|Peterhof Palace, just outside St. Petersburg, Russia|
From our cruise ship docked in the highly guarded military port of the city formerly known as Leningrad, we passed through the rigid Russian passport control and met our private guide,Elena Lukianchikova and young driver Costia.
|the pyramid fountain at Peterhof|
|St. Issac Cathedral...reminiscent of Rome's Pantheon|
Hiring a local guide and driver for two days was an expensive undertaking, but one made gladly in order to explore the city I had missed out on visiting when I lived in Moscow during the perestroika years .
|Costia, Elena and Fulvio at the end of our 2 day tour of St.Petersburg|
I found Elena through Tours by Locals and we exchanged many emails to organize the visas, entrance tickets , car and driver. She can be contacted also through her private tour company at email@example.com.
|with Elena in Peterhof|
|The Yusupov Palace on a St. Petersburg canal|
The first day we were beset by torrential rainstorms, but Costia skillfully criss-crossed the city boulevards following Elena’s intricate directions, allowing us to visit several sites, including the Yusupov Palace, without getting completely soaked.
|Rostov columns seen through the rain|
The second day was the exact opposite: warm with bright sunshine which made the gilded domes gleam more brightly. We visited a local market and purchased a round bread before we began the long drive out of the city to Peterhof .
Since we had missed breakfast aboard the ship the bread was very welcome as we drove along the wide boulevards flanked by gigantic new housing complexes.
|Baltic Pearl, new residential complex, outside St Petersburg|
|loaves of round bread|
|inside Peterhof Grand Palace|
Thanks to Elena we were able to visit Peterhof’s interior and gardens without much waiting in line. The place was packed for it was the height of the Russians’ summer holiday season and the White Nights.
|Grand Cascade fountain, Peterhof|
In the midst of the glorious fountains, gilded sculptures and tourist crowds it was quite a surprise to see a mother duck followed by her ducklings scuttling across the lawns down to the distant canal .
|make way for ducklings in Peterhof, Russia|
We were in Russia at Peter the Great’s Peterhof Palace but the scene was straight out of the popular childrens’ book “Make Way for Ducklings” which has been immortalized by a sculpture in the Boston Public Gardens.
|swan boat on canal leading to Grand Palace of Peterhof|
At the bottom of the huge cascade with its gilded statues and shooting fountains we discovered another Boston icon-a swan boat!
Docked near the bridge was the restored original boat Peter the Great’s visitors used to arrive in style from the landing dock to the palace.
|Peterhof's Swan boat|
Coming up are more reports on the Baltic cities …and summer happenings in central Italy.
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