Day 3 St Petersburg
Weather: = Absolutely Brilliant. 🙂
Well, the sun was pouring into the restaurant for breakfast and yes it was going to be another fabulous day – weatherwise. (No snags 4 moi) lol
This morning Myria picked us up around 9.30am, downstairs as the main highlight today was to be the very famous PETERHOF PALACE & GARDENS MUSEUM COMPLEX. (also known as Petrodvorets) Built by PETER THE GREAT in the 18th CENTURY, it is spread over 300 hectares and often referred to as “THE RUSSIAN VERSAILLE”. YOU CERTAINLY WON’T BE DISAPPOINTED WHEN VISITING THIS SITE. (NOW, if u want to see tourism at work, between PETERHOF and THE VATICAN, both excel in drawing in the humungus numbers of people EVERYDAY!)
One of our first landmarks, we passed onroute to the palace was the PETER AND PAUL CATHEDRAL of PETERHOF. A truly stunning example of early RUSSIAN REVIVAL ARCHITECTURE. No expense was spared in the construction or decoration of this building when built back in 1905.
It is generally accepted that like the churches in RUSSIA all of the PALACES have now been converted into “MUSEUMS”, WHY? to generate income to keep the doors open. As with the CATHERINE PALACE & PARK of yesterday, PETERHOF in no-way lacks in partonage. If your contemplating doing PETERHOF as a single day tour ON UR OWN, we would strongly suggest u thinks twice! Like THE CATHERINE PALACE having your own guide gets you through the humungus crowds who visit this place EVERYDAY!!! U could take THE HYDROFOIL which for the return trip will set u back about $50.00 EACH, ADD TO THAT U THEN HAVE ALL THE ENTRANCE FEES TO GET IN. Using THE HYDROFOIL the complex is know to double hit u when getting back to the boat, as u have to pass through gates twice to get back to it. Using a guide, u have a commentary all the way and they fast track u through the gates (WHICH IS A GOD-SEND) and u will end up paying a lot less ALL ROUND, in the long run.
Entering the esttablishment was the same as THE CATHERINE PALACE, where u have to queue up twice to see the complex. MAKE SURE WHEN U VISIT PETERHOF THAT IT’S AT THE TIME THE FOUNTAINS ARE OPERATING & THAT U HAVE PLENTY OF SPACE FOR PICTURES OR VIDEO! Ensure u arrive on or after 11am when the fountains are turned on, naturally, the fountains are turned off during the winter months.
Looking at the GRAND CASCADE this runs downhill from the palace and feeds directly into the BALTIC SEA, which is located on the southern shore of the GULF OF FINLAND. AND it is said that the fountains are said to be one of the largest fountain ensembles in the world.
Interestingly, back in the 18th CENTURY the canal was a lot deeper, so about half-way down the canal where the CENTRAL BRIDGE is located that actually opened, allowing small sailing ships to bring their guests right up to the foot of the palace.
AT THE PETERHOF PALACE there are said to be up to 150 fountains spread over the complex, many gilded bronze sculptures, so during the day the sun reflects so beautifully on these gilded fountains which is a sight to behold. One fountain which really had us immersed was of SAMSON FIGHTING THE SEA BEASTS with his TURTLES.
The official opening of the fountains at Peterhof, generally takes place around the middle to the end of May and is usually an all-day festival, with classical music, fireworks and other performances, as each section of the park’s fountains are turned on, one by one. The views from the palace looking down over the fountains are ABSOLUTELY STUNNING. PLEASE REMEMBER – NO PICS OR VIDEOS ARE PERMITTED INSIDE THIS PALACE AT ALL!
It’s hard to imagine what can be more beautiful in the world considering that most of these fountains are still operating using 300 year old pipeline systems, (based on natural water pressure) as THE MAIN CANAL discharges straight down into the sea and retains the natural water pressure. An astonishing fountain system which has been preserved by the keepers to the best of their abilities prior to the WORLD WAR II siege and restored again after the war.
Like almost all of St. PETERSBURG’S suburban estates, PETERHOF was ravaged by THE GERMAN FORCES during the SECOND WORLD WAR. It was, however, one of the first to be resurrected and, thanks to the work of the military engineers and over 1,000 volunteers, most of the estate’s major structures had been fully restored by 1947. The local area name of PETERHOF was DE-GERMANICIZED after the war, becoming PETRODVORETS, which interestingly the surrounding town is still known as. THE PALACE AND PARK reverted back to formal name of “PETERHOF”.
As I understand it, PETER THE GREAT had planned PETERHOF to be the residence of a SEA KING. This was to be his incarnation of RUSSIA as a great EUROPEAN POWER, with a foothold on the shores of the world’s oceans, capable of competing with the finest WESTERN COURTS – above all, with VERSAILLES.
Outside, the magnificence of these gardens are matched by the fantastic statues which adorn them. When walking through these gardens it is easy to put ones-self into history by knowing the significance of the place. Like THE PALACE, THE GARDENS REAKED OF OPULENCE! We found that the lower garden has a intricate series of fountains which are interesting in that they are all gravity feed, with the natural water pressure, quite the feat of engineering. One thing which was extremely obvious was practically everywhere one looked in the garden area there were food or drink kiosks selling – THEY CERTAINLY DIDN’T MISS ANY OPPORTUNITIES, WHICH NATURALLY ARE OUTRAGEOUSLY EXPENSIVE – SURPRISE SURPRISE!
As an example – two small drinks and deserts COST $35. The couple behind purchased some food…not much…for six and IT COST~$250. Allow yourself plenty of time to stroll through both the upper and lower gardens and along the shoreline located at the bottom of the lower garden. (Make sure u keep your tickets in a safe place.) I must say = “The parks were an absolute joy to stroll in”.
Our inspection through the inside of the palace was absolutely overwhelming. Like the CATHERINE PALACE gold was literally splashed everywhere. Walking in through the main doors, we were issued with the standard “FOOT MITTS”, (like slippers) again 🙂 then proceeded by entering up a beautiful staircase, which was designed and constructed by RASTRELLI back in 1751. This was created to express thanks to the reign of EMPRESS ELIZABETH. (at the time) The sculptural decoration included gilt statues, carved bouquets, caryatids, rocaille cartouches, but to name a few. The gilding was made of thin gold leaves, of a very high quality, which covered the carved wooden ground. Interestingly, the wide coves of the “MIRROR” ceiling were painted with GOLD CUPIDS and THE PLAFOND (ceiling painting) represented the allegory of SPRING.
We found that the ITALIAN BAROQUE style of architecture seemed to use a lot of gilt trim on woodwork – on ceilings, walls, around doors, railings and furnishings, picture frames/mirrors. HOWEVER, the floors were done in lovely parquet or inlaid wood which seemed so appropriate for here. We saw STATE ROOMS, PRIVATE ROYAL ROOMS, DINING ROOMS & RECEPTION ROOMS. Then from the upper staircase landing through the doors with magnificent gilt decoration we walked into the LIGHT GALLERY (the Dance Hall) and through the narrow lobby, to the BLUE RECEPTION ROOM. The dessus-de-porte of the main doors leading into the LIGHT GALLERY are crowned with the sculptural allegories of LOYALTY AND JUSTICE.
Each room has its own unique eye-appeal. Usually the ceilings had some sort of painting, set off with gold trim woodwork, where the CZAR’S FAMILY was depicted cavorting in the woods. There was some furniture in the private rooms showing, (for example) what a dining room would look like with a set table, or a sitting room with very comfy TURKISH STYLE SEATING and the classic window treatment. As a show of wealth, BLUE DELFT CORNER FIREPLACES in some rooms were put into the palace to impress royal visitors. Grandfather clocks with gold leaf trim, also displayed the wealth of the CZARS. We really enjoyed seeing how they used the soft colours like sea-foam, rose, and sapphire blue, in the private rooms which made them seemed lived in. Finally, we were taken to a room where CRIMEAN BATTLE SCENES hung on the walls along with pictures of the military leaders. It’s not hard to become totally ENGROSSED in your surroundings without realising the time. YES, Myria said we had to get back out to our waiting driver.
After seeing THE PETERHOF and CATHERINE PLACES, one could easily say that THE CZARS certainly knew how to live. Both palaces had similarities, (in opulence) but I suppose given that was because the owners were husband and wife, no wonder the peasants revolted.lol Perhaps, another way of looking at it would be to say, “THANKFULLY THE CZARS spent a lot on themselves so that the generations following could continue to enjoy the results years & years on”.
We were dropped back at our hotel around 4pm, Myria said, for us to be ready at 7.30pm, as she had organised an hour and a half-long evening tour – “THE GOLDEN RING OF THE NORTHERN VENICE CRUISE”, given that it was to be our last night in St PETERSBURG. The cruise route took us along the famous FONTANKA & MOIKA RIVERS, then down through THE KRUIKOV & GRIBOEDOV CANALS and then out into the HUGE NEVA RIVER before returning back to our start point. One had to be VERY CAREFUL of the very LOW HANGING BRIDGES, you could physically reach up and touch the metal girders as u passed through.
St PETERSBURG is often referred to as “THE NORTHERN VENICE”, as it’s city and suburbs are primarily made up of 42 ISLANDS, with a very large network of canals and waterways. BY THE WAY – one has to remember that these rivers/canals freeze over for a large part of the year, so tourist cruising usually only takes place from about the end of MAY through to EARLY OCTOBER. It was quite surprising, considering the competition, as to how full our boat was AND very pleasing to hear the commentary was in English. 🙂 We thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, as the AUGUST daylight lingered into the evening. Very noticeable, with the evenings it really wasn’t getting dark until 10pm or later. NO – UNFORTUNATELY, WE DIDN’T STRIKE ANY “WHITE NIGHTS”. 🙁 It was absolutely STUNNING, THE ARCHITECTURE & HISTORY, with the many outstanding buildings and palaces, too many to remember the names of – EXCELLENT COMMENTARY. 🙂
Needless to say, when we were back in our hotel, the lights went out pretty quick, b/c it was a very early rise for tomorrow morning.