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Peterhof Palace – by Renee

by on July 19, 2017

OK…speaking as someone who has seen a few palaces, the “Peterhof” Summer Palace is by far the best.  (David agrees)

This is the front of the palace from land….Anna got a cool photo of two Russian military planes flying over.

The main focus of the grounds are more than 150 fountains.  The interesting thing is that they are all powered by water piped from the mountains miles from the Palace, so they don’t have to pump the water, the royal engineers just figured out how to let gravity do all the work and varying the size of the nozzles as needed.


Pretty impressive… apparently Peter the Great had visited that “other” palace, Versailles, and was unimpressed that the fountains could only run for a short time before they had to pump more water by hand.  His goal, nicely realized, was a lot of fountains that run continuously from 10am-11pm as long as it’s not freezing outside.


The grounds are mostly trees and grass (don’t even THINK about stepping on the grass — it is NOT allowed .  They are very particular because their short growing season makes it a challenge to even have grass.)

The interior of the Palace has a lot of gold, but again less, and done more tastefully, than the French.  Apparently Catherine the Great was not a big fan of gold, so many of the rooms were beautifully decorated in greens, reds, blues, and even Chinese black lacquer .  This was a big hit with Anna who doesn’t like too much gold! (Sorry, no photography allowed inside)


The Nazis really wrecked the Palace when they occupied this area — hauling off artwork and statues, destroying as much as they could.  Thousands of trees were destroyed, the foundations were broken apart, and much of the Palace was severely damaged.  As soon as the war ended, repairing the Peterhof was at the top of the list and work started immediately.  We did see some photos of some of the statues being buried in a deep pit before the Nazi invasion, protecting them.  Also some of the artwork and even the carved wooden paneling of Peter the Great’s office was stored under St. Issacs Church and survived the war.

After a tour through the Palace and all round the grounds (which are bordered by the Bay of Finland on one side) we headed back to St Petersburg and rode the subway to see the 3 most beautiful subway stations ever. These are out in the suburbs – immaculately clean and very heavy on the propoganda for the Worker’s Paradise.  

My favorite were the crystal columns.   It’s hard to see but these designs are inch-thick glass

NYC should figure out how these guys have their entire subway system kept so clean — really impressive.

By the way, another thing that I’m impressed with is the Google Translate app.  You just find some Russian writing, hold your phone camera over the text, and it translates from Russian to English… AMAZING.  This has been SO helpful, esp translating all these crazy Russian and Finnish pharmacy drugs I’m taking.  Which appear to be helping (well, also the antibiotics I brought from home probably are helping too).  Bottom line…I’m feeling better.

We are loving the food here in Russia — esp after NOT loving the food in Denmark, Norway,  and Sweden with the exceptions of the meatballs.  Even the hotdog today at the Peterhof was good… in those other countries we would likely have faced reindeer or moose, something Aunt Ginny and Alex would not have liked!  St Petersburg is a big, international city with fancy stores, international chains (although only a single Starbucks that we’ve seen) and you can get any kind of food that you want.  Tonight Aunt Ginny left us to go find pizza as we returned to a favorite Russian restaurant.  Excellent food and quite a good dessert menu (although we decided to skip the Gorgonzola and beer ice creams.).   This is the apple crumble served in a waffle cone.

We planned to do the canal boat tour tonight and see some of the 600 bridges of St Petersburg, but the wind from the west had pushed the Baltic Sea into the canals and raised the water level too high.  We will try again tomorrow.

Surprises about Russia so far:

– Fewer smokers than in Denmark

– Nicest grocery stores (in terms of items available).  One store had 30 variations on ketchup including plain old Heinz.

– Widest range of fruits and vegetables for sale (both on street stands and in the stores)

– Unusual weather pattern  – St Petersburg only has 45 sunny days PER YEAR on average.  You never leave your apartment without two shirts, a sweater, a raincoat, umbrella, extra pair of shoes in addition to sunglasses and a sun hat.  Polina, our guide, called it “dressing like a cabbage” (we would call it lettuce… lots of layers)..  She showed us as photo of the Peterhof on April 15…many inches of snow on the ground.

– They have giant gutters off every building…and they just dump water directly on the sidewalks.  Good for the roof but bad for those of us walking.

– They are very aware of Donald Trump.  We have seen many nesting doll sets with Putin and Trump and today saw a 20-something wearing a sweatshirt wth a giant Donald Trump head on the front of it.

– Don’t even try to ask questions about politics, Putin, the KBG, or “are things better now that when it was the Soviet Union?”.  Our tour guides have no desire to talk with David about this despite his giving them plenty of chances. And they keep repeating the party line about ‘our president’, the Crimea situation, etc.

– I put what I thought was butter on my rice porridge, only to discover it was something closer to condensed milk.. this morning the kids had some too!

– How few American tourists there are who are NOT on a cruise (with a restricted visa).. .in fact I don’t think we’ve seen any.  There are a few Europeans here at our hotel, but most are Russian internal tourists.

One more day here, with a lot to cross off the ‘to do list”….

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