Quite Restrained Really

Visited Petrodvorets today – Peter the Great‘s summer getaway, orginally located so he could watch his navy being built. It’s a sprawling place, with gardens, fountains and several palaces. You can reach the site by bus or train, but the most thrilling option (and that’s strictly relative) is by (Soviet-era) hydrofoil. Similar to my recollections of hovercraft travel, they’re an odd mix of ship and airplane construction. On the calm waters around St Petersburg, they move smoothly over the water, with a steady rumble but nothing like the din of hovercraft.1


The gardens are mostly trees, not flowers (for climatic reasons?) and rather pleasant; they’re able to accomodate the really large numbers of tour groups the site attracts. The centrepiece is an elaborate fountain arrangement ascending to the hugely gilded main palace – this is impressive, but also absolutely swarming with people. Much nice is Monplaisir, Peter’s original brick and wood-panelled residence, right on the waterfront, where apparently he used to ‘entertain’ guests by forcing them to drink vast quantities of alcohol.2


The weather turned from showers and cloud on the previous days to glorious sunshine – this made the gardens much more pleasant but led to sunburn. Ooops.

  1. And no signs of impending structural mishap, thankfully []
  2. As with all such references to Peter I’ve seen, my opinion is totally coloured by Neal Stephenson’s portrayal of him in the Baroque Cycle – the problem is the historical facts seem to correspond quite accurately. []
Posted Saturday, June 7th, 2008 under history, travel.

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