Often referred to as Russia’s Versailles, Peterhof’s gardens offered us a picturesque spot through which to stroll during our visit to St. Petersburg earlier this month.
Under shadows cast by heavily-gilded cupolas, we were brusquely ushered through the grandiose palace complex past faces from all walks of life. When we crossed paths with artists dressed in Baroque garb, we tried to imagine Peterhof in its heyday shortly after its commissioning by Peter the Great in the 18th-Century.
And then we tried visualize the depths of its destruction at the hands of Nazi occupiers between 1941-1944. Reconstruction work and regular maintenance continues to this day.
We found the elegant gardens and cast of characters to be of the most interest as they brought life to the prim palace…
There were Russian school-children visiting the UNESCO-registered complex for the first time, yet some seemed more interested in games of hide & seek than in the ornate architecture.
There were brides that resembled delicately-painted matryoshka dolls.
And aggressive salesmen, peddling matryoshka dolls, wooden structures with Eastern Orthodox spires and Siberian cashmere shawls. Some expressions evoked Cold War intrigue.
With the Red Scare running both ways…