The program for our first day included a trip to Peterhof, also known as the Summer Palace. When Peter I visited Versailles, he decided that Russia needed an equivalent showplace.




As you can see, the place is extremely popular.

Peter was very taken by the fountains and gardens at Versailles. The fountains at Peterhof are all gravity fed from the Neva River.

The canal shown here enabled foreign ambassadors to come calling directly from their ships.

Grand Fountain

The main palace was enormous. Pictures were not permitted inside, but sumptuous doesn't begin to describe it.

Most of what you see, however, is a reconstruction. The German army used the palace as a headquarters during the Siege of Leningrad. They systematically destroyed the place when they left.

Thankfully most of the art had been removed for safekeeping before their invasion and it has been returned to the rebuilt structures. The fountains and statuary were reconstructed from archival photos.

View from the Canal

This would be the route that foreign dignitaries would take in Peter's day.

The palace was much enlarged and redecorated during the time of Catherine the Great, who did not share Peter's underlying love of simplicity.

Peter's Home

Located much closer to the water was the palace of Monplaisir, which was Peter's personal residence. It is much more intimate. We were not able to go inside, however.

Peterhof gardens

Not being a particular enthusiast of baroque architecture and interior design, I found the gardens the most appealing part of Peterhof.

The numerous and varied fountains enhanced the experience.

Wedding Party

Weddings became quite a theme in our journey through Russia. It seemed that allmost every place we visited had some kind of wedding party.

Decorate Urn

The view down the canal to the Gulf of Finland.

After our tour of the palace and grounds we braved the kiosks of souvenir vendors and searched out our bus among the many in the parking lot. Lunch was at a nearby venue that catered to tourist groups. Our group of 24 was one of many, but the food was good so we didn't complain.

One unusual feature of our Russian tour was that we didn't have a single meal on our own. All of the meals during the land portion were arranged and once we embarked for the main portion of the trip, the meals were on the ship. The benefit was that the meals were consistently decent, but we missed the adventure.

Vasilyevsky Island

After lunch we returned to the city for a bus tour.

Vasilyevsky Island is across the Neva River from the Hermitage Museum, the Admiralty and our hotel.

This area, called the Spit, is the location of the former Stock Exchange


These odd looking structures, which can be seen in the picture above, are called rostral columns. They are modeled after Roman victory columns, which displayed the prows of captured ships. When they were built in the early 19th century, they had beacons on top and nowadays beacons are lit for special occasions.

There were, of course, several wedding parties.


Peter & Paul Fortress

Nearby is the Peter & Paul Fortress. It was the first construction in Peter the Great's new capital. We did not get to visit although I believe it is worth a day on its own.

The "beach" was very popular on this balmy afternoon.

We will encounter hydrofoils later in our trip.

Church of the Spilled Blood

This classic Russian church is officially called the Resurrection of Christ church, but its common name is the Church of our Savior on Spilled Blood. It was constructed at the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated.

Ironically Alexander was a notable reformer. One of his major accomplishments was freeing the serfs. On the day of his assassination he had authorized a constitutional commission. Had he lived, the Russian Revolution may not have happened.

After his death, however, his son, Alexander III, repudiated any constitutional leanings. He signaled his traditional preferences by building this traditional Russian church in the midst of a city that Peter the Great and his successors had worked to construct.

Any baby steps toward freedom have stopped.

Unfortunately we didn't get to go inside. It is supposed to be gorgeous.

St. Isaacs, Petersburg

We did visit St. Isaacs cathedral, which was adjacent to the hotel.

St. Isaac

This is a mosaic image of St. Isaac, which is part of the iconostasis. The original icons were removed after the Russian revolution and the cathedral was turned into a museum of atheism!

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the building was restored. It is used for special religious services, but its primary function is again as a museum.

St. Isaacs Iconostasis The iconostasis is composed of mosaics and columns made of malachite and lapis lazuli.

The altar behind the iconostasis contains a stained glass figure of Christ.

The symbolism of the iconostasis is complex and apparently varies from region to region. Although it appears that it is a "wall" that separates the altar from the believers, it really is considered to link them.

This was our final tour stop for the day. The following day we visited the Hermitage in the morning and then departed for our long bus ride to Karelia.

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