Monday, May 19, 2014

What Made Him So Great?

It was not the Wifi issue but the lack of time which delayed my writing of this post. We had such a full day that I had no time to write yesterday! The weather was bright, warm and idyllic; and evidently, a blessing, since we were told St. Petersburg is sunny only 65 days a year. Our tour guide, Nadia, told us we must be a bus of saints!

I think Peter the Great is one of my favorite historic Russian characters. He's a fascinating combination of Christopher Columbus and Ben Franklin. 

Here is a statue in the Moscow harbor dedicated to Peter the Great . . . notice the similarities:

 At the end of the 17th century, Peter traveled incognito through Europe as a craftsman, learning various arts and crafts, and observing how rulers lead their countries. He especially fell in love with Holland, which is evident by all the tulips in the garden, his choice of colors for the structures, and architectural influences found on this property.

In fact, when he arrived home, he ordered all men, beginning with his army and court, to shorten their Cossack coats, and cut their beards. If they didn't comply, he cut them himself! He was finished with the old ways, and looked towards a European Russia in the future. It has been said that he charged the merchants, who wanted to retain their beards, a duty or tax in order to keep them!

After visiting Versailles, the royal estate outside Paris, Peter the Great decided to recreate his own Russian Versailles on the gulf of Finland, so visitors would come via a canal to the entrance of the palace . . . quite impressive! 

He loved the sea and anything relating to it. The palace was called Peterhoff or "Peter's yard".

This Emperor of Russia was very clever, and also had a great sense of humor. In various areas of the gardens, he installed "shower heads" or spouts, the largest being on either side of a long walkway that lead to the entrance. 

Then, at just the right time, when the guests would be passing through, he would cause the fountain to shower water on the unsuspecting victims, which included ladies in their finest dresses, perfectly-coiffed hair and thick makeup. How do you get angry with your emperor when you are a guest at his palace?

Here is Olivia and Dan getting caught in the shower outside Catherine's Block near the lovely garden:

On the property as well, was his second wife, Catherine the First's ”block" or building where she would entertain friends and dignitaries. 

After Catherine, her daughter (remember the one with the 15,000 dresses?) used it, and then the infamous Catherine the Great, the German Princess who murdered her husband to become Empress of all Russia.

The gardens were as beautiful if not more so, than Versailles', with tulips and fountains everywhere:

Unfortunately, as with many other royal buildings in St. Petersburg, when the Nazis took over the town during WW2, they damaged the property. Restoration has taken years, but they have done an excellent job!

After lunch, we had a bus tour of downtown St. Petersburg. If you stretch Paris in four directions, add some canals from Venice, paint the buildings pastel colors of blue, yellow and pink as the Dutch tend to do, and throw in some architecture and gardens from Vienna, you have a good picture of this gorgeous city. We were told that it has 42 islands, 68 rivers and canals, and 500 bridges.

Here are a few views:

Next, we stopped at the fortress, which was actually never used as such, but was the original Kremlin, or center of town. Here we found the mint where coins were made, a barracks used as a prison, and the Church of St. Peter and Paul, where all the rulers of Russia from Peter the Great to Tzar Nicholas and his family are buried. It is quite ornate . . .

Anastasia Romanov's remains on right, above.

After dinner we headed to the St. Petersburg ballet, where Olivia and I saw a performance of "Gizelle", a sad love story. We were not allowed to take photos of the performance, but here are a few exterior and interior shots:

Tomorrow, we will attempt to show you Catherine's stunning Palace!

I will leave you with a quote from our tour guide, Nadia: "The Russian People believe if you have no problems, you create them, so you can heroically overcome them!" Hmmm . . . sounds strangely familiar.


  1. Beautiful photos. Interesting that men had to pay tax to keep their beards. hehe

    1. Yes, Tina, I found that hysterical. I think I will write a historic fiction book about PTG. He inspires me!

  2. Wonderful Vicki ..What a great trip!

    1. It was indeed, Linda . . . we were blessed by it all!


I would love to have you comment...thanks!

Journey into the Promised Land

Journey into the Promised Land
From Egypt to Israel