Peterhof Gardens,a sight not to be missed

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May 26th 2009
Published: May 28th 2009
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Peterhof and St Petersburg,Russia

Tuesday 26th May
Peterhof Gardens, a sight not to be missed
It has been a day of mixed fortunes and highs and lows.First the highs and the low at the end of this blog.
One of the pleasures we have had on this trip is the ability to tune into Newstalk ZB via the laptop.It sure beats trying to understand the lingo on foreign TV channels.Of course you don’t get to listen to the usual talkback host you would at home at the local hour you are listening but that hasn’t worried us in St Petes because we wake up to Danny Watson the noon to 4pm host then pass onto Larry Williams and we go to bed with Mike Hosking the 6am to 8.30am host.The only one we haven’t heard so far is Leighton Smith as clearly his time slot in NZ is sleep time over here.
Anyway we were having brekkie listening to Larry talking about crushing the boy racer cars and getting involved in his talkback when we decided to email him with our thoughts from St Petersburg.
Well we never really expected to hear Larry read out our email but about 10 minutes after we had sent it with tuppence worth he read it out!!!We laughed and laughed,here we were on the other side of the world taking part in talkback radio in NZ.We had made comment about the lack of boy racers in Russia,or at least as far as we had seen,and he responded by agreeing with us in having their cars crushed on the first offence and added “that in Russia they would probably shoot the driver too!!”
What a small world it REALLY is!!
Gretchen,tour director,had another morning of walking planned and then this afternoon a canal ride making it all an easy day.
The day has been beautifully fine and a distinct lack of wind.While we have been here there has been a steady breeze each day which has taken the edge of the temperature although today promised mid 20’s for a high so it was short sleeve shirt time again although neither of us braved shorts.We have only seen one or two people in shorts and they looked like locals with vivid white legs!!Probably the result of living with little light or sunshine for a long period of the year.
First stop this morning was St Isaacs Cathedral a dominating building on the skyline from many areas of the downtown city area.We decided not to go inside and pay the R300 as we are all done on churches for the time being although it might have been worth it just to climb the 175 steps to a circular lookout built at the base of the huge dome.
Adjacent to the cathedral is a bronze statue of Peter the Great(again...he is very important to this city)riding a horse and defeating the enemy to commemorate one of the wars Russia has fought over the years.It is a much photographed statue with a lot of tourists taking up pose in front of Peter.
A stroll along the riverbank taking in the imposing Admiralty building was next.As we walked on we came across the hydrofoil jetty running ferries to Peterhof,an outer suburb we had read about.We hadn’t intended to go there but as it was such a grand day with bright sunshine we changed our minds and purchased our return tickets with the hydrofoil departing just after we boarded.
We had viewed one of these hydrofoils on the river the other day.It made quite a sight as it picks up speed with the bow lifting and stern dropping a bit like an aircraft taking off looks.
The hydrofoil speeds along at 60kph and did the distance down the river and across a little corner of the Gulf of Finland in 30 minutes.We were a bit surprised when the hydrofoil seemed to get up to top speed just after leaving the jetty and while still on the river with a lot of other ferry traffic around.We were too late getting on board to be in the front cabin where the best views probably were so have to be happy with the middle cabin.
Heading down the river we passed at least 4 small floating docks and numerous small freighters mot rather rusty buckets.The main port was further away although the cruiseport was close by and there were two cruise ships in for the day.
The Gulf was fairly calm and the ride was quite smooth although it was hard to imagine what the hydrofoil would ride like at 60kph if the sea was rough.On the way we saw a submarine amking for the channel plus a couple of cargo ships.
Before we knew it the loud diesel engines depowered and we pulled into the jetty at the Peterhof Gardens.After donating another R300 each we got our tickets to hand to the man standing next to the ticket office on the wharf.This is the reason why unemployment doesn’t appear to be aproblem in this country.
However while purchasing the tickets Gretchen had what was the first scam almost pulled on her.Now we had read and been warned of various scams that operate in Russia but we had,as far as knew,not been caught up in them in the 8 days we had been in the country so far.Gretchen had handed over a R1000 note and expected R400 with the tickets.But the woman selling the tickets kept on demanding another R100 obviously thinking that Gretchen had only given her R500 in the first place.
This was all so silly really because the stupid woman was holding our R1000 note in her hand all the time.!!!Gretchen stood her ground,as expected,and snatched the R1000 note back off her only to have the ticketseller do the same.A stand off appeared to be emerging.
In the end the woman gave up whatever notion she had of fleecing us of more money and gave Gretchen the tickets and the R400 in change.This was the first of two incidents that started to change our feelings of the time we have had in Russia.
The entrance to the gardens was very impressive with the multitude of trees in avenues looking just lovely with their new soft green leaves.At the end of the avenue leading up from the dock was a magnificent tier of waterfalls tumbling down from a small rise.It was just beautiful to behold and had everyone walking up from the dock snapping pictures.So much so that you had to get into the right position quickly when a gap became free.Russians do seem to take an age to take a photo even using a point and shoot camera.
We strolled along another avenue heading to more fountains in the distance.Gretchen has been on the lookout for squirrels since we arrived in Russia and here they were and so tame they came right up to you balanced on their hind legs and took the food offered.They even posed for pictures...most of the time.
There was a good size crowd walking through the gardens that really was a series of fountains or waterfalls all made for Peter the Great(there is that man again).To add to the scene the trees had all been pruned in various shapes and the gardens were full of tulips that didn’t look like they had been in flower for very long.
We saved the best waterfall until last and took a closeup look at the one we had viewed from a distance when we arrived.It was difficult finding the right spot where you didn’t have anyone in your shot to get the best picture and uninterupted video of the tiered waterfall.
We headed back to the city on the 2.30pm hydrofoil and again the front cabin was full and so was the middle one so we opted for the rear where the view out the window was a bit obscured by the spray the flying craft throws up at top speed.
It was at the conlusion of the return ride that the second incident for us of the day happened.We didn’t realise until we got back to the hotel and had had a short rest before preparing to go out for a canal trip and then dinner.
As we do before we head out we tend to remind each other if we have got the key,camera,waitbelts on etc.On checking Gretchens camera in her bag,it wasn’t there.A frantic search of the bedroom didn’t turn it up.So we thought back to when she last used it and it was to take a photo of Murray enjoying his first hydrofoil ride coming home.
So we headed back down to the hydrofoil jetty to see if someone had handed the camera in.No luck,so we walked back rather downcast back to the hotel thinking through what had happened on the boat coming back to the city.Gretchen recalled that when we queued up to get off the boat there was a guy behind her who kept on moving from side to side while the queue moved slowly forward.Had he unzipped her bag,which was across her body sitting on her hip, during the crush getting off the boat and taken the camera bag thinking it was a wallet?Or had it just been left behind on the boat?
She had the last two days photos on it which we had not downloaded but thankfully that was all.She had changed the card from the first 5 weeks of our trip two days ago when we put those 800 odd photos onto a DVD.WHEW!!!
So without the camera we went out again to find some dinner opting for a nice safe pizza and two large beers of a label we haven’t tried before(we must be up to about #8 by now in Russia)
We took the English commentary canal boat ride which was certainly preferable to the Russian version not only for the fact that we could understand what was being said but also the commentary level was more subdued than the Russian which booms out and you could tell when a canal boat was approaching simply by the noise from the commentator.
The trip was an hour long and covered all the sights we had seen from the 4 days we have been here but from a water perspective and with information that we hadn’t always picked up from the Lonely Planet or other brochures on the sights.With fine warm weather today it wasn’t too chilly even at 8pm when the trip started.
So at the end of the day we had had highs of the Peterhof and canal boat ride sightseeing but a low from losing or having the camera(and the loss of the last 2 days photos) stolen and now the need to replace it.


28th May 2009

Oh dear, sorry to hear about your losses! Lucky it was only two days of photos and nobody got hurt in its disappearance! I got a great deal on my new camera in London....there is a a street with cheap electronics shops on it so will ask Cormac where it was but from memory it was in the West End, not far off Oxford St.
29th May 2009

Gutted to hear about your camera - that really sux! Damn those Commies! Go for Tottenham Court Road in London (at the end of Oxford Street)...electronics shops galore and you're bound to find a great deal.

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