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I've noticed in recent posts by other bloggers that Russia is finally entering spring. Snow is quickly melting, being replaced by water puddles. I've already written that I love freezing temperatures and snow, so Russian winter was a highlight of the trip for me. The beauty and serenity of clean snow was most vividly experienced during a day trip to Peterhof. Admission was free and the grounds were mostly deserted. There's something peaceful about wandering these grounds in the absence of huge tourists crowds. The temperature was very cold on the day we visited and snow continually fell, adding to the winter wonderland atmosphere.

1. Quick background for American friends and family. Peterhof is a series of palaces, gardens and majestic fountains created during Peter the Great's reign. It was ravaged by German troops during World War II, but military engineers and thousands of volunteers restored most of Peterhof's main structures by 1947.

Peterhof is often called the "Russian Versailles." I've visited both but cannot really make a comparison because the Grand Palace and other parts of Peterhof were closed off during winter. In fact, the Grand Palace was entirely covered by a tarp and it's my understanding major renovations are taking place. We entered Peterhof at the Upper Gardens by the Neptune Fountain, which was constructed in Germany in the 17th Century. During the war, occupying troops dismantled the composition and removed the fountain to Germany. However, it was later recovered and reinstalled in Peterhof. In winter there's absolutely no activity with the fountain. It's simply sitting there covered in snow.


2. It's immediately clear that the grounds are immaculately maintained. All trees perfectly aligned and manicured, even when they are bare.


3. One of the cathedrals on the grounds but it was closed.


4. Stunning landscapes of snow and ice-covered trees and branches.


5. All paths completely clear, even though it seemed we were the only ones walking them.


6. I'm not sure why some trees are wrapped for protection during winter and others aren't? Does anyone know?


7. My favorite view is here by the bridge.


8. Peterhof also is memorable because it's the first time I saw a massive body of water completely frozen. We were simply walking along a path and Sasha asked "guess what this is?" Well, it looked like a field of snow to me but I knew there must be another answer. I initially guessed it was a snow covered flower garden. Then I said "water?" Yes! It's the Gulf of Finland. I know it's common place for Russians to see bodies of water completely frozen and covered in snow, but to a foreigner this is amazingly cool. To walk out on a frozen body of water is really thrilling - at least to me! :)


9. On the way back to the city we made a quick stop in Kronstadt, a municipal town and one of St. Petersburg's main sea ports. During World War II it was the base of the Baltic Fleet and primary training center for the Soviet Navy. We saw lots of young men in naval uniforms during our visit. So handsome but I didn't have my camera ready to snap a photo. If I recall, there's still a Naval Academy/University of some sorts in the town.


10. Kronstadt was founded in the early 1700's by guess who? Peter the Great! There's a nice monument in his honor in the town square.


11. Very grey, snowy and foggy day when we visited. But here's another view of the frozen Gulf of Finland. See the footsteps? I'm not the only one walking on these frozen waterways. I remember in Hare Island tons of couples and families doing the same on the Neva River.


12. Some docked ships in the fog.


13. Like Peterhof, Kronstadt was mostly deserted but a few other tourists. I'm not sure from which country.


14. Away from the water sits the beautiful Naval Cathedral. Stunning colors! The Cathedral was constructed from 1903 - 1913 and served as the main church of the Baltic Fleet. It is dedicated to all fallen seamen. Soviets closed the Cathedral in 1929 and it was used for several decades as government offices and later as a museum. However, in 2009 a board of trustees was established to restore the Cathedral and former President Medvedev and his wife attended a formal consecration and reopening in April 2012.


I'm not sure if Kronstadt is a common tourist destination, but I enjoyed the brief tour. And if I visit St. Petersburg in summer I'll be sure to visit Peterhof again. Though I'm certain there are massive crowds during this time.

Next week I'll write about Novgorod and an ethnic Ukrainian neighborhood in Chicago. Here in DC spring time is in full force. This week we have temperatures around 30 Celsius. Everyone happy about the change in temperatures, but I'm constantly longing for cold.


( 68 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Deleted comment)
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I don't know this town Lomonosov. Maybe next time I can visit the region.
Apr. 18th, 2013 04:15 am (UTC)
If you like this type of "big palace surrounded by gardens" establishments, should check out the ones in Pushkin and Gatchina as well. Last one is a bit inland, thus sunnier in winter. I like these places more in winter too, when the weather is not too bad.

>> I know it's common place for Russians to see bodies of water completely frozen and covered in snow

Not if they live on the Black sea coast:)
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:32 pm (UTC)
I like the natural landscapes much better than the actual palaces.
Odessa... - xpo_xpo_xpo - Apr. 20th, 2013 05:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Odessa... - descolorio - Apr. 21st, 2013 12:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Odessa... - qi_tronic - Apr. 21st, 2013 07:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 18th, 2013 04:17 am (UTC)
How would you compare Sankt Petersburg to Stockholm?
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:33 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, I've never been to Sweden or any of the Nordic countries. But Iceland is a dream destination. :)
(no subject) - onkel_hans - Apr. 18th, 2013 06:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 18th, 2013 04:24 am (UTC)
Don't your Great Lakes get frozen during winter?

Edited at 2013-04-18 04:24 am (UTC)
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:34 pm (UTC)
They freeze but not completely. I cannot think of any major body of water in the States that completely freezes over. Maybe some large lakes in Alaska?
Apr. 18th, 2013 04:40 am (UTC)
Kronshtadt used to be a closed naval base up until about 15 years ago, and it still retains this "otherness", completely not like St.Petersburg, of which it is formally a part.
I remember visiting there in the early 90s, when one still needed a permit to enter the island. I was around 14 and I came along with a friend who's grandmother lived in Kronshtadt (children did not need a permit if accompanied by an adult with one). I felt like I was a spy, seeing a place that most people I knew could not.

And visit Peterhof in the summer. Versailles is not even close (I've seen both).
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:35 pm (UTC)
I didn't know you formally needed a permit to visit, thanks for the info.
(no subject) - new_forester - Apr. 18th, 2013 03:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 18th, 2013 03:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - new_forester - Apr. 18th, 2013 05:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - onkel_hans - Apr. 18th, 2013 06:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 18th, 2013 05:24 am (UTC)
>>why some trees are wrapped for protection during winter and others aren't? Does anyone know?

There are two reasons why conifers are wrapped:
1. To protect tree from the snow. Heavy snow can break branches.
2. To protect tree from the sunburn. During winter tree can't get enough water from the frozen ground. That's why sun (because of the photosynthesis) can make tree dry.
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:36 pm (UTC)
Well there's certainly a lot of heavy snow on the branches so the protective measures make sense. Thanks for the explanation.
Apr. 18th, 2013 06:19 am (UTC)
I suppose that Siberian frosts could be enjoyable for you)
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:36 pm (UTC)
Yes, sounds perfect! I hope I get the opportunity to visit Siberia one day.
(no subject) - maul - Apr. 20th, 2013 07:25 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 18th, 2013 07:08 am (UTC)
winter seems to be so far away... it is so beautiful on the pictures but for me this ism the hardest time of the year - i can hardly stand the cold.
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:37 pm (UTC)
Yes, I know I'm strange. I think very few people prefer winter but I'm happiest in this season. Most people like warmer temperatures.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:38 pm (UTC)
Maybe I can make it back to St. Petersburg this summer. And thanks for the beach photo in my other post. It's weird to see the water of the Neva River because it was completely frozen when I visited in February. The city must have a completely different feeling in summer.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the other park recommendations. The fountains are probably beautiful in summer.
Apr. 18th, 2013 12:02 pm (UTC)
Hey, fantastics pictures as usual.
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Peterhof
Thank you, glad you enjoyed!
Apr. 18th, 2013 01:29 pm (UTC)
Gorgeous photos! I feel the smell of this frosty morning! )
... and winter fog.)
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :)
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:45 pm (UTC)
Amazing photos! Especially the last. It reminds me how beautiful an Orthodox church can be.
And I really love your story, how you write about your individual impressions and cultural differences. Never knew it was something cool and unusual for an American - to walk over a frozen lake or river.
Have you saw the frozen Baikal lake? It's amazing and cool even for Russians ))
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:47 pm (UTC)
quick fix: especially the last _one_ :)
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 18th, 2013 03:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 18th, 2013 06:14 pm (UTC)
Perfect post! Thank you, so interesting to read your impressions and look at your photos!
You are always welcome back in Russia:)
Apr. 18th, 2013 06:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I hope you will share your impressions of America as well after your visit. If not in a post then to me personally. I too am curious of foreigner's perceptions of my country.
(no subject) - whiteeye - Apr. 18th, 2013 07:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 18th, 2013 07:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 19th, 2013 02:48 am (UTC)
Great pictures! But it seems to me that you have to visit St.Petersburg in summer in period of "white nights".
Apr. 19th, 2013 11:42 am (UTC)
This White Nights festival looks great! Maybe I can make it back in a few months. :)
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