Friday, July 7, 2017

Caught My Fancy Friday: The Grotto at Peterhof

The grotto at Peter the Great's summer estate, Peterhof, is delightful. For one thing, it's cool and damp, and summer days even at that latitude are too hot for me. For another thing, LOOK at the texture of this ceiling:

                                  Tell me you don't want to run your hands over those rocks . . .

or stare at the nooks with golden statues and running fountains:

The grotto is full of twists, turns, and staircases. STAIRCASES underneath the ground, leading to the pipes and waterworks that power the estate's fountains.

This sadly dark picture shows some of the pipes they've used at Peterhof over the years. They started out with hollowed out logs for wooden pipes but found they decayed alarmingly fast.

Now they use regular old metal pipes to pump water throughout the gardens' fountains.

Down in the bowels of the grotto. Isn't it delightfully creepy? Do you wish they hadn't built quite so many staircases and pathways to keep visitors safe? I mean, I'd never go down there without them, but it would be much more atmospheric.

And yet. AND YET. Despite the gloom, the damp, and the creepy factor, the grotto was a popular spot for ballroom dancing for centuries.See the remains of sculptural decorations on the left here? Can't you just hear the string quartet striking up a minuet?

Outside the grotto, when the fountains were turned off, ballets were performed, dances were held, and fireworks were fired off. These paintings from the nineteenth century show some of those treats.

                                  This checkerboard floor is where ballets were danced:

 Peter stuffed his grotto (and his estate) with trick fountains. Here's a fun one: every now and then, an absolute deluge of water dumps down right outside this door. It reminds me of modern pool jungle gyms with their dump buckets, but exciting, because you might have been wearing a ball gown and a towering wig!

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