The Fountains at Peterhof

The Fountains at Peterhof

We took a boat ride to Peterhoff – the palatial complex built by Peter the Great after his victory over the Swedes. The grounds and palaces are built right on the Gulf of Finland; this was where Peter liked to relax and entertain.

The palaces of Peterhoff have many whimsical features, which give them a vaguely comic character, like something out of Alice in Wonderland. Here’s an example.

There is a fabulous complex of fountains on the hillside that precedes the palace (check out the picture!). The fountains are plated in real gold, and show mythological and biblical figures; the center fountain shows Samson ripping apart a lion. Ornamental stairs ascend the hillside toward the palace; water streams over them into the central pool. These stairs are decorated with ornate pictures of green velvet overlaid with metalwork. Small fountains are spaced evenly along the width of the hillside.

Above the main fountain complex the hillside has been chiseled into a platform;

The Trick Fruit Bowl

The Trick Fruit Bowl

this is tiled into a black and white checkerboard. The platform opens into a cave which is marked on the tourist map as “the grottoes”. Inside, golden statues stand along the walls of the cave, and in the center of the room, like a great secret treasure, is a bowl of fruit on a polished stone table. Every now and then a stream of water flows over the entrance to the cave, blocking access to it. This increases the impression that it is a “secret” cave, a hidden chamber. The golden statues and polished table at the center of the room seem purposeful and mysterious.

But the whole room, with its impressive air, is a prank! The bowl and table are a trap; the table edge erupts into a fountain if anyone removes a fruit from the bowl.

 

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