A Russian fairytale

WE WERE gazing awestruck at the exuberant facade of the Peterhof Palace when our guide, Tatiana, told us that it would soon look even more stunning. It turned out that during Vladimir Putin’s recent visit, the director had told him that he’d need 30kg of gold to restore the palace to its original gilded splendour. Putin didn’t miss a beat. “You will get the gold,” he promised.

Driving back to Saint Petersburg after the tour, we passed a magnificent villa set in parklike grounds. This was the Konstantine Palace, where Putin entertained