Hard to believe it’s to be our last day, but it promised to be a special one. Our guide got us up early in an attempt to beat the hordes visiting Peterhof Palace. It’s about an hour outside St. Petersburg. Along the way we got to see some of Russia’s most modern highways.
And we get a chance to see the new $750 million, covered football (soccer) stadium built for the the 2018 World Cup I spoke about in a previous post.
As everywhere in the world, we drove through some construction slow-downs and into fog and drizzle…that was not predicted by any of our weather apps. BUT…we were the first to arrive at the Peterhof Palace.
It was the summer residence of the Czar, built to rival Versailles, surrounded by beautiful gardens. It did come pretty close as you’ll soon see.
Not another tour bus yet in sight, we lined up at the front door, went through security, put on our booties to protect the floors and entered…. Not a bad reception room, gilded, chandeliers, inlaid everywhere. Remember, this entire structure and grounds was bombed almost to oblivion by the Nazis during WWII. The restoration is nothing short of a miracle.
Private areas. How nice to have these unobstructed views, especially now before the huge groups of Chinese tourists (maybe 100 per group – to our twelve). One of ours asked why so many Chinese. Valerii casually said, “when you have 1.2 billion people or so and if just 1% travel, it sets loose 12 million Chinese tourists on our earth”. He’s got a point.
A peek through a window at the gardens.
We stepped out onto the terrace for this magnificent view and walked all the way to the end of the palace to get a close look at the French style gardens, very ordered and symmetrical, and the dozens of fountains.
A simple guest house. In the meantime we lucked out with the weather again as the rain subsided.
A cascading chess board fountain greeted us first.
Versailles-ish and beautiful.
Even fountains designed to get a chuckle out of you. And some very similar, enticing the viewer to sit on a bench only to be sprayed by hidden jets – very Czarist sense of humor I guess.
We stopped to hug this special tree said to be willing to transfer it’s earth energy into our welcoming bodies. We figured we would need all the help we could get as we had to navigate airports and 11-hours of lines and flying the next day.
The crowds finally had caught up with us as we tried to get a bridge view for the 11:00 fountain show somewhere beyond the elbows, hips and cameras. We did get to see it after the initial crowd dispersed.
It was time to push off again, this time to Tsarskoe Selo, the main summer residence of the Russian royal family and its magnificent Catherine’s Palace and park. The town is also known as Pushkin in honor of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, here a statue to him in a local park.
The front facade of Catherine’s Palace…
…supported by a very labored, very strong Atlas who I am sure joined the inevitable revolution in order to get some of this oppressive weight off his back.
A gigantic welcoming hall, dwarfing Peterhof. We didn’t beat the Chinese groups this time, but Russian crowd control was impeccable and we had an easy time seeing what had to be seen. The receivers and earphones that are mandatory in these crowded places are a blessing, isolating us and everyone from what used to be a deafening cacophony.
Absolutely magnificent (very ostentatious) rooms, living quarters, furnishings, affectations. At least some very talented architects, artists and artisans got plenty of work. We also got to look into the touted “Amber Room” formed and decorated by literally tons of organic amber; walls, statuary, furniture, etc. Marsha kind of threw cold water on the whole experience commenting that it basically looked like a lot of molded plastic. Oh well, we weren’t allowed to take photos anyway.
For “casual” dining. Unfortunately no reservations available for the next millennium. So we left to get ready for our farewell dinner that night at a terrific local restaurant.
Rivaling Catherine’s Palace, often called the Eighth Wonder of the World, is the carpet in the hall of our hotel according to Marsha and her love for royal purple.
So, we appropriately bid you adieu and safe travels with three shots of vodka accompanied by herring and rolled pork – followed by a delicious beet and cured mushroom salad, beef stroganoff, wine, and authentic Russian blini with ice cream. It was really hard saying goodby to one of the best groups we’ve ever traveled with – bright, intelligent, knowledgeable, energetic, and filled with the spirit of “getting out there”! Hopefully we’ll see many of them again.
A wonderful trip, and so, so happy you could be with us. Nostrovia — and love to all.
Marsha & Joel