Peterhof, Peter the Great's palace

Saint Petersburg Travel Blog

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Interior of the Synagogue
Our agenda today was to go to Peterhof, Peter the Great's Palace west of St Petersburg along the Gulf of Finland. We took the bus to get there, and the hydrofoil back. One can also take the hydrofoil both ways of course.

We first stopped at the Jewish Great Choral Synagogue, the 2nd largest in Europe, and the only one in St Petersburg, serving a population of 90,000 Jews. It was where president Bush met Russian Jewish leaders in a politically significant visit in 2002,  and the conductor Zubin Mehta conducted members of the Israel Phiharmonic Orchestra here to celebrate St Petersburg's 300 year birthday. Half of his musicians were from the former Soviet Union, and many were from St Petersburg's famous music conservatory.
Interior of the Synagogue


Then we were off (it's only 19 miles west of St Petersburg). On the way, we got to see some typical Soviet style apartment buildings, which were really boring concrete boxes, without elevators! After the Soviet Union collapsed, it became possible to own the apartments. The ones privately owned can usually be spotted by the newer windows. Same was true in the Baltics cities we travelled to earlier on this trip.

Then we started to see nice looking Dachas, some under construction, which were obviously new and built by people who have some money. The area close to Peterhof was a desirable location, next to the Gulf of Finland, and of course Peterhof!

Peter the Great got the idea of building a great palace to rival Versailles, which he visited when he toured western Europe for 19 months (the first Russian monarch to travel abroad).
Interior of the Synagogue
Built between 1714-1723, thousands of laborers, serf and soldiers were employed on the task. Peterhof meant Peter's Court in Dutch. It has a Great Palace almost 300 meters long on a 16 meter high natural terrace a short distance from the Gulf of Finland, an upper garaden behind it, and the Grand Cascades fountains leading to the Sea Canal out to the Gulf of Finland in the lower garden. More wings and pavillions were added during Catherine the Great and others. During WWII, the palace was completely destroyed. In 1964 four of the rooms were restored and received their first visitors. Restoration work was still going on, but we could already get a real good feeling of what it was like. There was an abundance of gold and fountains.
Exterior of the Synagogue
Peter had a sense of humor and had made some trick fountains which would be invisible and went off unpredictably to get his unsuspecting guests wet! Kids enjoyed running across the grounds in an attempt to outwit the fountains. The inside of the palace was maginificant of course, with its gold carvings, false windows with mirrors, painted ceilings and walls, draperies, chandeliers, Chinese artifacts in the Western and Eastern Chinese Lobbies gave a feeling of the exotic Orient. The palace was spendid and one has to admire not only the original workers and architects, but also the skills of the restorers who brought the place back from the ashes to look like it had always been there and taken care of.

We had lunch at the Standard Restaurant near the water, and took the hydrofoil back to St Petersburg.
Old Soviet style apartments outside of St Petersburg
One should definitely see St Petersburg from the water, as a sailor would when they came into port.

We had a little free time  so we went to the Russian Museum.  We walked there from our hotel, and on the way we walked past the Hotel Grand Europe, with a lot of antique Jaguars in front, and more were pulling in! We struck up a conversation with one of the guys at the foreign exchange inside the hotel, and he told us they were from a Jaguar XK club in England, and were on a grand tour of Europe in a caravan of about 40 antique Jags. That was quite a sight. However, it's one time I did not have a camera with me, so no photos!

After having some ice cream for a snack, we went back to the hotel and boarded the bus to see the ballet Swan Lake. The ballet was pretty good, performed by the students of a performing school here (I suppose the professionals went to perform abroad).
More old Soviet style apartments outside of St Petersburg
It was a little long, with 4 acts. They did not give out programs, but you had to buy them. After the 3rd act finished with great fanfare, there was a short break, and some people apparently thought it was over and started leaving. So somebody, I had no idea who, in the back of the theatre spoke loudly "it is not over yet". It was kind of funny! Most of the audience were tourists as you can imagine, and a lot of them were from cruise ships with their sign-carrying leaders. I suppose we were not very cultured about ballets.
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Interior of the Synagogue
Interior of the Synagogue
Interior of the Synagogue
Interior of the Synagogue
Interior of the Synagogue
Interior of the Synagogue
Exterior of the Synagogue
Exterior of the Synagogue
Old Soviet style apartments outsid…
Old Soviet style apartments outsi…
More old Soviet style apartments o…
More old Soviet style apartments …
Nice Dachas further out
Nice Dachas further out
Roadside flowers for the G8 summit…
Roadside flowers for the G8 summi…
Entrance to the palace where the G…
Entrance to the palace where the …
The fancy building behind fence
The fancy building behind fence
Costumed musians at Peterhof
Costumed musians at Peterhof
A minor stairway we passed by insi…
A minor stairway we passed by ins…
Up the grand staircase in Peterhof
Up the grand staircase in Peterhof
View of interior courtyard from on…
View of interior courtyard from o…
A writing desk in the Blue Recepti…
A writing desk in the Blue Recept…
The grand Ball Room, where big rec…
The grand Ball Room, where big re…
The Chesme Hall, where paintings o…
The Chesme Hall, where paintings …
A rare portrait of Alexei, son of …
A rare portrait of Alexei, son of…
A portrait of Catherine the Great …
A portrait of Catherine the Great…
The mirrored window on an interi…
The mirrored "window" on an inter…
A simple royal table setting with …
A simple royal table setting with…
A big chandelier of purple amethys…
A big chandelier of purple amethy…
Above the doorway in the Chinese L…
Above the doorway in the Chinese …
The mirror inside the Picture Hall
The mirror inside the Picture Hall
From the window of the Picture Hal…
From the window of the Picture Ha…
Fancy drapery
Fancy drapery
Elaborately scupltured door frame
Elaborately scupltured door frame
Paquet floor
Paquet floor
A padded seat
A padded seat
A sitting room
A sitting room
A painting of Catherine the Great …
A painting of Catherine the Great…
Very pretty vases and candle holder
Very pretty vases and candle holder
Portrait of the future Nicholas I …
Portrait of the future Nicholas I…
Golden feet of the heater
Golden feet of the heater
Peter the Greats bedroom, the bed…
Peter the Great's bedroom, the be…
Carved figure on a wall panel
Carved figure on a wall panel
View from atop the Grand Cascade t…
View from atop the Grand Cascade …
The back of the Peterhof palace
The back of the Peterhof palace
The Grand Cascade fountains at Pet…
The Grand Cascade fountains at Pe…
Another fountain at the bottom of …
Another fountain at the bottom of…
A fountain in the garden with Nept…
A fountain in the garden with Nep…
Fountain in the garden of Peterhof
Fountain in the garden of Peterhof
Kids having fun trying to beat the…
Kids having fun trying to beat th…
More fountains
More fountains
This kid got caught
This kid got caught
The small house next to the water …
The small house next to the water…
View up the Marine Canal and grand…
View up the Marine Canal and gran…
The beautiful interior of the Rest…
The beautiful interior of the Res…
At the port for hydrofoils from Pe…
At the port for hydrofoils from P…
Our hydrofoil going back to St Pet…
Our hydrofoil going back to St Pe…
A passing Hydrofoil
A passing Hydrofoil
View of St Issacs from the Neva R…
View of St Issac's from the Neva …
Neva embankment
Neva embankment
St Issacs Cathedral
St Issac's Cathedral
One of the doors of the St Issacs…
One of the doors of the St Issac'…
Red granite columns of St Issacs,…
Red granite columns of St Issac's…
Sign marking the sharpnel holes on…
Sign marking the sharpnel holes o…
Sign outside St Issacs showing th…
Sign outside St Issac's showing t…
A scene in Swan Lake
A scene in Swan Lake
Another scene in Swan Lake
Another scene in Swan Lake
Swan Lake, the photos at the balle…
Swan Lake, the photos at the ball…
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