Saturday, July 23, 2011

To St. Petersburg - The Peterhof Summer Palace

After all the activity of the last few days I thought this would be a quiet one. A bus trip to St. Petersburg about 3 hours' drive north west of Novgorod. St Petersburg is further north than the southern tip of Finland. At the moment it doesn't really get properly dark at night. The photo below was taken from our hotel room at midnight!

Well, the morning was easy. We passed a lot of Russian summer houses or dachas, which can be very basic, or a place to grow your own vegetables. Some dachas are quite ornate. Dachas are visited at weekends and in summer as most Russians live in large ugly soviet built apartment blocks - the only really awful architecture we have seen.
A fairly typical dacha
A more highly decorated dacha with extensive gardens
The easy day ended at Peterhof, Peter the Great's Summer Palace about an hour's drive from St Petersburg. (We seem to have moved from the cathedral phase to palaces)

First view of Peterhof

The highly ornate chapel with gilded roof domes
Peterhof is extremely beautiful inside. We couldn't take photos inside, and had to wear soft slippers over our shoes - like surgeons, but there are pictures here if you're interested.

After the inside we toured the gardens, which have hundreds of fountains. The landscaped gardens go right down to the Baltic Sea, or Gulf of Finland, where a fast ferry will take you to St Petersburg in 30 minutes.

David tests the waters of the Baltic Sea
The gardens are quite spectacular, and really popular with locals as well as tourists. There are "funny fountains" designed to surprise you, landscaped terraces, fountains galore, sculptures and statues and birch woodlands.

Kids cooling off in one of the funny fountains
A trap for tourists is the period-dressed characters who will pose with you for a fee of course. But they must have been very hot, as we were dripping with sweat and wilting in the heat.

Actor in period costume
The canal gives a straight line view from the palace to the sea
Peterhof Palace and a few of its fountains. The "yellow raincoat like" figures are gold statues

After a couple of hours wandering the gardens, followed by about a kilometre's walk to the coach, we were all wilting. We arrived in St Petersburg right on peak hour and crawled through the horrendous traffic before reaching the hotel eventually.

Traffic and parking in Russia's cities is a significant problem as they were never built with cars in mind. Car ownership is a relatively recent phenomenon, parking is creative, and drivers fairly fearless - frequently a driver will reverse into the oncoming traffic, even buses, then across another lane without any qualms.

Tomorrow is a day in St Petersburg itself.

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