Explore Peterhof: Home of Russia’s Peter the Great


Here’s my article on Peterhof, the home of Russian Emperor Peter the Great, which was taken from the Chester County Independent:

Peterhof, the magnificent winter home of Peter I, also known as Peter the Great, (1672-1725) is often called the “Versailles by the Sea.” Known as the favorite residence of czars, the palace is an example of 18th – 19th century architectural style. Approximately 30 buildings and pavilions cover over a 1,000 hectares in this park ensemble. Over 100 sculptures claim a spot in the gardens.

St. Petersburg is where you’ll feel Russia’s European influences and aspirations. Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, the city was called his “window to the west.” Canals were dug to drain the marshy south bank. In 1712 Peter made this place his capital, forcing administrators, nobles and merchants to move to this northern outback and build new homes. Architects and artisans came from all over Europe and the result is a city that remains one of Europe’s most beautiful.

When I visited St. Petersburg, one of the “must-see” places was this grand palace. As the tour allowed only 30 people at a time to enter Peterhof, we stood in line with tourists from all over the world and heard many languages and dialects being spoken. Truly, it was an international experience.

One of the most amazing feats was the gravity-fed water system of waterworks at Peterhof. Looking down from the great marble terrace, you view the famous Grand Cascade, made up of three waterfalls, 64 fountains and 37 gold-leaf statues. This system of waterworks has remained unchanged since 1721. Coming from the Gulf of Finland, water is conveyed over a distance of nearly 12 miles through a gravity-fed water system—and without pumping stations. One by one, the water spurts from the fountains. This engineering feat uses the lay of the natural ledges, slopes and plains. Without modern tools and equipment, architects, engineers and sculptors succeeded in creating a picturesque park.

Entering the palace, one sees opulent mirrored rooms decorated with paintings from the great artists of the period. Climbing the winding staircases, my hand touched the gilded wood carvings—the same entrance that led kings and queens into these luxurious parlors. I could imagine noblemen and their ladies clad in satins and velvets dancing to the Russian music of Tchaikovsky.

Around the grand city of St. Petersburg, many imperial residences were planned for the northern capital. Numerous parks and palace complexes were part of the plan when Peter the Great designed the city.

When you visit St. Petersburg, you understand why Peterhof was the czar’s favorite palace.

Carolyn Tomlin teaches writing workshops for the magazine market and is based in Jackson, Tennessee. Her full-length works are available for purchase here.  

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