Russia’s answer to Versailles

Today, we did as the Russians do, by taking the metro to Avtovo and then a shuttle (rather than a taxi or a hydrofoil) to Peter’s favorite summer palace at Peterhof.
Russians have this inherent burning desire to show off in front of the West and to appear superior, and Peter was no different. Peter, a savvy traveler, was impressed with Versailles and decided to outdo it. And in this case, in a way he did; in that the fountains at Peterhof work based on the law of connecting vessels rather than pumps. Thus, unlike Versailles, they have been functioning every day of every summer since they were first brought into existence 300 years ago, with a short interlude during World War II, when the Germans destroyed them almost entirely. It took almost 40 years to restore the fountains and the palaces to their former glory.
The sight of Peterhof is always glorious. We walked around the park, took a tour of the underground caves where you can see how the fountains actually work, and visited the main palace. Again, Russians have odd ways of dealing with foreigners: like the fact that foreigners are allowed to enter the main Peterhof palace at one time, while the locals – at another. The times for the foreigners were 11 Am to noon and 2-4 PM, for the Russians, noon to 2 PM and 4-6 PM. God forbid the two groups should mix inside the palace!  Inside the palace, their mixture must cause a chemical reaction with an unfavorable outcome!
At 3:50 Pm we arrived at the palace, bypassed the huge line of long-suffering Russians waiting for the ticket booth to open, and entered, after having paid the double admission fees that foreigners are charged in Russian museums. For the price, we got the privilege of skipping the line.
We actually lucked out and had the palace almost entirely all to ourselves! It was practically empty, the foreigners were already mostly gone and the Russians had not yest arrived. I tried to play a tour guide with what I remembered from my previous visits.
After, we went back to St. Petersburg in style, on a hydrofoil, and disembarked near the Winter Palace.
We then walked back to the b&b, while taking a little detour to cross the Bridge of Four Lions, where we encountered a gang of Russian tourists with whom we had to fight for our place under the almost midnight sun, to take pictures. There are too many tourists in St. Petersburg in the summer, if you ask me!


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