The boat that had taken us through the waterways of St. Petersburg docked at the entrance to Peterhof, signalling that at last we had arrived at the mystical palace and its famed gardens. Although our brief canal tour had taken us past charming villas in pastel colours and had showcased Russia’s stunning architecture, it was known no sight could compare to Peterhof. Built by Peter the Great, Peterhof was inspired by France’s Versailles and as such was to be equally if not more stunning.
As my family and I disembarked it was clear why the palace had such a grand reputation. A marigold and sky blue confection, it sat perched high above us on a hill. More impressive however was the garden overlooked by said hill, filled with golden statues in a stunning array of forms. Noting the time, we sped into the garden to find a place with a good view. Moments later a song with an imperial theme began to swell in the background as the garden suddenly erupted with cascades of water. The golden statues which moments ago sat glistening innocently in the sun were actually fountains spouting jets of water that caught the light like crystals before arching down to earth. This fountain show with accompanying music was a highlight of the gardens yet was by no means the only source of wonder on that eventful day.
Wandering the gardens its impossible to not feel as though one has stepped back in time to a place of old world luxury. The grounds are impossibly large, filled with a variety of trees and flowers in a host of gemstone shades such as emerald, ruby, and sapphire. The density of the trees allowed only a few crystal beams of sunlight to touch the ground. Throughout, there lies small wonderful surprises for every wanderer. Amongst a meadow of coral flowers sits a prim guest palace that was once hidden behind green arbors. Amidst a forest glade a playful fountain sprays unsuspecting guests with jets of water if they step on the wrong stones. Even further into the depths of the park, a vista along the water offers a stunning view as well a chance to encounter one of the grounds “lucky statues”. Whether they be small palaces, fountains, sculptures or simply breathtaking views, at every turn I discovered a new mystical piece of the garden. Each piece remained a mystery until it was stumbled upon solely by chance and was lost once again once I returned to the chartreuse forest. Peterhof’s garden was simply put, a wonderland, where one could simply lose themselves in the beauty of nature coupled with the grandeur of the landscaping.
After what could have been hours wandering the grounds my family and I emerged from the foliage into full sunlight back at the Grand Palace, the focal point of the grounds. It was time to return to the boat that would take us back into the heart of the city for more adventures. Walking back towards the cool sea it was impossible not to turn for one last glimpse of the sun kissed gardens and shining gold fountains. With this final picture in mind I was able to leave knowing I would never forget Peterhof, the palace that made me fall in love with Russia.
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