Peterhof, St Petersburg
On my first weekend in Paris last summer, we hit up Versailles – so I was excited to check out Peterhof, which is basically the Russian version. Peter the Great basically wanted a palace to rival Louis XIV’s, complete with sprawling gardens and approximately ten million fountains.
I’d say he succeeded – we spent most of our time gawking over this marvellous structure that’s already plastered all over Google Images. (I’m not kidding – Google image ‘Peterhof’ or ‘St Petersburg’). The winds blow water from the fountains everywhere, and if you’re walking on the stairs you’re bound to get drenched, but then you also get this view. Walk down the stairs and get your calf leather jacket soaked, because I’ll repeat that old cliché: nothing compares to the view in real life.
My trip to Versailles a year ago was plagued by sticky sweat and large crowds of tourists pressed up against each other in a castle that reminded me too much of museums I’d already spent four days being ushered through in Vienna – the entire time having to remind myself it’s Versailles. I wasn’t expecting Peterhof to be any different – the same hoardes of Asian tourists and stalls selling everything from St Petersburg mugs and selfie sticks to cotton candy.
If I’d seen Versailles on one of the hottest days possible for July in Paris, Peterhof came with umbrella-breaking winds and weather that just wouldn’t make up its mind. It was overcast for five hours, rained for all of fifteen minutes, before proceeding to bless us with sun and blue sky for another twenty and then drenching us in rain again. It made for an interesting stroll around the gardens – which, like Versailles, is half of the attraction. If you like walking around forest gardens and pretending you’re royalty, you’ll find that at Peterhof too –
that, and many fountains. So many fountains.
As a hallmark of Imperial Russia, there’s just something about Peterhof – granted, you don’t get a classic shots with the Hall of Mirrors, and there isn’t a cute little museum dedicated to Marie Antoinette’s estate – but if anything else, there wasn’t a little voice in my head telling me it’s Peterhof!