Sunday, 13 May 2012

A busy week, Part One: Петергоф

Well. What a week. I do like to leave things to the last minute and I have definitely crammed a lot in during the past seven days. I'll have to split it across two posts because they are fairly different turns of events.

Kicking off on the positive, I finally got to visit Петергоф (Peterhof), which is actually a series of palaces and seriously beautiful gardens on the outskirts of the city. This place is famous for its fountains, and although the pictures give you an idea, when you see it for yourself you can see how it earned the nickname of 'Russian Versailles', it's stunning. The fountains are turned on annually in May, so I had been holding off visiting until then. So worth it. We stood in line for ages to get the hydrofoil to cross the Gulf of Finland for the 30 minute journey there, and irritated the French and Spanish tourists standing in front of us (deserved, when Harriet sneezed, as I'm pretty sure most animals have a tendency to, one of the women glared at her and snatched her friend away as if the source of the Black Death itself was stood behind them, and proceeded to bitch, assuming that we couldn't understand. Both of us can understand French and Harriet also does Spanish at uni. Fail evil women....possibly fail on our part also, since, naturally, they both also spoke English. Oh well, nothing like a bit of....good natured....xenophobia. And who likes the French anyway? Psh.)

We were extremely fortunate to have chosen a rare sunny day to visit, and the view that greeted us as we walked off from the Hydrofoil pier was stunning. My internet is not playing ball so unfortunately I can't upload my own photos yet, but a long 'Sea Canal' led up from the sea to the Lower Gardens, in which are the most amazing fountains I've ever seen. The photos really don't do it justice.

 The amazing thing about the fountains is that none of them are powered by pump, it's all done through elevation pressure and special reservoirs and aqueducts. There is so much gold around too, it all glistens through the sun and the water, and at one point when we were standing up by the main palace looking down at the massive fountain in the picture above, the Samson fountain, there was a rainbow stretching through it. Lovely to watch.
We had a wander through the chapel, to which we gained free entry with our student cards despite there being a clear '150roubles for students' notice, and marvelled at even more gold. The place was gorgeous and intricate religious art covered the walls and ceilings. I think it has recently been reopened after having work done to it, and they have definitely been polishing the floors-lethally slippy, especially in the fetching blue plastic shoe covers you have to wear to look around.

We also had a nose inside the main palace, choosing not to have a tour guide. The problem was that there had to be at least seven tours going on while we were wandering, and because the palace is relatively small, we kept getting stuck in them. First, we hit the Spanish tour. Harriet speaks Spanish. Then we hit an English tour-obviously we both understood. Getting quickly fed up of the Yorkshire woman who kept repeating 'Ooooh, in't that nice o'er there?!' to her husband, we squeezed past and hit the next tour-French. Another one we could both understand. Whilst the changing contrasts between languages made me realise how infinitely sexier French sounds than English, we were more intent on pointing out what pretty shades of wallpaper and what amazingly comfy and luxurious looking pieces of furniture we would furnish our own homes with, (well, we can dream) and shuffled on past another few tours, picking bits up in all of our languages, including Russian.
Needless to say, when we finished our own tour around the house and got over the marvels of some of its contents, we felt pretty smug. Check us. We're linguists. :D

I'd had all of two hours sleep the previous night and the long day was starting to wear, so when we decided to go I was content. In true Russian style, however, the queuing system for the Hydrofoils back was beyond confusing and it didn't seem possible to catch one for another two hours or so. We headed round to the back of the palace to catch a marshrutka (mini van type bus) instead, and realised we'd missed out the whole of the Upper Gardens. These reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, again beautiful and I'll add photos when I have the chance, so I was glad to have the chance to wander round before we left.

The marshrutka ride back did not agree with me. They rarely do. We didn't really know which one we should be taking so missed a lot of buses before deciding to jump on whichever one came along next, and it turned out to be a very long journey to the metro in a very confined space, with a very dubious driver. I had started to get the signs of a migraine by the time we decided to stop off for blini in Chaynaya Lozhka but the chocolate pancake seemed to bring me round a bit. Arriving back to Sennaya Metro we decided to leave further tourist escapades until Friday, planning to go to the Church on Spilled Blood and the tourist market behind.
And so off home I went to attempt to sleep.

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