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Initially, the Garden was a regular one. Its alleys were divided into areas of geometric shape; the bushes were cut as cubes, balls and pyramids. By decree of the Tsar, the trees for the Summer Garden were transported from all the Russia. From Moscow – elms and apple trees, from Kiev – hornbeams, from Narva – lindens and birches and from Solikamsk – cedars. As to flowers, they were brought from other countries, mainly from Holland, Peter’s favorite one. The Russian Ambassador in Holland, Brandt sent to Tsar tulips and bushes of fragrant peonies. Roses were sent to him from Danzig, white lilac – from Lubeck.
The Gardeners Ilya Surmin, Shreder and Yan Roozen worked hard at creation of the Summer Garden. Once upon a time, when Tsar visited Revel (modern Tallinn), he found a German Gardener there named Gaspar Focht, who the Tsar liked so much that Peter started talking him into moving to Petersburg. He could not dare to say no to the Russian Tsar himself, but started making excuses that he had his wife and children left in Hannover. However, Peter insisted and when Focht came to Petersburg by the agreed time, he was surprised to see his wife and children at the Tsar’s Palace.
-Well, - said Peter. – Will you give me any more excuses
not to work for me?
Focht did not give any excuses, but turning up his sleeves, started arranging the Summer Garden.
Since 1721, when main work was finished, the Summer Garden started hosting celebrations and popular Peter’s Assemblies. Guests arrived to the Garden on water and got off the boats on a wooden pier. On alleys at different spots there were special areas with tables of food and benches. Each such area had its own name: Arkhiereyskaya, Shkiperskaya and Damskaya. Peter could mostly be seen on Shkiperskaya area, where they played chess and smoked tobacco; as to the Empress Catherine, she would be at Damskaya area. Here, they danced, flirted and drank wine. By the way, the well-known Russian saying “bottoms up” was born right there at the Assemblies. A person being late was brought a large cup, which he had to drink bottoms up to health of the Emperor. Even ladies were not an exception of this ritual. For this person it meant that the rest of the party he would spend under a table struck with overdosed alcohol.
The Summer Garden was a place of the state celebrations for a long time. Over there, they arranged diplomatic receptions, masquerades, birthday parties for the members of the Imperial family and military victories. However, by the end of the 18th century, it turned into the City Garden, where decently dressed public were allowed. Once upon a time, during the reign of Catherine the Great, the Merchant Longinov, who made fortune on sales of vodka, decided to make a big party on the birthday of the Empress for people, who made him reach. To sound of fireworks, Longinov made drunk and fed with caviar and sturgeon more than forty thousand people.
The most dressed up public used to gather on the Day of Holy Spirit, when Petersburg merchantry arranged the Bride Show. Blushing brides accompanied by mamas marched on central alleys. In front of them, without rush, potential bridegrooms were walking. And afar, matchmakers were fussing around, and curious idlers standing.
During the centuries of Empire St. Petersburg was a grand city with ceremonial buildings, rich and pompous palaces. Even today St. Petersburg can boast a huge number of palaces, including some of the grandest residences not just in Russia, but in the whole of Europe.
Our audio guide will take you to the most famous palaces and Grand residences of St. Petersburg. We can start with the Tauride Palace and Garden, one of the largest and most historic complexes in Russia. This palace was designed for Grigory Potemkin in a rigorous Palladian style. In the 19th century, the palace was transformed into a residence for minor royalty. It had been used to host balls and exhibitions until 1906, when it was given as a seat of the first Russian parliament, the Imperial State Duma.
You will also hear the history of the Winter Palace, the most prominent palace in Russia. The Winter Palace not only physically dominates Palace Square and the south embankment of the Neva River, but also plays a central political, symbolic, and cultural role in the three-century history of the city. It was declared part of the State Hermitage Museum on 17 October 1917. Now the Winter Palace, the Hermitage and all historical landmarks of St. Petersburg are enlisted by the UNESCO.
Another famous building is Anichkov Palace located next to Anichkov Bridge across the Fontanka River. It’s one of the oldest buildings on Nevsky Prospect commissioned by Empress Elizabeth in 1741. When the palace was completed she presented it to Aleksey Razumovsky, her favourite and unofficial spouse.
Mariinsky Palace, the last neoclassical imperial palace to be constructed in Saint Petersburg, was built between 1839 and 1844 by the court architect Andrei Stackensneider. The palace stands on the south side of St Isaac's Square, just across the 99-metre-wide Blue Bridge from Saint Isaac's Cathedral. The palace was conceived by Emperor Nicholas I as a wedding present to his daughter Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna.
During the tour you will also see the houses and mansions of famous court and military people: The House of Saltykov, The Marble Palace, The Vladimir Palace, The Mikhailovsky Castle, The Novo-Mikhailovsky Palace, The House of Gagarin, etc. Each building has its own history sometimes dramatic.
Take a walk in the Summer Garden. It was founded in 1704 by order of Peter the Great, who was personally involved in planning it, and is laid out according to strict geometrical principles. The Summer Garden is home to marble statues acquired from Europe especially for Russia's new capital, and also to rare flowers and plants, as well as fountains.
The Field of Mars, not far from the Summer Garden, has a long and varied history dating back to the very beginning of the city's history. You will listen to it while walking. To your attention will also be the stories and legends of The First Engineer Bridge, The Salt City, The Building of Senate and Synod, The Isakievsky Cathedral, The Petropavlovsk Fortress.
With audio visual materials you will also get a map that won’t let you lose your way.