Peterhoff, the Summer Palace
Trip Start May 10, 2012
28Trip End May 27, 2012
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Natalia picked us up at 10:00am to go to Peterhoff. It was another beautiful day. We have been so blessed with incredible
weather the past few days, comfortably warm and lots of sunshine. As we headed out of the city towards our
destination we saw several pretty sites – churches and other buildings. I have been impressed by the amount of
construction going on – public works projects all over town, renovation of
commercial buildings and new construction.
The economy in the cities we have been in seems to be reasonably
dozens and dozens of large apartment complexes with thousands of apartments or
flats as Natalia would say in her King’s English. The traffic was moderately heavy at mid
morning. The traffic is wild in St.
Petersburg. Drivers have to be pretty
aggressive to get anywhere. Large
trucks, busses and black Mercedes seem to get the right-of-way. We have seen some pretty fancy cars besides
Mercedes including BMW, Infinity, Lexis, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Bentley. There are tons of merges from 3 lanes to 2
and 2 lanes to one. Again, the most
aggressive driver seems to win position and that is accepted practice. They just dive in front of you even if they
only have 2-3ft. Yes, they do use their
horns but mostly in traffic jams when the intersection is blocked and the light
nothing happens. Pedestrians have the
right-of-way but only in a crosswalk when they have a green light. In the cities there are signal lights for
pedestrians but you have to be careful as there are multiple sets of lights
when the streets are divided. If the
green pedestrian light begins to flash you have about 2 seconds to stay
alive. If cars are turning into the
street where you are crossing, you again need to watch. The cars will yield to foot traffic but if
they get an opening they are off in a flash.
We arrived at Peterhoff, the Summer Palace for the Russian
Czars and Czarinas. We found a parking
place and headed out into the bright sun through a long line of outdoor vendor
booths selling all kinds of trinkets and souvenirs
thanks to electronics. The palace is up
on a slight rise or hill. There is an
upper garden in the English style with straight rows of manicured trees,
hedges, etc. The lower garden was
renaissance style. We visited the palace
first. I can’t imagine something being
more opulent. They say it is patterned
after Versai in France, which I have not seen.
Gold is everywhere, each room is different and patterned after some
exotic place including the orient. The furnishings
again were incredible – inlaid with wood, tile, glass and semi-precious
stone. There were beautifully carved
wood chairs and table legs. Photos were
not allowed and there were photo Nazis all around just waiting to pounce
to give you some idea. It is a place
that defies description. If I had photos
of the interior they would not come close to seeing it in person. The palace was not lived in but served as a
meet and greet place for the royal family.
They actually lived in smaller palaces down by the sea. After we toured the palace we walked the
lower gardens and the unbelievable array of fountains and gardens. All the fountains were different and
beautiful. For those who don’t know,
there is not a single pump of any kind servicing the fountains. It is an engineering feat and all run on
gravity pressure. There is a higher area
above the palace and various reservoirs that supply the volume and pressure
needed. There is a great flow of water and it all flows into the central canal
and into the sea
at its best.
We hustled back to the hotel for a quick change of clothes
and Natalia delivered us to another palace in the city to see the Russian Folk
and Dance show. We arrived just as the doors were opened and we took our seats
dead center of the stage 2nd row.
The first act was a male quartet singing pure Russian style – big, full,
lots of vibrato and a small dynamic plan other than loud. The voices were tremendous. They wore traditional Russian folk
clothing. They had a very nice lyrical
tenor. As soon as they came on the stage
I recognized the bass from a Russian group that participated in the Barbershop
Festival with us 5 years ago. We talked
to him at the intermission
didn’t remember me but he spoke English and we were able to carry on a
conversation. I asked if his group sang
any barbershop and he simply said something to the effect that they didn’t
enjoy the style. We thanked him for the
conversation and we headed back into the hall for the second half. He caught up to me, gave me a CD and told me
they would love to come to the US and do 6-8 gigs over 2 weeks. Apparently they have performed in several
countries but not the US. He assured me
that the contact information was with the CD.
At the intermission they had chamber players playing out in the grand
staircase and they served, caviar, appetizers, fruit and vodka. What a deal!
The dancers were so energetic with all the folk songs they did. They do this show like 5 days a week,
especially from May to October
players all have their stuff memorized and everything comes off without a
hitch. Consistent performing will make
any group better but these folks were certainly pros. They were in superb physical condition,
including the voice, to do the acrobatics, the humorous plays, singing and the
dance steps themselves. It was non-stop
action as shown by the lack of photos.
Every time I tried to take a picture they would be in motion again. We were told in about 5 different languages
that videotaping was not allowed. I
think everyone but one little old lady in sitting right in front of us. She slouched down in her chair and taped nearly
all the dances. Pretty sneaky gal.
When the show was over we walked to the Stroganoff Steak
House for a late dinner. Guess what, we
all had stroganoff and it was delicious.
We caught a bus part way back and walked the rest of the way, stopping
only to buy an ice cream bar. We hit the
pillow hard again.