One of the tours offered on our stop in St. Petersburg was a “Night at the Hermitage.” I seriously considered doing it because we love to visit the Hermitage in Amsterdam whenever we are in the city. We chose instead to do the 8 1/2 hour tour that visited the Imperial Summer Palace at Peterhof. This turned out to be a good choice. We heard later that people were not pleased with the rushed pace through the galleries at the Hermitage. I understand time constraints on these type of packaged tours but I too, do not like to be virtually chased from one place to another. I am bad for being the last person to leave a room, but I hustle to catch up to the group so I don’t cause a delay. Peterhof (which means Peter’s court) is 25 km (16 miles) from St. Petersburg and is located along the shores of the Gulf of Finland. The Summer Palace was constructed by Peter the Great. His daughter Empress Elizabeth also loved the site and ordered the expansion of the Grand Palace and the magnificent grounds. As with most of the Imperial residences the Summer Palace was ravaged by the Germans during WWII. The grounds with its famous fountains were restored by the end of 1945 and the palace was re-opened in 1952.
There were no photographs allowed inside which was a bummer as the rooms were truly incredible. Most people spend the majority of their time wandering the extensive park and gardens which were enlarged by successive Emperors and Empresses over several generations. The best approach to the palace grounds is by the sea from where you get a spectacular view of the Grand Cascade, comprised of 64 different fountains with 200 gold statues and bas-reliefs. Below is the view from the top of the balcony looking out toward the coast. Pretty easy to envision how beautiful it would be from the other direction.The Summer Palace has been called the “Russian Versailles” due to the 150 fountains, and the park was certainly the inspiration for the new residence when Peter began construction in 1720. The Chess Cascade A very popular area is the Joke Fountain where the unwary are drenched in water when they step on certain rocks. Looking back at the palace from the end of the grounds. After our time at the Summer Palace ended we boarded a hydrofoil and were taken back to St. Petersburg. There is no shortage of impressive buildings along the shoreline. To be continued….