Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 11 – The Gardens of Peter the Great

It’s worth learning about Peter the Great. Time and available space does not permit much about him here, except to say that he was clearly an extraordinary figure … and not just in the 18th century.

Today my guide, Natalya, took me to the Grand Palace at Peterhof, located about 30 miles outside of St. Petersburg. It’s called the “Russian Versailles” and no wonder. Plans made and construction begun under Peter, but he died in 1725 and the palace was completed by his daughter, Elizabeth, in the 1740s.

Big, eh? (Best to click on these photos to enlarge them.)Sorry, it was backlit at the time and nothing I could do about that, but get the idea? Actually, you don’t, because there is more to this magnificent building to the right of where I was standing, and behind me …

… and this was over there to the left. How’s that for a Big Wow! It certainly helps to explain the popularity of this place and on a quite beautiful summer day, there were certainly crowds coming to tour the palace. Serious crowds!

A nightmare, you say? For these folks, perhaps, but not for me. I was in the care of Natalya German-Tsarkova, who discretely flashed her guide’s license, murmured into the ear of watchful docents, and led me around the mobs and under the ropes and into the palace.

For this post, however, I will skip over descriptions and photos of this palace, except to say it is opulent, magnificent and there are treasures to behold in room after room. But the beautiful day drew us to the palace gardens and, again, the size and scope is almost more than can be absorbed. But today, we're going to see the gardens!

This is the canal constructed so guests to the palace could sail right up to the grand buildings from the ocean (in the distance), there to be escorted into the royal presence.

These gardens cover an area of four hectares – almost 10 acres – and include more than 100 fountains surrounded by paths, formal gardens, wooded areas, statuary and, today, musicians performing classical music on vibraphones and marimbas. Sound strange? No, it was perfect!

And, finally, here’s a view looking back at one of the buildings – not the main palace – from a small portion of the park at the very beginning of the grand canal that features the main and most impressive fountain. How’s this for a visiting guest’s first impression!

Bottom line: St. Petersburg is a must-see experience. And, when you come, connect with Natalya. It will make all the difference.

Next … back to Moscow and then the private train all the way to Beijing. Wow!

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