Jul 24, 2009

Part Two in the Typist's European Series

The Palace seen from the Upper Garden


Grand Staircase
Grand Staircase
Throne Room
Throne Room

Grand Ballroom
Grand Ballroom

Likely my favorite royal palace that we visited. You will learn more about why that is, I think, as I write and share pictures. This palace more than any other released my inner Eva. She really felt as though she were part of the Tsar's Court as we walked the grounds. Fan in hand. Parasol over head. Colorful gown covered with lace.

Eva popped right into my head as I followed the presentation route and walked into the ballroom (above): "Now this is just too elaborate for Isle of Skye, but suits me fine as I visit my friend, the Tsar of all the Russias."

I will provide as much description as possible on the palace and grounds and some of the history that our guide shared with us. Bless Tatyana - she saw that they were not going to let foreign travelers into the palace until 11:45am, so she volunteered to stand in line for us and told us the route we should take through the lower garden. She knew full well that the kids would not enjoy standing and waiting the hour for entry - and she wanted us all to have plenty of time to see the grounds.
The Peterhof Chapel

From atop the Grand Cascade and Grotto

Walking from the main palace level and grotto to the gardens, we descended the stairs by the centerpiece of the entire complex: The Grand Cascade.

Statuary of the Grotto and Grand Cascade - seen as we descended the stairs

Loved this little guy and his fellows in one of the large fountains
Loved this little guy and his fellows in one of the large fountains

In the Lower Garden

The fountains of the Grand Cascade are located below the grotto and on either side of it. Their waters flow into a semicircular pool, which is the terminus of the fountain-lined Sea Channel. In the 1730s, the large Samson Fountain was placed in this pool. It depicts the moment when Samson tears open the jaws of a lion, representing Russia's victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War, and is doubly symbolic. The lion is an element of the Swedish coat of arms, and one of the great victories of the war was won on St Samson's Day. From the lion's mouth shoots a 20-meter-high vertical jet of water, the highest in all of Peterhof. This masterpiece by was looted by the invading Germans during WWII. A replica of the statue was installed in 1947.

Perhaps the greatest technological achievement of Peterhof is that all of the fountains operate without the use of pumps. Water is supplied from natural springs and collects in reservoirs in the Upper Gardens. The elevation difference creates the pressure that drives most of the fountains of the Lower Gardens, including the Grand Cascade. The Samson Fountain is supplied by a special aqueduct, over four km in length, drawing water and pressure from a high-elevation source.

We learned that the Grand Cascade and the Lower Garden areas were designed to be even more glorious than those of Louis XIV's at Versailles. I have not yet traveled there, but I suspect that Peter may have achieved the success for which he was looking. The grounds are not to be believed....and oh the fountains. As Adso found out unexpectedly, several fountains are designed with the specific purpose of soaking visitors. Two take the form of gangly trees rigged with jets that activate when someone approaches. He was not amused. But the kids enjoyed getting wet. :)

Statue outside Monplaisir

Monplaisir - Peter's Pleasure Palace on the Gulf of Finland (far end of the Lower Garden)

At the far end of the Lower Garden, we found Monplaisir, Peter's Pleasure Palace, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland. A beautiful structure built at the site of Peter's original cabin. He only built here to begin with in order to oversee his naval base, Kronshtadt. We did not purchase the additional ticket required to enter, but seeing it - even from the outside - was lovely.

From Monplaisir we turned toward the center of the garden and made our way back to the fountained Sea Channel. All the fountains of the garden are turned on from 11am - 6pm each day. Truly amazing!

The fountains of the Sea Channel - looking back to the Grand Palace

Standing at Samson Fountain

View from the Upper Garden

As I hinted at earlier, I think this is the most stunning of the tsarist palaces around St. Petersburg. The original build was quite a lot smaller, but Peter's successors continued to build and expand creating the astounding palace known today. Looking at the pictures of the Nazi distruction during WWII, which are posted in the last hall of the tour, it is hard to imagine a) the grandeur that might have been had that never happened, and b) that it has been so well restored thus far. Literally - there were only bricks left in many places. Amazing.

Neptune Fountain in the Upper Garden

Alley in the Upper Garden - with a spectacular view.

Note: Unfortunately no interior photos were allowed. The images of the interiors that I share come from the internet. All external shots were taken by Adso during our wonderful visit.


Gabrielle Riel said...

"We learned that the Grand Cascade and the Lower Garden areas were designed to be even more glorious than those of Louis XIV's at Versailles."

Before I hit this statement I was marveling at how much the palace and gardens look like Versailles! Both the interiors and exteriors are SO much like Versailles. Your pics make we wonder if Louis' palace was "copied and rezzed" in this location. ;-)

Neb said...

Wow, great pics! Looks like you had perfect weather, too.