You could not come to St. Petersburg without visiting the Versailles of Russia – Peterhof.
This was Peter the Great’s summer palace and his favourite. It is Baroque in design, and is dominated by water with the nearby gulf and numerous water fountains. However, his wife, Catherine the Great was not as fond of it. She thought it was too small. So he built her a larger palace nearby. I think I love this man. He was huge – over six foot seven and had a wonderful sense of humour, so it seems. He loved the water, working with wood, and at 24 years of age went on a tour of Europe to learn about shipbuilding. He wanted to build a port with open passage to the Baltic. This led to a war with Sweden, which he won, and the founding of St Petersburg at the site of the Peter & Paul fortress.
Peterhof faces the gulf of Finland and has fountains everywhere. Peter said there were thousands of fountains, more than anywhere in the world, but he counted every little spigot. The main fountain, the “Grand Cascade”, is beautiful as the water shoots high up into the air and rains down upon the golden statues. There are no mechanics and the fountains are controlled by pressure. It then flows from the palace following a waterway out to the gulf.
Peter the Great must have had a keen sense of humour and nothing delighted him more than when he had guests walking along the paths by the waterway with little sprays of water on either side that would suddenly surge up and wet everyone. In his bathhouse there was an area where he would have guests stand admiring this beautiful fountain, and suddenly water would spout up from holes in the floor under their feet where they were standing, and out in the gardens, there is a seating area with a view where all of a sudden water would pout down upon their heads. The guests may not have considered this so amusing.
Photographs on the site show Peterhof suffered extensive damage during WWII and it took 50 years to restore it back to its former beauty. Today it is a beautiful tribute to a lifestyle that most of us can only imagine.
After leaving Peterhof, we took the hydrofoil back to the city docking right beside the Hermitage.