Honestly, we didn’t know what we were in for when we arrived at the Peterhof Palace.
After a 5-course meal at the Hotel Samson, our guide did some quick work in getting us to the Peterhof, and I must say that by this time, several of the older folks in our group had difficulty in keeping up with the walking.
Can’t blame these folks, because this particular shore excursion was indeed tough work, given that we had to complete two spectacularly big palaces over the course of less than a day. So if you are not keen being on your feet for long periods of time, and having minimal restroom stops (impossible to have a restroom stop when there were so many tourists around), then you are better off choosing another shore excursion.
The Peterhof Palace tour was unlike the Hermitage or the Catherine Palace. Or shall I say, I was expecting it to be the same routine of entering the palace, be wowed by the opulence of having copious amounts of gold stuck on its walls, and pretending to recognise the subjects of framed portraits or know the artists of famous paintings hung up on the walls or ceilings of the palace. In contrast, the tour of the Peterhof Palace began in quite an unlikely way.
Walking towards the turnstile entrance to the Peterhof Palace. One of the perks of being on a shore excursion was that we need not fret about buying entrance tickets, something that I was grateful for in this case, because as mentioned earlier, we were quite illiterate in Russia! Look at that queue line and all the foreign Russian words!
Further testament to my illiteracy…everything in Russian and nothing in English. We were actually quite helpless in Russia….
The entrance to the Peterhof Palace (the Great Palace) on the right, but nope, our tour guide says, we were not going in to that. Instead, we were going on to explore the gardens first on the left. By this time, the older folks in our group had mostly wilted like dried-up flowers. The more vocal ones asked for a reprieve and a place to rest their feet, while the others decided to brave it out under the blistering sun.
You wouldn’t want to give the gardens a miss once you have a glance at it. The sight is breathtaking, and unlike any other palace that we have seen. That is the uniqueness of the Peterhof Palace, and the reason why I said the tour of it was radically different from that of other palaces.
This is the lower park and only represents one portion of the entire Peterhof Palace compounds. There was actually a much larger upper gardens, behind the Great Palace on the right, but we never got to the chance to explore it. I suspect to fully explore the greatness and the beauty of the entire compounds of the Peterhof Palace may take up to 2-3 days.
The most awe-inspiring feature of the lower park was the Great Cascade and the Samson Fountain at the bottom of the cascade.
Walking alongside the Great Cascade, it was so easy to get lost in the beauty of it all.
For all its beauty, these pictures actually do not quite do it justice. You need to be there to experience the scale and majesty of it all.
The Samson Fountain (remember lunch at the Hotel Samson?). Together with the Great Cascade, it is undoubtedly the most photographed scene at the Peterhof.
At the lower gardens, looking back up at the majestic man-made beauty.
I absolutely love these finely manicured lawns at the lower park. They look like a gigantic piece of artwork coloured in by incredible horticulture works. Never would we ever find this in Singapore.
The Peterhof is home to many fountains, and in its compounds, we find many of them (I counted at least 24 from the map), each of them with their own names. It is little wonder why it is called the Capital of Fountains.
Monuments and sculptures are also everywhere in the park..most of which means nothing to us…
The lower park is gigantic, and it constitute only half of the park space of the Peterhof, and that is not even taking into consideration the area occupied by the palace.
The Peterhof was built next to the coast of the Baltic Sea, on the Gulf of Finland by none other than Peter the Great himself, the same man who founded Saint Petersburg. The name Peterhof actually means in German ‘Peter’s Court’. If you walk far enough at the lower park area, you can actually see the Gulf of Finland.
Making our way back up to the Palace level via the Chessboard Hill Cascade.
Looking at the prints on the cascade, I guess I need not elaborate more on why it was named as such.
By this time, most of us had almost melted under the intense summer sun.
It is a very good idea to bring your own umbrella if you plan on visiting the Peterhof, because most of its splendour is in its outdoor parks. Otherwise, be prepared to spend the tourist dollar at these umbrella booths.
The Peterhof lower parks are also peppered with beautiful pavilions and architecture such as these.
Our next stop was the Peterhof Palace itself, where we found a horrendous queue waiting in line to enter the palace. That meant at least another 30 minutes of waiting under the sun.
Look at that queue!
At least we still get to enjoy some beautiful scenery of the gardens while we queue.
The Peterhof Palace, unlike the Hermitage or the Catherine Palace did not allow for any photography within the palace. Which was such a pity, because we would love to share some of the splendour of the Peterhof Palace here. However, having visited the Hermitage and the Catherine Palace, we must say that the uniqueness of the Peterhof lies in its gardens and not its palace.