Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Monday, 11 May 2015

It's Good to be the Tsar

The Peterhof and Catherine's Palace

 This is our last night in the Grand Emerald Hotel in Saint Petersburg before moving on to Berlin. The room cost is 10,000 rubles a night, which sounded a lot better two months ago at 70 rubles to the dollar than the current 50.

 Our guide starts the day with a tour of the farmer's market.

They have good quantities of fish, cheese, meat, honey, fruit and vegetables.

 Next we view several of the beautiful subway stations which are highly decorated with art like the mosaic below.

 We take a Russian hyrdofoil to the Peterhof, a palace built by Peter the Great. Peterhof translates roughly to "Peter's yard". The gardens and fountains here are about 160 acres.

Peter's visits to the West impressed upon him the notion that European customs were in several respects superior to Russian traditions. He commanded all of his courtiers and officials to cut off their long beards, causing his Boyars, who were very fond of their beards, great upset. Boyars who sought to retain their beards were required to pay an annual beard tax of one hundred rubles. A Boyar was a member of the old aristocracy in Russia, next in rank to a prince.

Back then there were about 40 rubles to an ounce of gold, so today the beard tax would be about $3,000.

The fountains are powered by springs and reservoirs located at a height several meters higher than the springs themselves. Peter (1672–1725) the Great is best known for the extensive reforms he made attempting to establish Russia as a great nation. Peter was 6 feet 8 inches tall. He was a handsome man who drank too much and had violent tendencies. He secretly executed his oldest son for treason.

The grounds and fountains of Peterhof are very lovely. The palace was badly damaged by German occupation during the siege of Leningrad. It took many years to restore the palace to its former glory.

Peter acquired territory in Estonia, Latvia and Finland and access to the Black Sea by war with Turkey.  Peter also established the city of St. Petersburg on the Neva River and moved the capital there from its location in Moscow.

Next we move some distance to Catherine's palace.

The love life of Catherine has been widely discussed. The rumors of bestiality are apparently untrue.
However, Catherine apparently managed at least 12 lovers during her life.

Catherine had her husband, Peter III, strangled and subsequently took over his job and became the Empress of Russia.

According to Wiki:

The residence originated in 1717, when Catherine I of Russia hired German architect Johann-Friedrich Braunstein to construct a summer palace for her pleasure. In 1733, Empress Elizabeth commissioned Mikhail Zemtsov and Andrei Kvasov to expand the Catherine Palace. Empress Elizabeth, however, found her mother's residence outdated and incommodious and in May 1752 asked her court architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli to demolish the old structure and replace it with a much grander edifice in a flamboyant Rococo style. Construction lasted for four years, and on 30 July 1756 the architect presented the brand-new 325-meter-long palace to the Empress, her dazed courtiers, and stupefied foreign ambassadors.

Irina, our guide, points out this camera shot of the palace.

Over 100 kilos of gold were used in the facade of the's good to be the tsar....


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