We visited St Petersburg, and didn’t go to the Hermitage!

Peterhof, St Peterburg, Russia

I didn’t book nearly long enough in St Petersburg, there is so much to see and enjoy. We had every intention of spending our late day in the glory of The Hermitage. What I hadn’t expected was sunshine and blue skies. Chatting the previous evening to some fellow travelers in the hostel we were encouraged to visit Peterhof, a Versailles-style palace on the edge of the Baltic Sea famed for its gardens and fountains. Had the weather been dismal we would definitely have visited the Hermitage, but a clear morning and an opportunity to leave the city had us switching our plans and heading out to Peterhof.

Peterhof, St Peterburg, Russia

Peterhof is about 30km out of St Petersburg, a simple metro and bus ride that drops you off at the gates. The palace was built by Peter the Great and the entrance through the Upper Garden is magnificent, even with the early onset of winter. We were lucky to catch the fountains, which only flow from mid-May to mid-October, there are hundreds of them decorating the ornamental gardens. The palace itself is huge, European in style and a soft yellow colour, it can be entered on a separate ticket. The Lower Garden which stretches from the palace to the shore of the Baltic Sea cost 450 rub and was worth every kopeck.

Peterhof, St Peterburg, Russia

I’m sure it is incredible in the summer when the gardens are in bloom but even the bare flowerbeds and skeletal trees were lifted by the glittering fountains, their gilded statues opulently spewing forth crystalline water.

Peterhof, St Peterburg, Russia

To add to the wonder of the gardens, the wildlife is friendly with audacious charm. Hold out a crumb of cookie or bread and the little birds will hover in for a snack. Do this for a darling little red squirrel and they will be scampering up your leg onto your arm before you know what’s happening! Fearlessly they will perch on your forearm, shoulder or neck and nibble away before returning for more. This was far more fun than wandering round a world-famous museum!

photo courtesy of Sean Watts

There were a number of opportunities for refreshment in the garden, we sat in the chilly sunshine with a hot drink, crackers and popcorn {a popular snack here!} overlooking an energetic fountain while the sparrows sneaked our crumbs.

With a few hours left of the afternoon, once we returned to St Petersburg, we visited the Cathedral of the Saviour of the Spilled Blood. The church is designed similar to St Basil’s in Moscow on the outside, colourful, crazy domes. The interior takes your breath away. Virtually every inch of it is covered in intricate mosaics. Delicate designs showing scenes from the Bible, the workmanship is beautiful. The cathedral is around 100 years old but the interior was damaged during the war and the Soviet era. It has taken years to carefully restore it back to its former glory. It glittered like the most fabulous Christmas tree ornament.

Our onward train to Moscow left at midnight so we went out for dinner with our friend Sean. There was a vegetarian cafe, Sadovara, not far from the hostel which was busy and delicious, we left with our bellies full.

Peterhof, St Peterburg, Russia

 

This was a pretty church near the entrance to Peterhof
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By Rachel Davis

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4 responses to “We visited St Petersburg, and didn’t go to the Hermitage!

  1. Wow, never heard of Peterhof before! What a great find! It really does look like Versailles. And that photo of the red squirrel on your shoulder is so fantastic! I think I would have made the same choice as you going to Peterhof instead of Hermitage. But of course BOTH would be best! Just seems like no matter how long the trip is you still never have enough time in each place. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on the Cathedral of Spilled Blood vs St Basil’s

    • I’d never heard of it either but it was so wonderful. If the sun is shining we’d rather be outside! Definitely going to return there one day, it’s pretty near to UK!
      I’ve posted Moscow and St Basil’s today :)

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