Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Peterhof, Home of the 2013 G20

Breakfast served in our room? Score! But it was actually breakfast in bed, since our room had no chairs! Anyway, an ok-coffee, juice, bread, and a kind of salami-omelette, cereal and yogurt. It seemed kind of Soviet to me - no frills, filling. Tall Guy was disappointed - he'd thought there was a buffet. Not till Moscow!

After breakfast, we made our way to Peterhof via public transport - walking, subway, and bus. I felt a bit nervous, as we were really relying on the good will of locals to help get us there. Would the driver remember to signal our stop? Would we end up on the other side of the city? Or back where we started? Did that old lady really know the way? We made it.

ta-da! we made it.
Peterhof is a huge, guide-worthy place. Retrospect, my friends. First we bought tickets to the gardens. (You have a choice - tickets for the gardens or a garden- and garden palace combo ticket.) There are acres of gardens at Peterhof, could we have a map? No, maps are for Russians. We went through security and got in line for main palace tickets, which you buy in another area. Naturally, we stood in the "tickets" line, but it's Russia, so only Russians can buy tickets at that wicket, from an English-Russian speaker. We found the foreigner wicket, where the woman did not speak English. Sign language it is. One English tour a day, and no, we could not go on it. Because no.

Somehow we got through security screening number two and into the palace. It's an ostentatiously gorgeous place. We're talking gilt everything - window frames, chandeliers, railings, entire walls... I enjoyed the visit, but it was slightly annoying, due to the amount of guided tours that were going on at once. We squeezed around groups, waited for one to move on only to be swept up into another. Guides kept telling me, I think, to stick with the group, and then waving us out of the way when upon realizing we were on our own. A highlight for me was Peter the Great's study - no gold, all wood. Oak walls, floors, ceiling, furniture... Kind of like being in a very weird, leafless forest, or extremely ornate log cabin.

at peterhof, you can go to the beach!
Before exploring the gardens, we tried to have lunch, but the on-site restaurants were closed. Because they were. We had overpriced hot dogs instead. The vendor was rude - tried charging us triple (thankfully, Tall Guy and I are good at quick mental math), and he also dropped and shook Tall Guy's cola! And I got mad. We walked it off and found another vendor selling blini, and the mood improved.

you can play giant slip and slide chess!
Satisfied, we made our way through the gardens. I liked the port and the little beach, the pyramid fountain, the checker board fountain, and the one that spun around. Workers were setting up for the G20. That meant a blocked view of the main fountain, but it was interesting to see the photo ops and press areas they were creating. The only thing we missed was the maze, I think.

you can try to climb a water pyramid!
Our visit ended with a standoff with a security guard, who didn't want us to use the nice, indoor toilets. He stood in front of the door and pointed to pay porta-potties. If Russians can pee for free, so can we, thank you very much - and in the end, we did.
you can be really excited - or not - by the spinning fountain!
I was so pleased we tried using public transportation - it runs like clockwork, it's cheap, and as long as you're paying attention, it's user-friendly. A day at Peterhof is certainly a "must" if you're in St Petersburg for a few days - marble metro stations, palaces, fountains, blinis and a beach - the makings of a grand day out.

you can paint the town red!
If you go: Take public transport. The views along the water route are not worth the ticket price, nor will it save you any time to take a taxi or private car. Get your hands on a map of the gardens if you're not going to visit with a guide. If you're really into palaces, get a guide to take you into the main one and also the little ones on the property. If you just think palaces are a normal amount of cool, go on your own or with an audio guide to the big one and skip the others. Exploring the gardens is a treat and will take time - take a snack or some cash to grab a blini or a hot dog to get you through all the walking. NO ONE is trying to rip you off, well, at least not "illegally" - the ticket prices really are higher for foreigners. 


  1. Things that made me laugh:
    1. You couldn't go on the tour. Because no.
    2. The restuarants were closed. Because they were.
    3. "I got mad" You wrote the book!
    You are right. All of this is so Russian.
    The chessboard fountain is the one I told you about! It's too bad the view of the main fountain was blocked, but there is so much more to see at Peterhof!
    I am impressed that you took public transit, as it's impossible to read and understand Russian.
    Great blog!