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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Peter the Great's Frontier Palace

The pictures of St. Petersburg here and on the next several blogs are a mix of ones Jaime took during our visit and my friend Todd took during the visit he and Debbie did in early May.  Since Todd's images filled in some of the gaps I had in the photos from the trip Jaime and I took and, of course, I'm still blogging about St. Petersburg :-), I figured I'd ignore chronology and go for theme.  Great way to justify delays, huh? :-)

One of the sights the Russians seemed fascinated with was Peter the Great's first residence in St. Petersburg, something that is more evocative of modern Russia's idea of what a great man should be than anything particularly dramatic for the eighteenth century.  Every one of our tour guides and drivers wanted to take us there, and for Debbie and Todd it was the first place they stopped.  I'm sure what is dramatic is that it's a good quality, wooden, country house from the early 18th century, nothing particularly dramatic and certainly much more comfortable than most "hunting" lodges from that time would've been.  It's just that Russia in particular is obsessed with the idea of Peter the Great as a big man, physically and historically, and a big man must live in a big, dramatic way, right?  Just shows how far we've come--the pictures below were big for a cabin built in the middle of a swamp and one that was intended to be a temporary home while his real palace was being built.

I found the construction techniques fascinating and love the fact that the wooden building was painted so that it looked like the exterior was made of brick.

In any case, one of the main rooms of his "cabin" was the study, which I've pictured below.  The Russians are obsessed with how low the ceilings are given that PtG was c. 6'4".  Definitely a cottage, not a palace, but an awfully comfortable cottage.

One of the things Todd's always great about, and I'm horrible about, is taking pictures of the guides to something he's taking a picture of, that is, if a guide is available.   (He did this in Rome, too, which has been a godsend as I look at the pictures several years later.)  Here's the information provided for the main room.

I know the chair looks pretty, but I can't help but think of a highchair and those arms digging into my sides!

 Here's the information for Peter's dining room.

One of the other things that I always heard from the Russian tour guides and drivers was how Peter the Great would sail his small boat around the swamps, streams, and rivers near the future St. Petersburg to scout out the best situation for his new city.  While they don't have the original boat, they do have one of the same vintage.  That being said, I have my doubts about whether Peter really did this.  I mean, as bold and foolhardy as 18th-century rulers could be, I really just don't visual Peter as this lone genius in the wilderness laying out St. Petersburg single-handedly.  I know, I know--how to ruin historical myths. :-)  Kind of like the Russian shock that a czar would ever live in this little house, the Russian love of this myth is classic: the big man forming the wilderness into a projection of his greatness.

It's a cute, little boat, though.

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