On our last day in St. Petersburg, we ventured outside of the city to visit the summer palaces of the Russian Tsars.
Thirty kilometers west of St. Petersburg is Peterhof. In 1714, Peter the Great began construction of his summer palace close to the shoreline, where he could see his new city, St. Petersburg. He then decided to expand to include a larger palace and gardens further from the shore based on a model of Versailles. Peter’s daughter, Elizabeth continued during her reign the expansion of the grand palace, including the gardens & fountains.
The fountains are the most famous part of Peterhof. The fountains are not operated by pump. Instead, the fountain’s water is provided by a gravity-fed water system, using the slope of the terrain. The most famous group of fountains is the Grand Cascade, which starts up at the Grand Palace. It is comprised of 64 fountains & 200 bronze statues. In the middle is the Samson fountain, showing Samson tearing open the mouth of a lion. It is to symbolize Russia’s defeat over Sweden in the Great Northern War.
At Peterhof, there is an upper park & there is a lower park, which is where many of the fountains are. We just walked through a portion of the lower park.
Chess Hill or Dragon Hill Cascade.
We were told that Peter the Great had a sense of humor and liked to play tricks on his guests. For example, he would have his guests walk by these “trees” and then turn on the water, so they would get wet. The same with the flowers. The guests would stop to look at the flowers and again get sprayed with water!
We would have loved to explore more of the gardens, especially if it was a nicer day but we were short for time because we needed to visit the next palace!
Peter the Great started building a summer palace for his wife, Catherine I in 1717, hence the name Catherine Palace. Their daughter, Elizabeth had the palace completely redesigned to be grander & again, wanting to replicate parts of Versailles. The palace in Elizabeth’s specifications was completed in 1756. The exterior facade is covered in gold & you will soon seen that the interiors are as well! The palace is located in Pushkin, a suburb of St. Petersburg.
The Main Staircase.
The Arabesque Hall.
The Grand Hall.
The Green Dining Room.
The most famous room in Catherine Palace is the Amber Room. A room with walls covered in amber mosaics. In WWII, Germans dismantled the amber room & took it back to Germany (Königsberg). After the war, it is unknown what happened to the amber. In 1982, the Russian government started to recreate the Amber Room and it took 20 years to do so. We were not allowed to take any pictures of the Amber Room, but you can find them on the Internet.
That was our whirlwind tour of St. Petersburg! There was so much to see and we were actually pretty tired after three full days of non-stop touring. We didn’t get a chance to see the gardens at Catherine Palace & there were other things that we didn’t get to see in St. Petersburg, but I guess that leaves us the opportunity to come back for another visit!