St. Petersburg: Peterhof

Tsar Peter I’s efficiency, perhaps more than anything else, made him “Great.” The first royal residence, a summer palace christened “Monplaisir” or “My Pleasure,” broke ground in 1714. Throughout his reign, Peter continued to add to the original Braunstein structure. First Jean-Baptiste LeBlonde and then Niccolo Michetti converted this simple residence into a Baroque shoreline treasure, and after Peter’s death, it became a private museum dedicated to his memory. On the bluff, Elizabeth, Peter’s daughter, commissioned Bartolomeo Rastrelli to create an extravagant Baroque building during her reign called the Grand Palace. As with all of Elizabeth’s works, it is a representation of Romanov wealth. Among the fountains, the most famous of these is the Samson Fountain, depicting the Greek hero tearing apart the mouth of a lion (a representation of Peter’s defeat of the Swedes, who used a lion as their emblem). However, the greatest attraction at Peterhof is the Grand Cascade, extending downward from Samson toward the Baltic Sea. The artistic achievement of the Peterhof is a must-see St. Petersburg attraction, but be forewarned, touring it can easily take the better part of a day.