Historic Splendor

View up the channel toward palace
Several weeks ago we took an excursion on a hydrofoil to a palace about ten miles southwest of St. Petersburg. On the shore of the Baltic Sea, Peterhof Palace was built by Peter the Great as a summer residence - a place to escape the heat of the city during the summer months. He planned the layout of the spacious gardens and numerous fountains in the early 1700s.
View from palace toward the sea

A visitor has to walk along a channel linking the ocean with the palace. Originally, the Sea Channel was built to access the palace by boat, but today it's part of the breath-taking view as you approach the palace.

Grand Cascade with palace chapel in background
Peter the Great built his summer home high on a bluff, planning the fountains that today grace the front of the building. The Grand Cascade, with its 64 fountains, open into the main fountain, where Samson battles the lion. In this fountain, designed by a Frenchman, water shoots from the lion's mouth twenty feet into the air.

This main fountain is set in the middle of the huge gardens surrounding the palace. Other parts of the garden also are decorated by beautiful fountains. We walked for several hours from one end of the gardens to the other and saw all these gorgeous fountains built in the 1700s.

Lion's Fountain
We were told that none of these fountains are powered by a pump. All the fountains spray water by force of gravity. The reservoirs built behind the palace hold the water needed for the fountains. The piping system underground connecting all the fountains works by gravity and the force of the water pushing through the pipes. The fountains are turned off every evening and the water builds up in the cisterns waiting to be opened again in the morning.

Pyramid Fountain
 The Pyramid Fountain is built with 505 pipes of different sizes. The smaller the pipe, the higher the spray rises because of the greater pressure behind it. The pipes around the outside of the pyramid were wider and thus the water only rose a couple inches. It was very fascinating.
Hermitage Pavilion

Also situated in the midst of the gardens, we saw the Hermitage Pavilion. Peter and some of his successors used this small building as a dining area outside of the palace. Surrounded by a tiny mote, the two-floor pavilion is only one room - a dining room.

The table was set and guests arranged around the table. Then the table and guests were pulled up to the second floor by servants using a pulley system. There were no stairs in the building to keep the servants on the floor below. This was done because the Czars wanted to speak to their guests without the servants hearing any of the secrets they discussed. It seemed to be a lot of trouble to go through just so the servants didn't listen in.

It was a beautiful day to see a wondrous place. 


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