Monday, June 30, 2014

Baltics ... St. Petersberg Day 2 ... 02 June2014

Day 2 in St Petersberg started with a rain. It was raining since last night   and it was so cold. But all of us woke up and got ready on time to start the tour.

          The bus and the guides were already waiting for us at the terminal.  The smiles on their faces really brightened up the gloomy weather. 

           Our first stop was a boat ride along the Neva River. So, because we were such a large group, we were  given a boat for ourselves. So, private!  Woohooo! We enjoyed the boat ride very much. Although it rained, well at that time it was drizzling, we managed to take photographs of the buildings along the river and that was how we found out how big the Hermitage was! No wonder we were so tired yesterday! But we survived. 


          We hopped off the boat to take the Hydrofoil ride. What is a hydrofoil? It is a high speed boat with the hydrofoil elements below the hull which can develope enough lift to raise the hull up and out of water. The result is that the boat will not have to drag the hull and this will make it move faster and less fuel usage!  The Hydrofoil dropped us at Peterhof..... and it rained ..... Lucky us..... SPB supplied us with ponchos.... that helped us from  getting wet!

          Peterhof Palace is a series of palaces and gardens located in St Petersberg which was laid out by the orders of Peter the Great. I am sure people of my era or earlier are familiar with the son Delilah....... Well, one of the fountains laid a statue( a replica actually when the original was looted by the Germans during their invasion in the Second World War) of Samson tearing opened the mouth of a lion( the Swedish Coat of Arms) which symbolized the victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War.  



          What impressed me most was the fountains built here were operated without the usage of pumps. How did they do it? Well, water is supplied from the springs and collected in reservoirs in the Upper Garden. The elevation difference creates the pressure that drives the fountains in the Lower Garden, including of the Great Cascade. But the Samson Fountain is supplied by a special aqueduct over 4kilometer in length drawing water and pressure  from a high elevation source to be able to create a 20m high vertical jet of water out from the mouth of the lion!  

          The walk from the jetty to The Grand Peterhof Palace and the Grand Cascade was quite a distance. But the view is so magnificient and spectacular as we passed through the garden. If only the rain stopped, we would have walk to the Lower Garden where the beautiful fountain is situated and then to the Upper Garden. So we did not see much , only the nearest place under the shade at the Great Cascade but from the explainations by the guides gave us good imaginations of the surroundings. When I got back home, I checked through the internet to get more informations regarding this special place. I will be back to see more of it! 
Grand Peterhof Palace and the Grand Cascade

          We had a very good lunch. We were served with Vegetarian Fried Rice and a big chunk of fried fish. Everybody enjoyed their lunch very much. 

          After lunch, it was still drizzling, we were then taken to the district of  Pushkinsky which is about 24 kilometers south of St Petersberg.  It was an estate with houses and gardens. Founded in 1710 as a residence for imperial family and visiting nobility  and known as Tsarkoye Selo (Royal Village). This estate was a gift from Peter the Great to his wife Catherine the Great who was the future Empress then. It was her who developed the estate with the help of her daughter Elizabeth and her architect into a royal residence. She  extended the palace building and is now known as Catherine Palace. In 1808, it   received a status as a town and it became a popular place of summer among the nobility  The name Pushkin was used to comemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of a Russian poet Alexander Puskin who was also known as the founder of modern literature in Russia.

  Below is the famous love poem wrote by Alexander Pushkin for his lover Anna Petrovna Kern in July 1825. 

Alexander Pushkin

I keep in mind that magic moment:
When you appeared before my eyes
Like ghost, like fleeting apparition,
Like genius of the purest grace.

In torturous hopeless melancholy,
In vanity and noisy fuss
I’ve always heard your tender voice
I saw your features in my dreams.

Years passed away, and blasts of tempests
Have scattered all my previous dreams,
And I forgot your tender voice,
And holy features of your face.

In wilderness, in gloomy capture
My lonely days were slowly drawn:
I had not faith, no inspiration,
No tears, no life, no tender love.

But time has come, my soul awakened,
And you again appeared to me
Like ghost, like fleeting apparition,
Like genius of the purest grace.

My heart again pulsates in rapture,
And everything arouse again:
My former faith, and inspiration,
And tears, and life, and tender love.


          There were so many rooms in the palace which were decorated differently from one another. They have The Great Hall, The Potrait Hall, Green Dining Room, The Drawing Room and the reproduced of Amber Room. Why reproduced? Well in 1941 when Pushkin was occupied by the Germans, destroying and ploundering many historic monuments, buildings and many cultural artifacts plus The Amber Room was included. After the war, many rooms in the palace was destroyed   Russian rebuilt and reproduced the palace. The ceilings were drawn and painted. The walls were covered with paintings by some famous artists inclusive of  Rembrant and Monet.  



          (.....The palace was used as barracks and for target practice. Before retreating, the Germans set the palace ablaze (Edmund Stevens, Russia Is No Riddle, Kessinger Publishing, 2005, page 184). After the Soviets retook Tsarkoe Selo, ' the Catherine Palace presented a terrible scene. The Great Hall, The Picture Gallery and the Gala Staircase had all collasped. The Amber Room had been stripped and the gala rooms gutted by  a fire. A most terrible site was Ratsrelli's vista of golden doorways, now reduced to raw bricks laden with snow. Cameron's classic suite of rooms was not destroyed but had been much vandalised", etc. Quoted from Christopher Morgan, Irina Orlova. Saving the Tsar's Palaces. Polperro Heritage Press, 2005, Page 74.....)....source WIKIPEDIA.

One of German missiles found in the cellar of the Catherine Palace in 1944

          We really enjoyed the visit to Catherine Palace. After being told about the history, the occupations and ruins done by the Germans who used this place as their headquaters for 900 days....the damaged done was absolutely unthinkable! Catherine Palace was left stripped naked and roofless. Some of the artifacts were found but the gold and amber which was stripped from the palace were never to be seen. Luckily, this nation has money and experts who worked hard to restore to the nearest  original look. The restorations is an on going process. 

          When we left the palace, deep inside, I knew that this visit was not enough. I did learn World History but we did not touch much about this nation. I hope to read and learn more about them. I believe that our YESTERDAY is very important. It made us the kind of people we are today, how we think and how we behave. History is very important..... we learnt a lot from the past but somehow rather we tend to forget or overlooked and  make the same mistakes over and over again. Well, that shows we are human. hahahhaha...

          Come back to Catherine Palace.....There were so much more to see. This palace is huge and the collections of paintings and artifacts is a lot! I hope to revisit someday. As we walk to the bus, it was still drizzling. The smell of the grilled corn reminded us of the food back home....... hungryyyyy.......

          When we arrived at the port, after two days spending time with our guides Elena and Kate, we felt sad to depart. Then came Vika to thanked us and to say goodbye. It was a very touching moment for me especially to leave my new found friends behind. Goodbye my friends and goodbye St Petersberg!