In 1703, Peter the Great (1672-1725) moved the capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg where the city was built on a series of islands in the Neva River. (The city was named in honor of St. Peter, not its founder as is often assumed.) However, the river near the capital was too shallow for commercial traffic or warships, necessitating the construction of a fortress and port further west. Peter designed a palace complex at Peterhof, on the Gulf of Finland, including his beloved summer retreat Monplaisir. From this strategic location, he could see the Kronstadt fortress as well as the city of St. Petersburg.
Peterhof is approximately an hour from St. Petersburg by car or ferry. We drove there and ferried back, which gave us another great perspective of the city. Visitors approaching the Grand Palace from the main gates pass by numerous water features and fountains.
Peter the Great traveled several times to Europe and much of Peterhof is modeled on Versailles, which he visited in 1717.There are 64 fountains in the Grand Cascade alone, seen above and below welcoming visitors who arrived by sea.
The view over the Samson Fountain and Grand Cascade down to the Gulf of Finland is all the more impressive when you realize that all the fountains are supplied by water from natural springs and operate without any pumps.
I could have spent hours watching the fountains and the people enjoying them. We were lucky to catch them still operating, as they are shut down from October to May.
Up next: Catherine the Great had her own summer palace at Tsarkoe Selo. Stay tuned!