Friday, February 19, 2010

RUSSIA - Saint Petersburg : the Summer Gardens

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Saint Petersburg location

The Summer Garden (Letny Sad) is reached by leaving Nevsky Prospekt near Gostinny Dvor and turning north up Sadovaya Street. Then after passing the Mikhailovsky (Engineer's) Castle, the Summer Garden comes into view on the right. The Garden sits on an island formed by the Fontanka, Moika and the Swan Canal and has the railings of its northern perimeter running along the left bank of the Neva. It occupies a plot of almost 12 hectares, although it originally stretched down nearly as far as Nevsky Prospekt.

Often favored by Petersburgers for romantic walks, and summer siestas, it is a place that also attracts many city visitors all the year round. The Garden was created in 1704 by the direct decree of Peter the Great and it became an exclusive urban park for the elite. For over a century only the nobility and those with court privileges were allowed to use the Gardens, until Tsar Nicholas I permitted the public to enter, but only by adhering to a strict dress code which continued right up to the Revolution.

J-B. LeBlond, who also played a big part in the design of the Nevsky Prospekt, was given the remit from Peter to plan the Summer Garden, but it was the combined efforts of several architect-designers, such as I. Matviev, I. Zemtsov and C. Schroeder, as well as the numerous unknown gardeners, laborers and serfs, who created Russia's first public Garden.

The Garden was laid out in the formal French style, mimicking Versailles - the geometric paths were flanked with rows of finely trimmed oak and elm trees, whilst numerous fountains adorned the open areas. Those fountains were probably the first park fountains in Russia. They were made of colored marble, Poudozh stone and wood.

The Fontanka was so named after water was pumped from it to feed the fountains. Apart from the abundance of fountains in the Summer Garden at the time of Peter the Great, there were many other amusements including music from a water-propelled organ. The whole area was a labyrinth of lanes surrounded by the walls of bushes, the embellishment of 32 fountains, plus various Italian-made statues based on Aesop's fables. Unfortunately, a disastrous flood in 1777 wrecked the garden, uprooted trees and destroyed the fountains. Reconstruction took place during the reign of Catherine the Great, who preferred the less formal English-style garden that survives until today. Sadly, of the original 250 statues and sculptured busts, only 89 have survived the rigors of floods, severe winters and war. Each winter now, the statues are protected from the elements by what bizarrely appear to be individual upright wooden coffins. In the southern part of the Summer Garden was the Swan Lake (Karpiev Pond) with a multi-jet fountain in the middle, plus there were several reservoirs for the breeding of water fowl and various kinds of fish.


Postcard sent by Alexey, as "andreychuk" - Postcrossing - Reference RU-114960

Saint Petersburg - The Summer Gardens


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