Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Visit to Peterhof...Russia's Versailles

Today our tour was going to Peterhof, about 50 minutes away by hydrofoil. Peterhof was the brainchild of Peter the Great and was intended to be a Russian Versailles on a smaller scale. It was severely damaged during WWII when it was occupied by the Germans, and completely gutted when they blew it up as they were retreating.

The gray ship we passed is the Aurora, built in 1900. It took an active part in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 and participated in the Tsusima battle, in which most of Russia's Pacific fleet was destroyed. It is credited with firing the cannon that signalled the Bolshevik assault on the Winter Palace in 1917. Today, it is a museum.

No day would be complete without a picture of the Peter and Paul Fortress...

We arrived at Peterhof...lots of pretty flags against a blue sky. At last some nice weather!

This was the walk from the hydrofoil dock. The hydrofoil is the easiest way to get here as the roads to Peterhof are very congested. It was going to be a day with lots of walking.

Walking beside the canal, you can see the Grand Palace in the background. The canal was constructed for the boats arriving to visit Peterhof. They could sail in from the sea to the palace (the bridges across the canal were built more recently).

We stopped on the bridges to take pictures of the palace as we got closer.

This was a separate palace near the water that Peter built, called Montplaisir. Peter didn't spend much time in the Grand Palace as he wanted to be near the sea. During the war, it was badly damaged by the Germans who used it for a garage for motorcycles. It was the first building to be restored. No photos allowed inside, and we skated around with our booties on again.

The original gardens were made in the French formal style with no trees, so the fountains, palace and the sea could be seen from anywhere on the grounds. Catherine the Great didn’t like this, so she converted the gardens to an English romantic style and planted trees. The estate is huge covering 2500 acres with 150 fountains.

You can see how intricate the gardens are and how difficult they would be to maintain.


The 150 fountains on the property were constructed in the early 18th century and are all fed by underground pipes. The fountains are gravity fed from a lake on a hilltop 5 miles away. Amazing engineering!

Peter the Great was a prankster and had shut-off valves on several fountains that he could turn on when people walked by, making sure they got wet. When you sat down on this bench, the fountains would start and a jet of water would spew out of the lion’s mouth. Another fountain had flowers and the water would be triggered when people leaned in to see them.

Lovely peaceful place to walk...

The pickpocket sign made me laugh. We had been warned many times about pickpockets, and in Moscow we were warned about bands of gypsy girls. The little tourist looks so oblivious and happy taking his pictures. Yup, that's probably just what we look like.

The Sun Fountain...the water sprays show different colours depending on where the sun is.

Peter the Great...he was 6 ft. 7 in. tall and unusual looking, with a very small head, small feet and hands, and long arms and legs.

One of the prankster fountains that now has a motion detector. Natalia invited us to try it and several in our group did...and got wet.

One of two Roman Fountains, which were created in the early 1700s. They were originally made of wood, but were refashioned in marble at the end of the century. 

This is the Chessboard Cascade with three dragons at the top. As with Catherine's Palace, when the Russians knew the Germans were close, they buried and hid much of the art. This fountain was destroyed during the war and restoration began when the ten statues flanking the cascade were found and put back in place.

The dragons...

The beautifully manicured grounds with the Roman Fountains...

This fountain called Triton Tearing Open the Jaws of a Sea Monster represents Russia's fight for the Baltic Sea. It was created in 1726.

The Grand Palace is the main building at Peterhof; on the right is the Coat of Arms Wing, named because of the traditional emblem of the two-headed eagle on top of the domed roof.

This is the most famous fountain of Samson Tearing Open the Jaws of the Lion (1801). It was created for the 25th anniversary of an important Russian victory over the Swedes on St. Samson Day. Peter battled the Swedes for 20 years to gain control of the land where St. Petersburg was built.


A church to the east of the palace is crowned with a central dome and several smaller gilded cupolas.

The Grand Cascade Fountain...I decided to walk up to the top.


A view from the top looking down the canal to the sea...

Gold and more gold...

The Coat of Arms Wing...the double headed eagle on top rotates like a weather vane.

The Church...

This lion was cute. He had an almost apologetic look on his face.

The last glimpse of Peterhof as we walked away...

I can't imagine how many gardeners they employ...

The kids having fun feeding the seagulls...

Back at the pier with Andre and Yvonne. I'm hoping they were tired, because we were exhausted and they were putting us to shame!

A beautiful day to end our cruise...

Here comes our ride to take us home...

Tomorrow is the end of the cruise...we'll be spending another two days in St. Petersburg on our own.

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