The ancient city
Saturday 30 August, we set off a little later than normal - 9.20am for a short drive into what is now a satellite suburb of St Petersberg to Peterhof.
The Peterhof , Dutch for Peter's Court, is a series of palaces and gardens located in Saint Petersburg, Russia, laid out on the orders of Peter the Great. These Palaces and gardens are sometimes referred as the "Russian Versailles". The palace-ensemble along with the city centre is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This was set up as the Summer Palace for Peter the Great. A small house was built on the shore of the Baltic as Peter was very interested in shipping and liked to watch the ships coming into St Petersberg.
The Fountain Park here is composed of public gardens and a smaller private garden for Peter the Great.
Perhaps the greatest technological achievement of Peterhof is that all of the fountains operate without the use of pumps. Water is supplied from natural springs and collects in reservoirs in the Upper Gardens. The elevation difference creates the pressure that drives most of the fountains of the Lower Gardens, including the Grand Cascade. The Samson Fountain is supplied by a special aquaduct, over four km in length, drawing water and pressure from a high-elevation source.
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.
David was soaked by this fountain. Colleen very wisely took the detour.
This sign is self evident. Watch out for pickpockets when you are distracted by taking photos.
After this visit, we travelled further towards Novgorod and stopped at the Tsar's Palace. Within the Summer Palace set in a small town called The Tsar's Village. the opulence is beyond belief. The German Army occupied the palace as this was just behind their front lines in the Siege of Leningrad which went for nearly 900 days. Most of the Palace has been restored after parts were looted and bombed.
It was in 1730 that Rastrelli designed the first wooden palace for Empress Anna. This was a one-storied structure, with 28 rooms, a spacious central hall, and a system of interior waterways.
After Elizaveta Petrovna ascended the Russian throne in 1741, she commissioned Rastrelli to demolish the palace of her predecessor and build a "Venetian-style" residence for herself.
The new Summer Palace, completed in 1744, was the chief residence of Empress Elizabeth in the Russian capital. It was a large and imposing mauve-walled edifice with 160 gilded rooms, adjacent church and a fountain cascade. A Hermitage pavilion and an opera house were added to the compound in the 1750s.
The oldest town in Russia is Novgorod established in 759. Veliky Novgorod or just Novgorod, is one of the most important historic cities in Russia which serves as the administrative center of Novgorod Oblast. It is situated on the M10 federal highway connecting Moscow and St. Petersburg. The city lies along the Volkhov River just downstream from its outflow from Lake Ilmen. UNESCO recognised Novgorod as a World Heritage Site in 1992. Population: 218,717 (2010 Census).
Novgorod is the birthplace of Rachmaninov, the famous composer. A building in the Kremlin is named in his honour.
At its peak during the 14th century, it was one of Europe's largest cities, with a reported population of 400 000. We crossed the Russian Steppes and saw abandoned state farms with some private homes close to the highway. We visited the Kremlin Fort, Millennium Monument and St. Sophia Cathedral.
On Sunday 31 August we had an early start as the morning was quite full on the way to Klin, the former home of Tchaikovsky, to the Russian capital, Moscow.