Peterhof is a Dutch and German word meaning "Peter's Court". Russian Emperor Peter Great was fascinated by the West and took on many of its customs in his court, switched to the Julian calendar, and so on. Western European influence is abound in the Peterhof. Peter played an active role in the layout and design of the Peterhof ensemble that he started in 1714, although it continued to be developed after his death.
The spectacular parkland at Peterhof is remarkable for the sheer variety of styles encompassed in its layout and features. Representing nearly two centuries of European aristocratic fashion executed to the highest standards, Peterhof is like an encyclopedia of park design through the age of empire. Palaces and gardens in Peterhof are sometimes referred as the "Russian Versailles". Particularly impressive is the fact that the master landscapers and garden designers who worked on the estate at Peterhof managed to overcome the extremely inclement conditions of the northern climate to create a wonderland of greenery and flowers, sweeping vistas and ornate architectural decorations.
History: The first areas of land to be developed at Peterhof were the formal gardens around Monplaisir and Marly, part of the Lower Park. The earth excavated to create the Marly Ponds was used to build a rampart against the sea winds that, along with a 3-meter-high stone wall, surrounds the Garden of Venus, Peter's orchard, with cherry and apple trees, and several charming statues. The garden was created simultaneously with Marly, and completed in 1724. Adjoining the Garden of Venus, the Garden of Bacchus was also begun during Peter's reign, although additions were made to its statuary and fountains throughout the 18th century. The same is true of the gardens around Monplaisir.
Also during Peter's reign, and then under Empress Elizabeth, who continued her father's work at Peterhof after over a decade of neglect, the Upper Gardens south of the Grand Palace, which great most visitors to Peterhof beyond the entrance to the park, were laid out, mostly by Jean Leblond and Nicola Michetti. Here, three alleys lead to the Palace, surrounded by formal flowerbeds and low, clipped hedges.
Catherine the Great oversaw the creation of the first landscape garden at Peterhof, the English Park, which was designed jointly by English landscaper James Meders and the great Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi. The park was once the setting for Quarenghi's English Palace, considered one of the finest works of Russian classicism, which was later used as a guesthouse for foreign visitors, and then destroyed by artillery fire in the Second World War.
The grounds were again extended considerably during the reign of Nicholas I, who not only commissioned the Alexandria Park, but also added large sections of landscaped gardens around the original Lower Park.
Present time: The palace-ensemble along with the city center is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The main attraction in Peterhof is its beautiful Lower Park with 150 fountains and four cascades. The main and the most amazing cascade called the Great Cascade is situated in front of the Great Imperial Palace which was the gala summer imperial residence for 200 years - from 1714 up until the October Revolution when the whole estate was nationalized by a special decree issued by Vladimir Lenin.
The Great Cascade consists of several fountains. The central and the most luxuriant one is "Samson, tearing apart the jaws of the lion". The whole composition of the fountain complex is devoted to the victory over Sweden. Samson symbolizes Russia defeating Sweden - the lion. The Great Cascade is decorated with gilded statues of ancient Greek and Roman gods and heroes, which all are allegories of different events of the Northern War.
Luxuriant are also the interiors of the Great Palace. Here you will find the richly decorated by F.-B. Rastrelli baroque halls of Elizabethan times (middle of the 18th century) with their gilded wood carvings, painted ceilings, inlaid parquet floors of precious kinds of wood, mirrors, tiled stoves and beautiful original furniture in the marquetry technique. At the same time there are halls which were redecorated by Y. Velten to the order of Catherine the Great in the classical style (1770s). You'll see less pompous but more elegant interiors with moldings to the stories of the Greek mythology, precious silk upholsteries, porcelain vases, beautifully decorated fireplaces, and much more. In the dining rooms on the tables which are laid to the fashion of those times you'll see famous services and tableware produced by Wedgwood and other renowned masters.
There are a great number of fountains to be seen and marveled at, among them - the Roman Fountains, Adam and Eve Fountains, the Lion Cascade, the Golden Hill Cascade and the Dragon Hill Cascade, the Sun Fountain, the Pyramid Fountain, and several trick fountains. And, of course, the Sheaf Fountain in front of the Monplaisir Palace.