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Peterhof - a must visit while in St. Petersburg!

by Mike Shuey

One excursion that you'll definitely want to take while in St. Petersburg is to venture to the outskirts of the city to visit Peterhof (sometimes called Petrodvorets). Peterhof is a beautiful park consisting of impressive gardens, beautiful fountains and sculptures. There is an expansive summer palace built by Peter the great.

After recovering (somewhat) from a flu-like illness that had been plaguing me for most of my trip, my friends Nino, Mary, Tanya, Vilodya and Igor decided I needed to go see Peterhof before I departed for Seattle. There are a variety of ways to get to Peterhof. Since Vilodya had a car some of us went with him while the others took a taxi. It's also possible to get there by bus and by boat... the latter being a far more comfortable mode of transportation but much more expensive. With the traffic it took roughly one hour to reach the entrance to Peterhof. On the way, you'll pass by the University and see lots of "flats"... boxy structures that serve as apartments for the bulk of St. Petersburg inhabitants.

"The Palace at Peterhof"

You'll enter in through the Upper Gardens. You'll immediately see some large ponds and fountains in front of the palace. Although this is quite beautiful, the part of Peterhof that is most breathtaking lies in the lower park.

"Neptune fountain in Upper Gardens"

Standing directly in back of the palace the first large fountain area that you will see. These fountains are flanked by steps leading into the lower park area.

"View toward Grand Cascade fountain"

"View from top of Grand Cascade fountain"

In the center of the Grand Cascade fountain is a beautiful gold sculpture of Samson entitled Samson Rending the Lion's Jaws. This is one of the most spectacular fountains in the park.

"Samson Rending the Lion's Jaws."

After viewing this fountain it's time to walk down the long canal toward the Gulf of Finland. The lower section of Peterhof is very beautiful with something for everyone... quiet places to reflect, beautiful fountains and sculptures to photograph or if you are so inclined, "trick" fountains daring you to walk through without getting wet.

"One of my favorite ponds..."

As you stroll through the park you may come across string quartets playing classical pieces for your enjoyment. The pond in the picture above is just one example of the many ponds and fountains you'll see throughout Peterhof.

"Another beautiful fountain..."

Peterhof is open from 9:00 a.m. until 10 p.m., while the fountains run from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. May through October. These pictures don't due the park justice. You definitely need to visit to truly enjoy this beautiful place. Hungry? Don't worry, there's plenty of places to grab a snack or quench your thirst as you explore Peterhof.


PETERHOF - SamsonEvery year Petrodvorets, the "Fountain Capital," welcomes more than 3 million guests. The Petrodvorets (Peterhof) parks, created in the 19th century, are an outstanding example of this interesting stage in the development of Russian architecture and landscape art. Petrodvorets, the world famous palace and park ensemble (before 1944 called Peterhof), situated some 29 kilometers from Leningrad, is one of the supreme achievements of Russian national culture, a magnificent example of the organic synthesis of architecture and sculpture, landscape gardening and engineering arts. The ensemble, created at the start of the 18th century on the coast of the Gulf of Finland, began as a monument to Russia's victory in the Northern War and the opening of a port for Russia on the Baltic Sea. The initial inspiration for the creation of this ensemble and the principal plans and ideas for its decoration came from Peter the Great.The erection of an official summer residence was begun in 1714, but opening festivities were not held until the 15th of August,1723. By this time, almost all the elements of the Upper Garden and the Lower park composition had been laid out, the upper chambers had been created (Grand Palace), along with the Grand Cascade and Monplaisir Palace. To provide water for the fountains of Petrodvorets, and principally for the Grand Cascade, between 1720 and 1721 a special water supply utilizing ponds and reservoirs was created following plans drawn up by the Russian hydraulic engineer V. Tuvolkov. The main peculiarity of the Peterhof water supply system lies in the abscence of water towers and pumps; only gravity, taking advantage of the different levels between ponds and fountains, is used. The construction of Peterhof lasted about two centuries, as it gradually spread out, decorated with new masterpieces by prominent architects and sculptors. The creation of this marvellous complex was executed by thousands of workers, serfs and peasants, soldiers and craftsmen from all the corners of Russia, talented marble and foundry workers, parquet-makers and gilding craftsmen, woodcarvers and painters. Starting in the 1750's, around Peterhof's parks a complex of residences for tsars and princes was formed: the Personal Dacha, the English park, the Alexandria park, the Znamenka estate.
PETERHOF - Neptune Fountain After the Great October Socialist Revolution, the monuments of Peterhof became public property and fell under state protection. The palaces became museums of art and history and opened their doors to workers. On May 18, 1918, the Grand Peterhof Palace was visited by the first workers' group. During the years of Soviet power, the palace-museums and Peterhof parks became the largest cultural center in the country.
World War II brought severe ordeals to the Peterhof complex. The coming of the Nazi troops forced the palace workers to execute the evacuation of museum valuables. Park sculptures were hidden in the ground in a short space of time . But it was impossible to save everything, because on September 23, 1941, the enemy troops entered Peterhof.
For almost two and a half years, the Nazis abused Peterhof. They ruined the Grand Palace and the Grand Cascade, the English Palace and Marly. The Monplaisir and the Hermitage suffered much. Thousands of trees were cut down, the hydrotechnical structures were blown up, several bronze monuments of the Grand Cascade were stolen, thousands of masterpieces of art were stolen and destroyed. After the liberation of Petrodvorets in 1944, the palace and park ensemble no longer existed, for all practical purposes, as a monument to art . An unprecedented task was given to the restorers: to resurrect this monument to Russian national culture. On September 14, 1947, the official opening of the Samson fountain was held. By 1958 the Grand Palace structure had been restored. This project was carried out by the architects V. Savkov and Ye. Kazanskaya. The creative labour of the talented restorers brought about a marvellous result: Petrodvorets risen from the ruins. In the Lower park and the Upper Garden, 172 fountains and 3 Cascades were restored, 15 monuments werre re-created and more than 330 decorative details from lead and bronze were made. The Grand Palace, Monplaisir, the Hermitage pavilion and the Cottage Palace in the Alexandria park were opened for visitors. Revived by the hands of the Soviet people themselves, the park and palace ensemble of Petrodvorets is a symbol of the victory of humanism over barbarism, an eternal monument to Russian heroes. By declaration of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the 23rd of September, 1973, Petrodvorets was decorated for its immense achievement: the restoration and redevelopment of its parks and palaces, and on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the foundation of its complex of parks and palaces.

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