This garden had been closed for renovation (or whatever the garden equivalent for that is) for a while and opened up again just a few days before we got here. It dates back to the early eighteenth century (one of Peter the Great’s many projects) and is lovely for a stroll, and the weather yesterday was perfect. Sunny but not hot. And it’s nice to get off the street. St. Petersburg’s sidewalks are, or at least significant sections of them are, paved with granite. It looks very nice and I’m sure it lasts, but, well – I saw one guy out jogging along Nevsky Prospect the other morning and all I could think was “ouch.” So walking on fine gravel for an hour or so was quite pleasant, in addition to all the other attractions of being in a public garden.
Plenty of other people had the same idea we did – one other intrepid tourist asked S very nicely to take a picture of her smelling one of the kraters of roses “but close up, so that you can’t see my dirty hair in the photo!” In past European jaunts I have also had days when I wanted to hide my greasy head so I sympathized.
And there are plenty of fountains for everyone to take pictures of too! Most of these are restorations, but there is one area where you can see part of the original plumbing for a fountain that was designed but not built completely or not built according to the original plan. It was going to be something fairly complicated, with water turning a mechanism that would – it was the eighteenth century – delight and divert the aristocratic onlookers. If I am remembering correctly, the fountain was to have had some connection with one of the tsars’ favorite court jesters. But watching all the other people stroll around is more fun than trying to remember what all the placards said.
I really enjoy European parks like this. The designs tend to be different than American ones, just in terms of aesthetics, and it’s kind of entertaining to just walk around and watch one’s own touristy behavior being imitated by all these other people! (And there are actual locals here too – lots of couples with children and strollers, people hanging out and talking, and so on.)
Peter the Great’s summer house is nearby. It’s a small yellow structure, just twelve rooms, so quite modest for a monarch (apparently his wife hated it). As I understand it, the idea was that in the summer, large functions could be held in the garden, with pavilions set up if necessary for shade/shelter/food. You can’t go indoors at the moment – I think it’s being repaired or restored.
There are also a lot of statues scattered through here, mostly mythological stuff and and the occasional bust of someone important. A lot of these (or at least the originals of these) were imported in the eighteenth century by Peter or, later, Catherine the Great – they were copies, nothing magnificently old, but the idea was that if St. Petersburg was going to be a great European capital, this was the kind of thing that it was necessary to have.