Wednesday, 18 September 2019

OUR 2019 HOLIDAYS, DAY FOUR IN ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE

Hello dear friends,

This post brings us to our last day in St Petersburg.  If you missed my previous posts and want to know about how about this trip, you can read about it in the previous posts.  In the last three days we were running around this amazing city trying to see and do as much as was humanly possible and I must say that we did a lot.  Our days were filled with visits to museums, cathedrals, palaces and general sightseeing.  We even managed to secure tickets to Swan Lake at the world renowned Mariinski Theatre.  If you missed my previous posts and want to know about how about this trip, you can read about it in the previous posts.
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
One of the reasons that we could do so much was due to the White Nights phenomenon during which the sun does not set until late into the night and walking the city at 11 pm feels like it is still a midday.   This phenomenon occurs one a year from mid-May to mid-July and attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world. 
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
During this period the visiting hours of the majority of public places are extended to coincide with the long periods of daylight to allow people to thoroughly enjoy this rare and short occasion to its fullest.  During our visit, there was not one day that we went to bed before midnight and that frantic activity started to take its toll.  Still, there was one more place we desperately wanted to see:  Catherine Palace, named after Catherine I, the wife of Peter the Great, situated about 30 km from St Petersburg in a place called Tsarskoe Selo, chosen by their daughter, Empress Elizabeth as her summer residence.
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
We got there by cab as it was the easiest way to get there and it dropped us very close to the tickets offices.  With tickets in hands, we walked through the gates and stepped into the beautifully appointed grounds.  There were a lot of similarities the way the parks and grounds were arranged, their symmetry reminded us of the grounds that we saw at Peterhof Palace, which I believe, was a traditional style common to that era and widely used across Europe.   Read a full story about it here.
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
When we approached the main palace, we both gasped in owe, that how beautiful it looked.  Painted in azure blue with snow white columns and gilded ornaments in the shapes of atlantes, caryatids, lion masks and other decorations, it was simply stunning.  It is said that around 100 kg of gold was used on the exteriors and interiors of the palace.   As we came closer, we saw a miles long queue to get inside and gasped again but for the totally different reason.
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
So far, wherever we went we wore lucky to avoid the long queues but on our last day in St Petersburg our luck had run out.  To make things worse, it was cold and it started to rain.   We had one umbrella between us and after about half an hour both of us were quite wet and cold. 
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
Luckily, some guy with entrepreneur skills walked passed selling cheap rain ponchos that we purchased without hesitation.  In the end it took us over two hours until we finally reach the entrance door to Catherine PalaceBy that time we were able to explore the palace facade to its minor detail but it was so beautiful that we didn't grow tired of it.
Once inside, we were greeted by the same ornate, gilded, opulent and rich interiors as we saw at the Peterhof Palace
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
The palace was packed with tourist groups and it was very difficult to look at things at your own pace.  Nevertheless, the interiors were magnificent in their luxury and craftsmanship and even though it was not the first time that we were inside a palace, we couldn't stop admiring the surroundings.
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE

By the time we completed the tour, the rain had turned into a light drizzle and we went outside to look at the grounds and smaller palaces scattered around the perimeter.  Sadly, none of them was open to the public but judging by the elaborate ornaments and beauty of the facades, one can assume that the interior would match.
ST PETERSBURG, VISIT TO CATHERINE PALACE
On our way back to the city we stopped at a small market selling traditional Russian nesting dolls, ushankas (hats with ear flaps) and other paraphernalia you expect to find around tourist attractions.
Russian ushanka hats

Russian nesting dolls
Russian nesting dolls
We felt pretty tired but by the time the taxi dropped at in the city centre, we were ready to do and see more.  I took my husband to the State Russian Museum that holds the world's largest collection of Russian art.  I wanted to show him the paintings of the great Russian artists such as Repin, Brullov, Venetsianov, Aivazovsky and many others that I new so well from my youth and share with him my admiration of their talent.
State Russian Museum, St Petersburg
We toasted our four wonderful days that we spent in this magnificent city by having our very last dinner at the hip restaurant called Schengen named after the Schengen Area that "refers to the EU passport-free zone that covers most of the European countries and is the largest free travel area in the world".  

The dinner was superb, the staff was extremely friendly and helpful, the wine was a plenty - a perfect trifecta to add to our fond memories about St Petersburg.  We returned to our hotel to pack the bags and get ready for our next stop - my hometown of Odessa.  But all about it is in the next blog.

Until then,

Anna
xoxo





















Tuesday, 10 September 2019

OUT 2019 HOLIDAYS, DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE

Hello dear friends,

tHE story about our 2019 holidays is slowly unfolding.  So far we visited a countries of Qatar and Oman and then flew to St Petersburg, Russia.  Today is our third day in this amazing city and I would like to share with you our visit to Peterhof (German for Peter's Court) Palace, a series of palaces and gardens located in Peterhof.  It was originally commissioned by Peter the Great as a direct response to Palace of Versailles as his country retreat, but then got expanded after his visit to the French royal court in the beginning of 18th century and later was nicknamed as "Russian Versailles".  
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
Although legally the Peterhof Palace belongs to the city of St Petersburg, it is over 30 kilometres away from it.  There are a few options available for those who wants to see this magnificent property.   Surely, the simplest but expensive would be by a private car or a taxi.  But if you use the public transport system, which is great, by the way, you have two choices to get there:  either by water or by land.  The land option involves the use of various modes of transportation while hydrofoil, a quick and efficient water taxi, is slightly more expensive but it could take you across the Gulf of Finland straight to the Lower Gardens of Peterhof Palace in twenty minutes.   We opted to use the latter as it sounded more appealing.   Besides the hydrofoil pier was just a short stroll away from our hotel.
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
It was a nice sunny day and our ride across the water was very smooth.  Once disembarked, we joined other visitors at the ticket office and five minutes later were able to enter the Lower Gardens of the estate.  As we stepped onto the wide path that led from the gates to the Palace, the first thing that we saw the breathtaking vista of  a Grand Palace with the resplendent Grand Cascade, with the sprays of water gushing from its spouts glistening under the bright summer sun.
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
As I mentioned earlier, apart from the Grand PalacePeterhof Palace is comprised of many smaller palaces, some of them designed by Peter the Great himself, scattered across the estate in the midst of beautifully planned and maintained parks peppered with the fountains and statues and you need a couple of hours to see them all.  Alternatively, you can jump on a small open cart that will take you around the grounds while you listening to the commentary.  
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
Sadly, it was only in Russian so I had to translate it to my husband on the go.  It was a good way to get an overview of this magnificent place, take some pictures and learn interesting facts about the Palace.
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
Once we got off the cart, we walked to the Grand Palace to begin our excursion.  As in the Hermitage museum, we were asked to cover our shoes as we walked into the building.  If you didn't read my post about our visit to this extraordinary museum, here is the link to bring you up to date with my story 
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
As it was summer, there were so many tourist groups crammed inside that we didn't have much time to linger and slowly take it all in.  As we walked from one stunningly appointed room to the next, we had just enough time to hear what the tour guide has to say about it, have a quick look around, take a picture and move on.  
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
Similarly to what we experienced inside the Hermitage museum, we were smitten by the opulence and richness of every room that we passed.  There were a lot of architectural and decorative details that we had already seen in the Hermitage but because the Palace was previously occupied by the Russian Tzars and their families, we had an opportunity to have glimpses of their lives in the natural habitat and try to imagine of what the day of a Tzar would be like when he is on "vacation"😊. 
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
Once our tour was completed, we went outside to take a closer look at the Grand Cascade and Samson Fountain.  The Grand Cascade is the most famous ensemble of fountains comprising over 64 different fountains and over 200 bronze statues and other decorative features.  At the centre stands spectacular statue of Samson wrestling the jaw of a lion.  It was absolutely beautiful and because of its size and composition you can spend hours just admiring its beauty and grandeur.
DAY THREE IN ST PETERSBURG, A TRIP TO PETERHOF PALACE
I hope you enjoy reading my travel narratives and will get inspired by them and in case you missed the beginning of the tale about our 2019 holidays, you can read about it in the previous posts.  If you want to know more about the places you read about in my posts or ask me for an advice, please contact me by using the comment section below or e-mail me directly to annmarcus@optusnet.com.au and I will be only happy to help.
Until then,

Anna 😍
xoxo