Running hot and cold (and hot again) travel blog

Kevin in the linden tree grove

The main lot of fountains

More fountains

The guides at the secret spray section of the garden

The squirrel

I thought I might get some new work skills but alas we...

The double headed eagle, sceptre, crown etc.

Today I learnt that st Petersburg has had more name changes than I've had hot dinners.

It started off as St Petersburg, then Petrograd, then Leningrad and then back to st Petersburg. It was named fate the saint, not the Tzar.

Peterhof, however, where we went today was named after Peter the 1st.

We drove out of the city with our eyes popping out over the endless block after block and not just against the highway, but back to the horizon of apartment buildings. We saw not just trolley cars but trams as well. Interesting that the further out of the city the older the trams got. Right out in the burbs the trams were bloody ancient! I get the feeling that the city likes to think of itself as quite modern, cosmopolitan.

Peterhof is about an hour out of town, and it was a beautiful drive with all of the autumn leaves falling. Most of the trees are beech, but there are also many many linden trees which is the origin of my name.

Peterhof was the site Peter chose for a summer palace as it was discovered that there were significant amounts of underground water under pressure which meant he could make fountains that used gravity to feed them and that they would spray very high into the air. He was a bit of a fun loving guy amongst other things, and was so fascinated by the water that he made little tricks in the huge gardens whereby if you walked past a certain spot in the garden the garden would burst forth spraying you with water. Dunno how given he didn't have sensors or anything.

The palace was awe inspiring. Way past opulent. Surprising this palace didn't let us take any photos anywhere and we had to wear little disposable booties. It was so weird that you could do almost anything in the hermitage with those irreplaceable paintings. I'm a bit puzzled by that.

It was an interesting place, made more so by our guide who is a walking encyclopaedia. She is brilliant. The garden and fountains are immense, and again linden trees planted enmasse in formal groves. In Russia they rake up the leaves every day because it's considered lazy or neglectful not to, sort of disrespectful. So people were swarming around trying to get the leaves up, it's also considered dangerous because of the density of leaves rotting down, wet and slippery.

We had lunch in a cafe called the orangerie which was an outbuilding on site. Afterwards we walked down to Mon Plaisir, same site but overlooking the Finnish Coast which was Peter's hideaway from the world. Apparently he loved to be down near the water looking across to Finland. Today was such crappy wet, freezing, foggy/misty weather all we could see were the big cargo tankers moving along the Finnish Coast.

I was grateful of the big coat today and David and Kevin were also rugged up.

The boys went off on a separate bit of a walk and I walked back up a gentle slope with the old girls when we saw a squirrel. I've never seen one before as far as I remember. It didn't seem scared, it was quite close. For some reason I thought they be bigger. Not as big as a possum but a bit bigger than it was. I got a few shots and one is pretty good. I have a couple of shots that show where the little bugger was.... It moved so fast... Like the road runner... I have photos just of leaves, not even a bit of his tail. Gone in a nano second. Anyway, the couple I got were good.

We left the summer palace and headed back towards town. Mysteriously there was a toilet stop... The first one ever... And.... You guessed it. A tourist shopping opportunity. In euros!

We can't figure that out... We thought that only roubles were legal tender here. Free tea and coffee, and vodka... We assumed to soften us up.. I don't think they got much out of us though.

We then headed to the fort of Peter and Paul, including the cathedral of Peter and Paul as well. Unfortunately the cathedral was closed but we had a good walk around the fort, and then were able to go into the wax museum instead. That was great. I've never been into a wax museum before. They had Putin there, with long hair and hippy clothes which is how he used to be, according to Tatiana. He was unmistakable. Catherine was a fine looking woman who had a twinkle in her eye, and it sounds like there was good reason. She had a series of favorites over the years who must have kept her very satisfied. They had a museum of torture instruments but we didn't go in there. We got back late to the hotel with only the shortest amount of time to get ready for the ballet. Swan lake. What could be better? Ballet in St Petersburg at the Hermitage museum.

It was very beautiful. Rita had organised it perfectly. The taxi took us right to the door. It was free seating and we were there early enough to get really really good seats. In the taxi I saw the girls had brought their cameras. I asked about it. They said Rita told them that we could take photos. I was at the same time disbelieving and dismayed as I'd left mine in the hotel. Why on earth would we be allowed to take photos at the ballet? Anyway, figuring that I would use my mobile as a phone I calmed myself down, still disbelieving. We got to the theatre and at the cloakroom their cameras were confiscated. Big signs everywhere. Smugly I said nothing out loud internally I was saying lots of things. However in the theatre it was a different story. Cameras everywhere. We all used our phones to take pictures of the theatre and settled down to a magic performance. It was beautifully set. At the opening of the third act out came the cameras, we were all trying to look at the swans through cameras and camera light. How rude and disrespectful. Including a shutterbug behind us and a guy videoing on his phone in front. Big cameras right at the front. Grumpy Lynne had a go at the guy in front. He turned his off. She was the main one who was ready to do it herself with the massive big camera that had been confiscated. So we saw Swan Lake.. I'm glad we did.

Rita texted re the cab arrangements. It went like clockwork. The red cab with the Bunnik sign was right there. We jumped in, he brought us home. Perfect. Exhausted and happy we said goodnight.

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