Date: 18 July 2017
Location: Viking Akun moored in Saint Petersburg
Got up too early as usual. We are going to the Peterhof Palace, departing at 07.30. Weather again looks better than was predicted.
Took about 30 minutes on the bus to get to the Peterhof Palace. Our guide was again Alexei, who has a very dry sense of humour. A sound file of his voice can be found here. We arrived early, but we hadn’t been there very long when a huge crowd of fellow visitors arrived including, it seemed, at least half the population of Japan! The interior of the Grand Palace is amazing—possibly even more impressive than the Catherine Place but, wisely I think, they do not allow you to take pictures. It turns out that the palace was totally destroyed in the Second World War, so that what is presented is actually a complete replica of the original building. There are numerous rooms, some in the baroque style favoured by Elizabeth and others in the classical style favoured by Catherine the Great. There are numerous staff members checking that no photographs are taken and ensuring that parties don’t linger too long in the rooms. This is partly to achieve the maximum number of visitors, but also to avoid damage caused by condensation in, for example, the oriental rooms.
One of the main highlights of the Peterhof is the garden with its numerous fountains. The central section of the latter is The Great Cascade, which drops down from the palace and extends along a canal to the Baltic Sea. The canal has two bridges across it, and the one nearest the palace is the best position for photographing the fountains in action. This starts at 11.00 each day. After our palace tour, conducted by the knowledgeable Alexei, we went for a walk around the garden, including a visit to the small building called Mon Plaisir. We walked in front of this building to take some pictures of the Baltic Sea, as well as far off Saint Petersburg.
We then walk back to towards The Great Cascade and arrived at the first bridge early as usual—but not as early as a quarter of the population of Japan. It was really annoying waiting to take a picture of The Great Cascade at 11.00 while more and more ill-mannered young tourists pushed in front of one and thrust their phones into position. This was not just to take a quick phone picture, you understand, but either several pictures from slighly different angles or a video of the event! The brief piece of music started at 11.00 and the fountains sprung into life, but to be honest it was a bit of a disappointment after the huge build up. We quickly decided to give up the fight with our rude, young fellow tourists.
Amazingly the weather, which had been brilliant for the duration of our visit, started to turn very dark and cloudy as we headed back to our bus. There was really quite heavy rain as well as thunder and lightening on the way back to Saint Petersburg on the bus!