and kitchen materials…
V: A modern equivalent would be an AV room, home theater, or den. This, on the other hand, is a massive three-floor wing of the palace, complete with opera boxes and proper curtains for smaller scale performances.
- The basement
D: The most exciting part of the house was the basement or cellar. This was where Rasputin was killed by a Yusopov. They had wax figures to reenact the scene. We were not told about this, so I actually freaked out upon seeing the wax figures. Cue *Divine the drama queen.*
V: One word: Creepy. This was in the basement, which had a thick, ominous air. These lifesize characters did not help. Still, it set the scene for the gruesome murder of Rasputin.
D: This is Rasputin. He became close to the Romanovs because he was a faith healer. The Romanovs' only son was sick, and the Czarina believed Rasputin could heal him. According to a history guide, the common people hated his power and influence over the Royal family. Rasputin was killed by a Yusopov in the palace's cellar.
V: Faith healer, mystic, and claimed prophet Rasputin had strong influence on the Romanovs, though he was not originally from Russia. He met his demise in the vicinity, which added to his mysterious reputation.