For our final day in St. Petersburg, we actually ventured outside of it, taking the rather expensive (but rather fast) meteor ferry to Peter the Great’s scintillating Summer Palace, Peterhof, located on the Gulf of Finland.
The massive estate’s original goal was to out-Versailles Versailles, and in some ways does just that. The gardens and fountains are more opulent than the French gold standard of ridiculously ornate royal estates for one, so vast that it’s impossible to do them full justice in only a day. We stuck with the Lower Gardens, where the boat dropped us off and where the Palaces themselves are located, but the Upper Gardens are free to the public and looked worth a visit from what we saw of them.
Oh, that’s right, I said Palaces. There are three of them- Marly, Monplaisir, and The Great Palace. I think you can guess which the main attraction was, but Marly and Monplaisir were both quite attractive in their own way despite their smaller size.
We headed directly for The Great Palace when we arrived to beat the crowds, and were moderately successful. Even with people thronging about, though, the escalating sumptuousness of each room in the Palace, from Catherine the Great’s jewel- the Amber Room, to the grand indeed Grand Ballroom, was mind-numbing.
Taken from the internet, because no pictures inside, unfortunately.
After this we wandered the gardens for a few hours, enjoying the intricately designed cascades and smaller fountains and taking in the fresh air.
We found ourselves with a few hours to kick before having to head to the airport, so we headed back over to St. Isaac’s Cathedral in order to climb to the top of it’s dome. We still didn’t get to see the inside, though, because for some reason that’s a separate ticket, but the view from the top over the Neva River and the palaces lining it was something that we’d missed of the St. Petersburg experience, and as beautiful as you’d hope for.
This is when my camera battery chose to die, so here’s the outside of it, anyway…
With a little more time to kill, we walked over to the nearby Nabokov House, the mansion the famous author of Lolita was born in. Unfortunately that was already closed, but we snagged a picture anyway and followed a canal for longer than we should’ve to our last stop in the city- the Yusupov Palace, where the legendary murder of Rasputin took place. As wikipedia will tell you, the unkillable man’s overkill of a killing (poisoned, shot, shot again, beaten, and then finally drowned) might not have been as incredible as the legend, but still showed just how tough he was. At least now I have a place to tie the story to.
After that rather macabre finale, it was time for some legit Chinese food, an overlong airport ride (don’t trust Russian public busses) and, finally, home.