Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Hey everybody! Today we took our first real excursion of the summer. We toured Peter the Great's summer palace at Peterhof, about an hour and half outside the city. While the palace itself is beautiful, Peterhof's main attraction is it's beautiful fountains, which I believe (if I heard the tour guide correctly, number somewhere close to two hundred. The main attraction is the Grand Cascade, which streams down from the front of the palace into a canal which flows into the Gulf of Finland. The main cascade is topped off by the fountain of Samson, a rather impressive fountain depicting a disturbingly large muscled (and excessively shiny) Samson wrenching open the jaws of a lion. The fountain was built to commemorate the Russian (represented by Samson) victory over the Swedes (represented by the lion) in the Great Northern War, in which one decisive battle (the name escapes me) took place on St. Samson's Day. Another similar fountain (this one another obscenely muscled man wrenching open the mouth of a sea monster) represents Russian dominance at sea. The grounds of the palace were beautiful, everywhere we went there were beautiful fountains, buildings, or churches, and the view of the Gulf of Finland was really something else. I had two parts of the tour that I really enjoyed. The first was a series of trick fountains. Apparently Peter, in addition to everything else, was quite the joker, who enjoyed playing tricks on his guests. As such, the grounds are filled with fountains disguised as benches, trees, tables, and even paths, meant to spray unprepared visitors as they walk by.
All in all today was a great today, Peterhof was beautiful, and it was great to spend time and get to know everyone on the trip a bit more. I bought my own bus ticket home, and made it back to the apartment in time to see the U.S. beat Algeria. It's odd to think that as I sat at my dinner table at 7:00 o'clock and watched the game in Russia, people at home were just starting their day.