So this evening…I found an orange in my purse and now I’m seriously missing my “moms”. It will all make sense in a minute. I miss my real mom, I haven’t seen her since Christmas. I miss my work mom, who always feeds me snacks. And now I miss my Russian mom, who was the one who gave me the orange to put in my purse this morning before I left for the airport. Today was the big day. Our group said da svidaniya (goodbye) to Syktyvkar and to all the amazing people who hosted us. Words can’t even describe their hospitality and I was amazed at the strong bonds that were formed in just a few short days. It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to my host mom Elena and host sister Mary. Here are the three of us at the Syktyvkar Airport this morning:
And here are Kevin and James with their hosts:
The next time I’m in Syktyvkar, I’ll definitely look them up! I may even have to make a special trip because my host family was that amazing!
This morning our flight left the airport at 7:00 am which meant we needed to be there by 5:40 am. The airport didn’t even open until 5:30. I’m pretty sure a few of us in the group hadn’t slept at all, some had a few hours sleep, and a select few were just peachy and rested. I was in the couple hours of sleep group. Our plan for the day was to fly to St. Petersburg (only a 1 hour and 40 minute flight), grab our luggage and a bus, then head to Peterhof for the day before checking into our hotel. FYI…Peterhof is a giant palace with incredibly vast gardens.
Just before we went into the Peterhof we had the opportunity to have lunch. We stopped at a little cafe on the grounds and grabbed some bellinis (like crepes stuffed with pretty much any kind of food you can imagine…totally yummy). Then I encountered these rascals:
Yup…those are birds alright…evil little birds! They kept trying to steal my food! They were worse than the sea gulls at most clam shacks along the coast of Maine! I put my food on the table, took three steps to get a fork and they were already pouncing on my grub. Even after sitting down they kept trying to steal my food. Completely unacceptable! It started to reach the annoying state when all you want to do is smack the little buggers despite their cuteness, so I started building barricades using my camera, water bottle, basically whatever I could get. But that didn’t stop them. Eventually Allie chose the plastic cup ammunition route which proved much more effective.
Sooooo…back to the palace. Before I delve into many of the details, here is a picture of the palace, so you have a visual reference to what I’m talking about.
The palace was built for Peter the Great in the early 1700s. Much of the palace was damaged in the war but much of it has been restored to its original grandeur. Our group first took a guided tour of the inside of the palace and then moved to the exterior and explored the parks and fountains. As usual, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the palace (flash photography + old stuff = fading) but I stole a few pics from Google images (man…I love me some Google images) so you can see what we saw today. And I have to admit, I was thoroughly impressed. Peterhof is often compared to Versailles. Having been to Versailles and now Peterhof, I find that Peterhof is way may ornate and interesting.
Here is the grand staircase, which was our first visual treat inside the palace:
And next up we have the thrown room:
And finally we have the blue dining room:
These three rooms were my favorite rooms inside the palace. I found most everything to be so ornate and gorgeous. It was obvious that there was no expense spared in the creation and decoration of the palace. Also, the whole time we were going through the building I kept imagining what kind of secret passageways there might be and how much fun it would be to explore them all.
After we concluded our tour of the interior of the palace, it was time to go explore all the gardens and fountains. Here is a picture of myself in front of the massive canal that stems to the sea:
And another picture of the main fountain between the palace and the canal:
And some more fountain shots:
And one more fountain shot with James…I like to call this James & the giant fountain (get it…instead of James & the Giant Peach? I know…I’m a dork):
We also got to explore the grounds at great lengths, which were just as impressive as the interior of the palace. We were also blessed with some beautiful weather. This may be the best time to tell you that we’ve had the most amazing weather the entire trip. The sun and warmth seems to follow us where ever we go and I’m greatly appreciative! Especially since I’ve heard that it’s been raining non stop back in Maine. And cold…I can’t forget the cold.
During our tour of the grounds, we ran into this place:
And I fell deeply, deeply in love with it! It’s a gazebo and there are four of them surrounding one of the larger fountains. I absolutely love it’s style, details, and coloring. Colby…Do you think you can build me one of these? Well…it was worth an ask.
Our next stop on the tour of the grounds was the Baltic shore, which was incredibly warm…I know…I touched it! It looked a bit like Kennebunk along the coast. I know I’ve said this a thousand times, but Russia (at least the area we’ve visited) feels alot like Maine.
After we visited the sea shore, Andrei led us to the trick fountains. Peter was a great prankster back in the day and created several “trick” fountains, all of which spray non suspecting people as they pass through the grounds or sit on a bench. Here is one such trick fountain:
The trick was to follow the path exactly as Andrei led us through. You had to step on the exact rocks that he stepped on because he knew the right ones, or else you would get wet. The first group passed through until the very end. My group also attempted it and got soaked. Yes, that’s right, I was soaking wet in the middle of the Peterhof palace gardens. It looked like I peed my pants! But that’s cool…because in the great words of Mr. Billy Madison, “You ain’t cool unless you pee your pants”. Here’s a group of Russian students who also got soaked.
If you look closely at the photo you can see the real trick. It actually didn’t matter whether or not you stepped on the right rocks. If you look behind the white bench you can see a man sitting on the bench behind it. This man actually controlled the fountain and he got to choose the fountain’s victims. Often, the leader of the group was not soaked but those unsuspecting followers paid the price.
So here’s a picture of our entire group in front of one of the many fountains on the Peterhof property:
A fine looking group I must add! And finally, here’s a picture of one of the buildings down from the main palace:
This was my attempt at trying to take an “artsy” picture. How’d I do?
So that concludes our Peterhof adventure. I have to admit, I greatly enjoyed it and it’s my favorite tourist visit of the trip so far. After our visit, we went to our hotel where we checked in, relaxed, and took it easy for awhile. Our night was free to us so a few of us went to dinner on Nevskiy Prospekt, which is St. Petersburg’s main artery. For all of you New Englanders out there, it’s kind of like Boylston Street in Boston. We’re fortunate that our hotel is just off Nevskiy Prospekt so it’s easy to find food and entertainment. After dinner we took a short stroll to check out one of the many bridges in St. Petersburg. The city is often compared to Venice since it has many canals, ornate bridges, and water taxis. Later on we will be touring the bridges and taking an evening canal ride, so stay tuned.
Thus, I am now officially exhausted and will retire for the evening. I tried to sound proper, like Catherine the Great would have said back in the day. I’m channeling my inner CTG right now. Goodnight from St. Petersburg!