Duration: 5 hours
Car: tourist class included
Entrance tickets: includedPeterhof
Peterhof (Petrodvorets or Russian Versailles) was the main summer residence of Russian tsars. Located on the right coasts of Gulf of Finland, near the sea and 30 km of St. Petersburg, it is one of the main monuments of the former tsar’s capital. Petrodvorets is a big complex that includes the Palace and Park, which we will visit, besides several pavilions of small palaces, scattered over the beautiful garden. They are of special interest with their 150 fountains and 3 cascades, and also bright play of water, decorated with gilded statues of peerless beauty.The Low Park
The expanse of the Lower Gardens is designed in a formal (French) fashion. Although many trees are overgrown, in the recent years the formal clipping along the many allees has resumed in order to restore the original appearance of the garden.
The many fountains located here exhibit an unusual degree of creativity. One of the most notable designs is entitled 'The Sun'. A disk radiating water jets from its edge creates an image of the sun's rays, and the whole structure rotates about a vertical axis so that the direction in which the "sun" faces is constantly changing.
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. Another, disguised as an umbrella with a circular bench set around the stem, drops a curtain of water from its rim when someone enters to take a seat.
The same bluff that provides a setting for the Grand Cascade houses two other, very different cascades. West of the Grand Palace is the Golden Mountain, decorated with marble statuary that contrasts with the riotous gilded figures of the Grand Cascade. To the east is the Chess Mountain, a broad chute whose surface is tiled black and white like a chessboard.
The most prominently positioned fountains of Peterhof are 'Adam' and 'Eve'. They occupy symmetric positions on either side of the Sea Channel, each at the conjunction of eight paths.
The Grand Palace.
The largest of Peterhof's palaces looks truly imposing when seen from the Lower or Upper Gardens, but in fact it is quite narrow and not overly large. Of its approximately thirty rooms, several deserve mention.
The Chesma Hall is decorated with twelve large paintings of the Battle of Chesma, a stunning naval victory of the Russo-Turkish War, 1768-1774. These were painted between 1771 and 1773 by the German artist Jacob Philipp Hackert. His first renderings of the great battle scenes were criticized by witnesses as not showing realistically the effect of exploding ships the flying timbers, great flames, smoke, and fireballs. Catherine II assisted the artist by exploding a frigate in the harbor of Livorno, Italy, for the benefit of Hackert, who had never seen a naval battle firsthand. Hackert also did not research the actual positions of the Russian and Turkish forces during the battle, so the scenes depicted are somewhat fanciful, but do effectively convey drama and destruction of naval warfare.
The East and West Chinese Cabinets were decorated between 1766 and 1769 to exhibit objects of decorative art imported from the East. The walls were decorated with imitation Oriental patterns by Russian craftsmen, and hung with Chinese landscape paintings in yellow and black lacquer.
Another room, positioned at the center of the palace, bears the name of the Picture Hall. Its walls are almost entirely covered by a series of 368 paintings, mostly of variously dressed women, differing in appearance and even age, yet most were drawn from a single model. These were purchased in 1764 from the widow of the Italian artist P. Rotari, who died in St. Petersburg.