Peter the show-off

Peter the 1st was a visionary ruler, without a doubt one of Russia’s most influential tzar/emperors of all times. It is not by coincidence that he is commonly referred to as Peter the Great.

There are a lot of people who dislike the idea of buying and wearing used clothes. Some can afford to be picky and never buy or drive a used car. Peter the Great didn’t want to live in a used capital. That (*maybe*) is he decided to build Russia a brand new Capital, which we now call Saint Petersburg. All joking aside, Saint Petersburg in the intention of the emperor was, and definitely turned out to be, Russia’s window onto Europe and the base port for the new formidable Baltic fleet. Peter the Great was also a good naval and marine architect and he was directly involved in the planning, the design and the building of both the new capital and the new fleet, while ruling over the largest empire on earth at the time.

But, let’s admit it, it was also quite a show-off. After having spent two years in Europe in incognito (well, sort of) , once he returned to Russia not only he wanted to modernise his country and put to good use what he learned “in the West”, but he also wanted to build palaces to dazzle all foreign dignitaries. The “crown jewel” was Peterhof, also known as the summer palace and sometimes referred to as the “Russian Versailles”, a fact that would undoubtedly please Peter, as he wanted his residence and gardens to rival those of the French king.

To me, the most spectacular part of the complex is that of the “lower gardens”: over 1 square kilometer of gardens, smaller palaces, cascades, fountains, waterworks and even water games, which Peter used to entertain and prank his guests. Perhaps the greatest technological achievement of Peterhof is that all of the fountains operate without the use of pumps. Water is supplied from natural springs and collects in reservoirs in the Upper Gardens. The elevation difference creates the pressure that drives most of the fountains of the Lower Gardens. The notable exception is the centerpiece of all fountains: the Samson Fountain, which is supplied by a special aqueduct, over four km in length, drawing water and pressure from a high-elevation source allowing it to shoot a 20-metre-high vertical jet of water from the lion’s mouth, the highest in all of Peterhof.

And this brings us back to Peter being a show-off. Why did he choose Samson to be the main character of the palace’s fountains? The fountain is loosely inspired from a famous painting depicting the moment when Samson tears open the jaws of a lion. The lion is an element of the Swedish coat of arms and it is in a way Peter bragging about and reminding everyone of Russia’s victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War. To his defence (beside the fact that he was an emperor and he could, literally, do anything and everything as he pleased)  one of the great victories of the war was won on St Samson’s Day, and the statue could (also) represent the occurrence.

Photo tip: when the sun is shining there is enough light to shorten the exposure time to as fast as your camera shutter will go (the picture above was shot at 1/8000th of a second). This freezes the water droplets in the air, creating a sort of “glittering curtain” that can hide any less than-ideal background. By the way, if any of you has one of those new Fujifilm X or Sony Alpha 9 cameras that boos a 1/32.000 of a second electronic shutter speed, I would love to see what effect that has on water!

You can see today’s picture in larger format and higher quality at The World Photos.

If you want to experience more of Russia’s beauty and history, visit new places or even the most “classic” ones, but with a new twist, do get in touch and we will make it happen!



3 thoughts on “Peter the show-off

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  1. You take us to so many wonderful places with your blog! 🙂 Next time you are in Russia do get in touch and we can organise some exploring of interesting places together!
    In the meantime consider subscribing to the blog, so you can discover other interesting places and facts about “the largest country on Earth” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh how wonderful of you Nick. I’d like to explore more of Russia and will surely get in touch with you. I’d go back to St Petersburg in a heart beat! I am enjoying your blog! very informative and great photography! your blog is now pinned in my favorite tab 🙂 thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

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