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Peterhof Palace (St. Petersburg, Russia)

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The palace of Peterhof was located west of the city on the coast of the Gulf of Finland. The first palace was built on the site around 1707, very near the foundeing of the city itself. Its position - across from Peter's fortress island of Kronstadt made t

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      19.10.2010 18:34
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      One of Russia's most spectacular palace gardens

      One of our St Petersburg excursions was to the Peterhof, one of Peter the Great's fabulous palaces, which is situated across the Gulf of Finland from the main part of the city, or at least, that part of it into which St Petersburg's river, the Neva, empties. Our coach took us on a circuitous route from our ship, to get there. It was about an hour's journey in all.

      In fact, our visit was only for an afternoon and so we didn't get to see very much more than the lower gardens. We would have loved to have seen the palace itself but that would have required a whole day and we simply didn't have the time available to us. However, what we did see was wonderful.

      On entry, our first sight was of a fountain designed as a Greek temple, without its roof. Water gushed from everywhere and was to signal the place that water plays in the design of these extraordinary gardens. From here we were led onto the Marly Pond, at the end of which is the small Marly Palace. This just served to emphasise that the Peterhof is not just one palace but several, all in the same grounds.

      Alongside the pond is the orchard of cherry and apple trees. These small trees are set out formally between the pond and the ramparts that separate the gardens from the Gulf of Finland beyond. Here there is a flight of steps that you can climb in order to get a grand view of the gardens and also to see across the Gulf back to St Petersburg.

      From here we walked back along one of the main pathways that run through the garden, until we reached the canal that leads from the water feature in front of the main palace, the Grand Palace. The approach here to the palace is a sight to behold, lined on each side by small fountains. The palace itself sits at the top of a magnificent Grand Cascade, the central feature of which is the fountain of Samson and the Lion. This was where most of the tourists congregated, and trying to get a good photo was a struggle.

      Much better was to climb the steps beside the cascade to the terrace in front of the Grand Palace and then look back over the cascade, down the length of the canal. I got several brilliant photos from here. But soon, it was time to move on again.

      We descended back to the lower gardens, passing in front of the conservatory. Along the way there were several amusing topiary works of art, including one of a bear, that looked just like a green teddy bear. The fountain in front of the conservatory features Triton fighting a sea monster but it is the four turtles surrounding him, which seem to be gargling with water that amuse the most.

      From there we passed on to the Roman Fountains, set in a formal garden, in front of the black and white checker-board patterned Dragon Cascade. Here we were near the end of our visit. We made our way back towards the Monplaisir Palace, passing on the way the surprise fountain. The surprise is that if you stand in the wrong place you get soaked by a hidden fountain! Fortunately I saw what was going on and so was able to enjoy the fun without the discomfort.

      From a pier nearby we discovered that our return trip to St Petersburg was not to be on the coaches which brought us but by a more direct route straight across the Gulf. We were to take the hydrofoil service from the Peterhof, to take us to the Hermitage on the banks of the Neva in the centre of St Petersburg. There are several of these craft and they depart about every 20 minutes. The journey is quite exhilarating if a trifle noisy: these boats clearly have seen better days.

      The approach to St Petersburg, up the river and past several ocean-going ships (though not ours) was one more sight to be enjoyed before our visit to Russia's second city was over. This was our final excursion.

      A visit to the Peterhof is not to be missed and I would suggest that, if you have the time, your visit should be for a full day so that you can get maximum enjoyment of all of it.


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      The palace of Peterhof was located west of the city on the coast of the Gulf of Finland. The first palace was built on the site around 1707, very near the foundeing of the city itself.

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