Every year since the first grade, my school would take us on a field trip to Petergof. Thousands of paintings, 24K gold gilded furniture, statues, tapestries, and old chinaware, everything dated back to the seventeenth century. I remember really thinking about it: 400 years ago, Peter the Great walked these same steps.
I imagined myself a part of it. As I walked through the grand galleries and ballrooms, as a 6th grader, I imagined myself sitting next to Peter the Great. He was working on his model ships or creating mock battles from his toy army. He was better than me at strategy and manipulation, but I would stick up for him when the other neighborhood kids would make fun of his height and small head. We were good first grade friends.
As we grew older, I stayed in Russia, but Peter travelled the world. He would tell me about his many, great adventures in Europe and bring me back a painting or two. And, it was my influence that began the construction of Petergof. Peter needed a place that would be his first stop back from Europe. He needed a somewhere to spend the summers. Peter was not an architect or a construction expert by any means; but he did draw some sketches on a napkin. I told him that it needed to be on the shore, so that he could have his ships. Thankfully, he listened and built Petergof on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland, and it became known as the “Window of Europe”.
Things have changed. I now know that my childhood imagination had the tendency to run away from me, but history still gives me a thrill. I have visited hundreds of chateaus, palaces and estates through out the world, but the characters of Petergof have left an unforgettable memory. The artwork and architecture of Petergof tell the remarkable story of an amazing man.
Next stop in the Travel Journal is Moscow. Stay Tuned!