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Peterhof: More Than Just the ‘Versailles’ of Russia

Peterhof enchants tourists on a St Petersburg holiday. Considered the “Russian Versailles” for its array of grand palaces, impressive gardens, and decorative fountain, it was built upon the orders of Peter the Great, whose original straightforward design was added to over the next 300 years.

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Standing majestically in the middle of Peterhof’s Lower Gardens is the Grand Palace. The park’s main attraction, the beige and white palace is an exhibition of Bartolomeo Rastrelli’s elegant and restrained exterior style, coupled with a surprisingly lavish interior design. An ornate Ceremonial Staircase welcomes tourists inside the palace, which has numerous golden statues and striking paintings. Twelve huge paintings depicting the Battle of Chesma adorn Chesma Hall, while Chinese landscape paintings hang from the East and West Chinese Cabinets. The Throne Room sparkles with its stunning white-and-turquoise design, as does the heavily gilded ballroom. The Chinese showcases the best of Oriental pieces -- from its red and green walls to its Chinese tea set. Other palace attractions include the Drawing Room, featuring fine silk hangings, and the Crown Room, the once “Imperial bedchamber.”

The Grand Cascade is an imposing combination of fountains and bronze sculptures below the Grand Palace. Running from the palace to the Marine Canal, it is made up of 64 fountains, accentuated by over 200 statues and bas-reliefs. The statue of Samson wrestling a lion is a spectacular sight at the centre of the Grand Cascade. The Grotto hides the pipes and plumbing that run the fountains.

The Lower Gardens also have formal, French-style fountains. Among them are “The Sun” fountain, a disk that shoots water out from its edges and rotates on a vertical axis, resembling the sun. Other fountains promise an afternoon of playful water fun. Two gangly trees spray water at approaching visitors, guaranteeing squeals of delight from the unwary. Another fountain, a replica of umbrella with a bench set, “drops a curtain of water” when someone tries to take a seat, a sure source of laughter and fun-filled memories.

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