As the Hermitage Museum is shut on Mondays, we decided to head just a little out of town to the Peterhof Palace, which was described as the Versailles of Russia – however, having never been to France (yes, I know, I’ll go soon), once again, the description doesn’t hold much significance for me.
There were two methods of getting out to the palace, which is about 30km southwest of the city. Either we catch the 800r ($20) hydrofoil that leaves from just outside the Hermitage museum, or we catch a subway and a local bus for less than one tenth of the cost. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but we chose the cheap and complicated method. It wasn’t that complicated, but it did require a bit of work to make sure we were on the right bus, and that we were getting off at the right location. However, like all the other times we’ve caught buses over here, the people have done all they could to help us, and we arrived without any problems.
The bus doesn’t actually go to the palace, but rather the town of Peterhof, a short walk away. It was a perfect morning when we woke up, but by the time we’d arrived it had started to cloud over. We entered the grounds through the enormous and extremely well manicured (and free) Upper Gardens.
We had a quick walk around the exterior of the palace, and stopped for a quick lunch before going inside (as there wasn’t any food inside, unless you brought your own). Again, I suckered by the cravings of my stomach, and went for a hamburger. While not the worst I’ve had (not even close), it was far from a great hamburger. At least it wasn’t too expensive. Plus, the beer made everything better – so much so that we grabbed another one to enjoy inside the grounds of the palace later on.
As mentioned earlier, we skipped the Hermitage today as it was closed on a Monday. Turns out that the interior sections of this palace are also closed on a Monday… It was doubly frustrating because I actually searched to make sure that it was open, but saw no mention of the palace closing separately to the main gardens. So, without a choice, we entered the lower gardens.
The lower gardens are what make this palace famous, with the hundreds of water fountains spread out the enormous grounds. The view from the terrace looking down to the waters of the Gulf of Finland was stunning. You could just imagine the lavishness of 19th century royalty enjoying themselves out here on a beautiful summers day.
As well as the serious golden fountains, including one of Peter the Great tearing the mouth of a lion open (symbolising a victory over Sweden), there was this cute one of a pug chasing ducks around (complete with audio).
As awesome as that fountain was (and it really was), there came a point where we had to leave to see other things, so we wandered aimlessly through the gardens. There were untold number of caretakers manicuring the grounds, and it really showed, as the gardens were immaculate. It wasn’t just rows and rows of green hedges either, there were also countless flower gardens, complete with more golden fountains, and beautiful buildings.
For all of the beautiful gardens, we somehow ended up at this rather average looking beach to sit and rest (and consume another big can of beer). It was nice to just relax in the sunshine for a while, something we don’t do often enough.
We weren’t sure if it as the culmination of so many days of travel, or if it was the beer, but getting up again and walking through the enormous gardens stopped being fun, and started being tiring, so we made our way back to the palace, peeped through the windows at the beautiful and extravagant interior, and made our way back through the upper gardens to the bus stop. It was frustrating that the sun was now breaking through the clouds, but, I could see it was only a temporary window, with more clouds to follow on the horizon.
Getting back into town was simple. We did some shopping at an enormous modern shopping centre near the Mayakovskaya Metro station. It had all the usual Western brands, at the usual Western prices. While we’d both like some new clothing, we decided to wait until we were somewhere cheaper to refresh our wardrobe. Out of laziness, we had dinner in the food court, with another crappy meal. Actually, it wasn’t necessarily crap, it was just standard Western junk food fare, which was actually a little comforting, especially the KFC for Risa. And, my McDonalds wasn’t too bad, either.