Bulgaria: Blagoevgrad, Sofia and the Language

Photo number 1

Traditional start and end of my travel photos – a picture of the sky seen from the airplane. This journey to Bulgaria and Greece called for four flights and I enjoyed those from Moscow to Sofia and back the most cause I could see a real patchwork of fields, so colourful and diverse. I could imagine something really tasty growing there, mmm : ) Like these tomatoes grown in the center of Blagoevgrad, my first Bulgarian city ever visited (not counting the ugly suburbs near Sofia airport). The city is more like a town and it’s situated in the south-west of Bulgaria.

Blagoevgrad

I can only say that the landscape is beautiful, the nature is gorgeous, the fields are everywhere. But as soon as it comes to a city, it sucks. Sorry, but it does. It’s as if people KNEW how to build lovely towns and then they forgot. In their rush towards everything fast and more more more they just lost the ability to create not simply a house but a beautiful house. Thanks God there is an old city center and even a small town within the city in Blagoevgrad, where I could enjoy the walk.

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My friends know that I have this weird appetite to decadent old towns which I prefer to glossy or not so glossy new districts. I think that these parts of the city just tell you more about its life, especially about its past. Somebody some years ago took pains to build and decorate hoping that will last for years.

Blagoevgrad

Blagoevgrad is a hectic mixture of very ugly Soviet buildings and nice though decadent neo-classical buildings, interspersed with much older traditional two-storey houses. I could not really make head or tail out of this town.

Blagoevgrad

Talking about ugly Soviet buildings, here they are. Bulgaria never belonged to USSR if you’re wondering but it has gone through its own let’s-build-communism period. Here are some of the adjusted remains of the era:

Communist building, Blagoevgrad

And this one was pretty ugly (haha, pretty ugly…). And to think that someone some years ago could design all this being totally convinced this was to be oh so modern and beautiful…

Communist building, Blagoevgrad

And probably this was the ugliest building, set along the river Bystritsa (literally ‘rapid’ river) running through the town. Again, someone thought that would be the most appropriate building to decorate the riverside…

Communist building, Blagoevgrad

Let’s leave the ugly side and see how contemporary citizens are trying to adapt the cityscape to their liking. I did enjoy these decorations of electrical control units (or whatever these things are called in English) which I also spotted in Sofia:

Blagoevgrad Art

The tag says 2014, I wonder if this is a new fashion or they re-paint the units each year?

Blagoevgrad Art

There were lots of such decorated units across the city, like this food-related one:

Blagoevgrad Art

And yes, this journey to Bulgaria was a culinary one too – I tried some typical Bulgarian food and I ate a lot. In general. We had such copious lunches and dinners at the university canteen, which just cannot be referred to by a Russian word stolovaya. The food is proper food there and you do enjoy it (whereas a stolovaya has such a derisive Soviet connotation stuck to it irrevocably!).

Lunch, Blagoevgrad

And don’t tell me your university canteen had such pretty dishware, eh? The white cheese in the photo is the traditional white brine cheese sirene, something that we call brynza in Russia. Oh this salty cheese was so nicely counterbalanced by fruit!

Vitaminozny Salad, Blagoevgrad

But actually the first Bulgarian thing I tried in my Blagoevgrad hotel’s cafe was this salad called Vitaminozny in Bulgarian (its Russian counterpart ‘vitaminny salat‘ is never so large nor so tasty!). Fresh veggies, salty olives, tasty fresh baked bread with seeds, I was full already with that! The quinoa salad in the background was my colleague’s choice. And then came this…

Fried Kashkaval Cheese, Blagoevgrad

Fried cheese called Kashkaval in Bulgarian (as far as I understand this is the Bulgarian rendering of the Italian caciocavallo). It was different from the fried/grilled/baked saganaki cheese in Greece, cause it was a yellow type of cheese but also quite rubbery and cheesy, if you know what I mean. I find such cheese dishes the best choice for vegetarians – even a small piece of fried cheese can quench your hunger alright!

Sunset in Blagoevgrad

By the way, we enjoyed a great view from the university canteen’s balcony that very first evening in Blagoevgrad. Such a tremendous sunset that was! And such a tasty chocolate cake for the dinner (could not eat more after the fried cheese!).

Blagoevgrad

And now back to the city which I gradually explored during the three days spent in Blago (as the locals call it). The name comes from the family name of a Bulgarian communist, the previous name sounds more interesting – Skaptopara (somehow reminding me of skales, a Greek word for stairs).

Taxi advertisement, Blagoevgrad

This tractor is advertising a taxi company titled Atlas. We live in such a funny world… And yes, Bulgarian language sounds quite funny to my Russian ears, although I listened to various audio courses before coming to Bulgaria. Some words are tricky – they sound the same yet mean something either completely different or opposite to Russian. How about Bulgarian stol which means chair in English but which is identical to the Russian for table? Or how about the adjective skyp which means dear or expensive and means ‘mean’ in Russian? A similar thing happens to Russian speakers when they read Ukrainian – the words are so familiar but either obsolete in modern Russian or bring back the original meaning of the word. There’s this feeling of the old Slavic language in Bulgarian which we’ve lost in Russian.

Theatre, Blagoevgrad

I’ve made a series of photos of just these ‘funny’ Bulgarian words – but they do require the knowledge of Russian. Instead let’s see what the city has yet to offer. The two previous photos show some Soviet-like art on the wall of the youth center and the local theatre. This is a view from the theatre when looking at the green hill (with a newly added cross dominating the city) above the old town.

Blagoevgrad

The third day I did get to the old town. And that walk made me at least get the notion of what Blago looked like when it was still a nice place to live in, for me that is :) Cause sure there are people who will not complain.

Old Town Varosha, Blagoevgrad

The old town called Varosha welcomes you with Macedonian like white-washed houses. I was there in the evening just before all the souvenir shops were closed, with children playing in its narrow streets winding up and down the hill. Well, those were very tiny streets cause the district is really small.

Old Town Varosha, Blagoevgrad

The art studios seemed to be all closed too.

Old Town Varosha, Blagoevgrad

But no one prevented me from enjoying the decadence at its full there.

Old Town Varosha, Blagoevgrad

Some of the houses are (being) renovated and look very nice, though the ones up the hill are quite run down.

Old Town Varosha, Blagoevgrad

The weather was perfect for such a walk and the autumn leaves added to the experience. As did all the local cats (just like in the old city of Thessaloniki).

Old Town Varosha, Blagoevgrad

There was even a Math House, a unit of the Bulgarian Academy of Science. And this church which – they say – looks very much like the nearby Rila Monastery (I hope I will visit it one day).

Old Town Varosha, Blagoevgrad

The church is not that super old (there are even some later Soviet-like additions to it) but the icons painted on the walls are washed down quite a bit.

Old Town Varosha, Blagoevgrad

There are several tavernas and hotels in the district as well as some small crafts clubs or something. This is how a traditional restaurant is decorated:

Old Town Varosha, Blagoevgrad

And here is the entrance to the district (which was the exit for me, a typical thing!). I hope they do preserve this jewel, it really helped me solve the puzzle of the city – if you ignore this district you will most probably call Blago a nothing-to-see town. And ironically most of the people I talked to could hardly tell me where Varosha was…

Old Town Varosha, Blagoevgrad

Cause most of the abide somewhere in these parts – which made me shudder really. What’s this ugly thing has to do with a place where people are supposed to live and enjoy living? =) Oh my…

Blagoevgrad

I did not linger near those fountain, making my way back to the city pedestrian area, with this 1/2 Blue House shop and 1/2 yellow house building:

Blagoevgrad

Walking back to the river I saw this traditional Bulgarian eating place (mekhana) in an old house rising above (or rather crawling up?) the riverside. The weird cement circles down there at the river were possibly added thanks to – again – some other 20th century great idea : )

Blagoevgrad

The last day in Blagoevgrad ended with a dinner at a mekhana outside of the city close to a park which I unfortunately did not have time to visit. This mekhana word reminds of the Georgian word for a taverna – dukhan. I had to get back to the hotel even before the main dish was served as I had to catch my overnight bus to Piraeus, Greece (spoiler: next post!), but I managed to take these photos of the place:

traditional Bulgarian Taverna, Blagoevgrad

Traditional Bulgarian dress and decoration in red-and-white colours (just like the colours of martenitsa – a decoration made from strings that celebrates the coming of spring, I remember making some when I was little!), some parts of the taverna reminded me of the Ukrainian restaurants:

traditional Bulgarian Taverna, Blagoevgrad

On my way back from Greece where I travelled after Blagoevgrad I had to return to Sofia airport and so I decided to spend the morning in the capital. Not much to tell you or show you here. I had all my memory card full with Greece, my mind and heart were full with it too and on top of it all it was rainy and moody.

Sofia Art

More of the crafty redecoration of the units scattered across the city. More ugly Soviet-like constructions and imperial-like buildings. And more of the super-modern somethings which just look out of place.

Sofia Art

Ne pipay means do not touch. And zhivot (last word) is ‘life’ in Bulgarian and in old Russian but means stomach in the modern Russian language. A phrase which sounds funny and at the same reminds me of the real roots of the words I pronounce.

This is Sofia

And this is probably how I imagine Sofia – a weird mixture of Soviet things (I lived just close to the park commemorating the Soviet soldiers liberating the country in the WW2), McDonald’s sign reigning above some indescribable new buildings, the golden domes of the Russian cathedral and other things all together. It was also the city day when I was in Sofia which prevented me from seeing some places in the city (lots of police everywhere).

Red House, Sofia

The thing which I did like in Sofia was my artsy hotel called Red House (ex-residence of an architect), which IS a house with several rooms and a common kitchen and bathroom. If you’re planning on going to Sofia (which is currently invaded by Japanese tourists mostly), do stay there. The breakfast in the pseudo-Russian cafe complements the experience =)

Somewhere in Bulgaria

So far all I could tell you and show you about Bulgaria. I’ve crossed the country’s south-west part twice and I can tell you that the scenery is amazing. It’s just that you tend to rush through the landscape in a bus and then get stuck in the cities, which as I have told you already leave much to be desired. Do try to see more of the nature in Bulgaria, it’s so much more pleasing and even enchanting!

And I will surely come back. I haven’t tried so many cheese & baked things there! : )

G.

Sunken Apple and Honey Cake

Sunken Apple and Honey Cake from smittenkitchen.com

The apple season does not plan to end soon! Let me share a nice apple cake recipe with you. This is a quick post so that I have some more time and reason to procrastinate with the promised posts on my journey to Bulgaria and Greece.) And first – some shots of the same park, now seen in the nice autumn sun.

Autumn in St Pete

It seems that it was one of the last really warm days of our local Indian summer. It was moody today and how your perception of the city changes immediately! Yesterday I thought that if the weather continues to be that nice and I will have the chance to ride my bike, I will ask for nothing else =)

Autumn in St Pete

A year ago – Baked Comfort Food from Veggies

Two years ago – Peach, Apple, Plums and Banana: Pies and Rolls

Three years ago – Nina’s Vatrushka and ChocoCookies

Sunken Apple and Honey Cake adapted from smittenkitchen.com will make a delicious cake with super-soft fruit top and tasty dough part. Follow the link for the recipe.

My changes: I used the apples from our poor fallen apple tree – these apples never had a chance to ripen but they were just fine baked! I did not peel the apples.

I skipped the addition of lemon juice to the apples. And I forgot to add the sugar =) Although I added more sugar to the batter. I also made a mixture of regular flour with white rice flour. I didn’t make the glaze, just drizzled some honey and sprinkled cinnamon over the top of the warm cake.

Sunken Apple and Honey Cake from  smittenkitchen.com

Result: The top seems a little bit underbaked as it has all the juices from the apples, whereas the cake part is quite dense. I guess I just ignored the notes of the recipe’s author and squeezed in all the apples. The apples get very very soft, so don’t worry if your fruit for the cake is hard and not very ripe.

Sunken Apple and Honey Cake from smittenkitchen.com

A cake for sunny weather! =)

Sunken Apple and Honey Cake from smittenkitchen.com

Adding this recipe to my Apples page! Recent apple recipes can be found here.

G.

From Sunny Greece to Autumn Leaves in St Pete

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I’ve come back from my journey with an overloaded memory card – both on my photo camera and that in my head. I’ve seen some new places like Blagoevgrad in Bulgaria as well as revisited the old friends like Thessaloniki and Aegina island in Greece. From the land of roses (Bulgaria) and the land of pistachios (Greece) here I am back in St Petersburg which – still – the most beautiful place in the world, no matter how much I complain sometimes :)

Roses

I will no doubt consecrate a lot of space telling you about all these places I’ve seen and occupy a lot of media space too with all my photos. Soon.

Roses

I didn’t have time to share with you these roses before I set off on my 2 countries – 4 flights – 3 long-distance buses – 1 boat – 1 hovercraft journey. These lovely flowers given to my sister for her birthday were to be published along with some recipe that is now lost :) So here they are, as a link between what was before and what is now. As usual, trips make me think a lot and come back home with this distorted mind. All things seem so weird, so suddenly new. I’m trying to preserve this ability to look at the super-familiar things differently as long as I can.

Roses

And now on to St Petersburg, already covered with autumn leaves, rainy, windy with tremendously beautiful sky. You just cannot capture that, nor the subtle light that the autumn brings. I’ve made a walk to the nearby park today to see what it’s like and had the opportunity to witness some more of the to-die-for sky of St Petersburg. I mean it.

Autumn Sky in St Pete

Typical residential buildings and oak trees.

Autumn Sky in St Pete

Inevitable wires and the most beloved tree in childhood – maple, because it gives these sticky things that you can open and stick right on your nose, transforming yourself into Pinocchio, that’s why! And also maple leaves are usually the most colourful in autumn.

Autumn Sky in St Pete

Sky and church’s grate and cupolas.

Autumn Sky in St Pete

Another church in the park (there are three!). The airport is close by so the sky is seldom free of these white tracks.

Autumn Sky in St Pete

Urban landscape and the sunset.

Autumn Sky in St Pete

Looking back at the church(es).

Autumn Sky in St Pete

Love those flaky clouds.

Autumn Sky in St Pete

T-r-e-m-e-n-d-o-u-s. The sky just wouldn’t fit into the lens. No way!

Haha, a typical ‘I want to share it with everyone right now’ post. Will come back to blogging soon! At the moment dealing with the heap of work and a not lesser heap of apples.

G.

Buttery Sourdough Buns and Off We Go

Astilbe

I will be travelling tomorrow. Or rather – I will start travelling. Cause my job will make me hit the road again which is great. And before I do that here’s a recipe and some pictures from the early autumn at our dacha. Which is overloaded with apples at the moment : ) With this harvest we hardly need any imported apples at the moment…

Astilbe

This is astilba, some weeks ago. And here are the apples:

Apples

We’re having early Indian summer here – or probably just a continuation of summer after some pretty cold days. Sun, oh sun, you do make things brighter when you visit St Petersburg!

Apples

I think the apple trees are my favourite plants in our garden, they are tall but reachable, shady enough to protect you from occasional summer heat, they blossom beautifully  in spring and they give you fruits. Perfect.

Apples

And now on to the recipe. This is the second time that I bake WHITE sourdough bread, that is sourdough bread without adding rye flour (apart from feeding my rye starter with rye flour, apparently). My first try was this real good White Sourdough Bread.

Buttery Sourdough Buns from www.kingarthurflour.com

My sourdough rye starter was almost dead some weeks ago, by the way – I somehow missed its regular feeding, which is usually every 7-12 days, depending on the need for bread, and the poor thing was all pallid with no distinct sour smell and just… dead =( I had to revive it with several feedings during the course of 3 days, leaving it at room temperature (I keep my starter in the fridge). Now it looks much better (bubbly) and smells sourish. Foooouf!

Buttery Sourdough Buns from www.kingarthurflour.com

A year ago – Plum Cakes from Italy and Austria

Two years ago – Apples and Chocolate

Three years ago – Experimenting with ‘Taciturn’ Soviet Recipes

Buttery Sourdough Buns adapted from www.kingarthurflour.com will make rich white flagrant buns with a touch of paprika. The recipe uses sourdough just as addition, so no much time required for these buns. Visit the already much-visited King Arthur Flour website for this and much more recipes.

Here are just my changes:

I used my almost dead sourdough rye starter, unfed. This added a ‘whole-wheat’ look to my buns (you can spot the bran from rye). Added oil (less) instead of soft butter to the dough. But I left the butter + paprika filling to make these buns buttery and not oily =)

Buttery Sourdough Buns from www.kingarthurflour.com

Remarks: This is a very easy leavened buns recipe (if you cope with rolling the dough out and cutting it into buns) with just an addition of sourdough (and you can add it even without feeding or use the sourdough culture leftover from the feeding!), no much of the usual fuss with sourdough, no long hours to wait etc. And I really liked how the dough looked after the first rise – very puffy and springy. Hm, why don’t I just keep adding a bit of sourdough to my leavened baking?

Result: These are buttery no doubt! The fragrance when you take the buns out of the oven is very nice – the buns are rich already plus add the paprika melting with the butter, olala! No photos of the buns separated from each other – when I came back there were already no buns :)

Astilbe

Expect some travel posts soon. Off we go!

G.

Happy Birthday, Hep-i-Book’a and Glimpses of Summer

Eating at Etagi

A forth year into blogging… Rereading my last year 2-year ‘anniversary’ post, Two Cloudberry Cakes, makes me think that, seriously, this time thing is really weird : ) I will not load you up with various statistical data, we’d better just take a look at the summer 2014.

A year ago – Two Cloudberry Cakes

Two years ago – Apples and Chocolate

Three (!) years ago - Born in USSR or Some Soviet Reflections

You already know that this summer was a record one in terms of museum-going in Saint-Petersburg. But apart from that it was also a Saint-Pete-dedicated summer. Thanks to a unexpected friendship with Catherine, I’ve seen a lot – or re-seen the usual things with this shrewd eye that guiding a friend through your city gives you.

From Etagi art center

Roofs of St Pete from Etazhi art center’s cafe

Cafe on the roof in St Petersburg

That day we also made a small tour behind the Moscow railway station area, near Ligovsky Avenue, which used to be a district of horse carriage owners and riders. There’s this old Russian-style gateway:

Ligovsky Avenue, St Petersburg

and these St Petersburg-style blind walls:

Ligovsky Avenue, St Petersburg

with chamomiles trying to fix the gloomy courtyard:

Summer

more blind walls – see a small painting of an ancient Greek somebody right near the ground:

Ligovsky Avenue, St Petersburg

…and how about a time-worn staircase in an old building on Nevsky Avenue?

Staircase on Nevsky Avenue, St Petersburg

or the shiny almost-fitting-in spire of St Peter and Paul Cathedral, formerly the highest building in St Petersburg?

St Peter and Paul Cathedral, St Petersburg

Another glimpse on St Pete from an attic window of gallery + cafe close to Gostiny Dvor

Looking over Gostiny Dvor, St Petersburg

…and here’s a different window:

Main Post Office

This is the Main Post Office of St Petersburg, a rather worn-out from the outside and gorgeous from the inside.

Main Post Office

That day they had an exhibition of Soviet posters. This one is from the Moscow Olympics in 1980, with the bear mascot.

Main Post Office

This one welcomes visitors to Moscow:

Main Post Office

More about the Main Post Office district in my 2013 post.

Main Post Office

That day we also visited the Rumyantsev Mansion museum, behind which we found this gates – there was a truck with a cinema studio name on it. I wonder what they were filming round there.

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On our way back to the Moscow railway station from where you can hop on an elektrichka that will take you to Kolpino, we came across this creative car wash service with the inevitable road renovation works:

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And later, criss-crossing our way through the maze of St Petersburg streets somewhere close to my Mother’s university (which is Cinema and TV University) we found this perfect set for a movie on the 90s in Russia! : )

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Thank you for reading my blog! And even if you just scroll it down, I do appreciate it anyway :)

G.

Architectural Walks in Kolpino Part 2 – Izhorsky Plant

Kolpino

Once we’ve dealt with Dvorets Kultury, let’s visit Kolpino again in this second part of the architectural walks around Kolpino. This time we’ll investigate into the 19th century heritage still visible in Kolpino, a city that counts 292 years this September. The most obvious choice will be to talk about Kolpino’s ‘foundation stone’ – Izhorsky Pipe Plant, once famous all around the country and now been torn into several private companies.

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One of the oldest buildings in Kolpino is the Izhorsky Plant 19th century main building (eary 19th century), the one in the first picture and below. It is being renovated now. The clock tower is Kolpino’s famous symbol that has been representing the city throughout many years. Unfortunately it’s been showing 12.05 for many years too…

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I guess this Soviet thingy on top of the gates used to show time? Also, look at the blue truck – the legendary ZiL-130 model that used to serve people in all corners of the USSR long after they stopped to produce it in 1994. This entrance to the plant where you have to show your pass is called prokhodnaya in Russian. It used to be a reference point when speaking about something being located this close or that far from prokhodnaya (moreover, there are more prokhodnayas to Izhorsky). Now this reference’s getting obsolete with all the new companies operating on the plant’s territory and some of the previously closed parts of the plant being open to public access.

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Soviet heritage. Used to be a place for the feats and achievements of the plant workers or other great news. Now there’s an empty beer (if not of some well-known pure spirit drink) bottle every 10 cm. I remember my Grandfather’s photo used to be displayed on this wall of fame among the plant’s best workers. As almost the majority of Kolpino citizens during the Soviet times my Granddad used to work at the plant, designing rolling mills for USSR and even some African countries.

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It smells like USSR there :) And if it does, just put a sticker over USSR letters and make it Post of Russia instead:

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More Soviet symbolism around the main building, the Ministry of Communications of USSR:

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Haha, just now noticed the lamp which used to signal the next visitor to come in! This is the plant’s ex-staff department, otdel kadrov in Russia. Ahaha, you can learn the history of the Soviet life all in one photo… Look at the three-piece holder for the flags – an obligatory thing for almost each building in USSR, especially such an important one. Every holiday there were red flags soaring all over the place. The letters IZ in a very early Soviet-style t represent Izhorsky Zavod.

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If you look at Kolpino map you’ll realize that Izhorsky Plant actually occupies a huge territory, comparable to the city’s surface! Well, they call such factories ‘city-forming’ enterprise and that’s true. Peter the Great ordered to build the factory to supply the navy on river Izhora and that’s how Kolpino began. How it then evolved is another story : )

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Some of the old buildings at the plant territory which a regular mortal being will never see apart from looking down in between the fence railings. The dam on Izhora blocks the water and that explains how come the plant is situated 3 meters beneath the river’s and the rest of the city’s level. Right behind this wall is water power station. The waterfall was originally used to power the workshops.

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The plant is a city within the city. They have buses there, they have their own part of Izhora and their bridges, inaccessible for the rest of the citizens. I’ve always dreamed of going there but I never had the chance. To get inside you need to have a propusk, a pass.

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The Plant has a glorious history – if we forget about its rather infamous privatization and grab-steal-and-sell attitude of its owners during the rakish 90s. This is the local ‘eternal flame’ built here to commemorate the brave defenders of St Petersburg who fought or worked at the plant during the Second World War. Kolpino was at the forefront, massively bombarded and almost raised off – and this dam unites two parts of the city was a real firing point. They light the fire every May 9th when Russia celebrates the end of the War.

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I always thought there should be something inside this monument but I guess there’s nothing actually : )  Next photo: One of the urban legends of Kolpino says the fence of the plant was constructed with faulty cannons in the 19th century! And they say it’s true – this is how you recycle things…

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This is to commemorate the year when both Izhorsky plant and Kolpino were founded. Not the best design but it’s duly painted over from time to time.

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Judging from the year on the last bas-relief each representing a point in Kolpino’s history, the thing was created somewhere in 1985. The first date is 1240, the year of the famous Neva battle in Ust-Izhora. Then comes the building of the plant and the city around it, the construction of the railway uniting Moscow and St Petersburg, the year Kolpino officially became the city, then the magical 1931 when the first armoured car was created at the plant, the tragic 1941 and the triumphant 1985 when the ‘5000’ rolling mill was launched (the first of the kind in the country at that time).

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Paint or no fresh paint, it just looks ugly : ( The letters above say Kolpinsky rayon, Kolpino district of St Petersburg. And right here at the wall of Izhorsky Plant let’s put our walk around Kolpino on hold for some time. Next – a post on the early 20th century heritage and then more on the Stalinist era architecture.

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By the way, I’ve found a post with more photos of Izhorsky Plant, here.

 G.

Gulf of Finland and Neva River

In this post I will combine two water symbols of St Petersburg, two of its important water ways – the Neva River and Gulf of Finland, both of which are surely the musts if you want to get a broader picture of the city’s life, today and yesterday.

Back in June and July we went to Ust-Izhora, the place where Izhora River flows into the greater Neva River and where knyaz Alexander won the battle against the Swedes, for which he got titled Alexander Nevsky (and later even canonized – but that’s another story). The battle took place back in oh-oh 1240 but is considered to be one of the greatest victories in the hшstory of Russia. They even reconstruct it every year, should go there and see it one day, moreover it’s close to and actually is officially a part of Kolpino, my home town.

Ust-Izhora

While my Father was taking photos with a model at the riverside, I was entertaining myself : ) Here are some very old bricks found on the Neva shore, as there used to be a pier where we were, apparently. This looks like 69, yin and yang and fish (especially under water):

Ust-Izhora

The name of the factory producing bricks, half of it eaten by the time:

Ust-Izhora

Another factory, the name features the now obsolete letter of the Russian alphabet called yat:

Ust-Izhora

Meanwhile my Father was creating something out of nothing as a true Russian man! I did not notice that among all the wreck of this ex-pier (there was a neat row of bricks in the water as if they fell all at once) there was a bike too!

Ust-Izhora

You can spot the other side of Neva with private houses (both sides outside of the city are very expensive to built your house on) all along the bank. But I was more impressed by the timber and the smell of the freshly chopped wood. It’s a pity we still cut so many of these beautiful birch trees, they are so graceful and so naturally Russian…

Ust-Izhora

The timber also served as a background for my Father’s photo-session, like this one, for example. The results of the ex-pier session can be found here and here.

Ust-Izhora

Birch bark is used for many things in the traditional Russian crafts – from creating boxes to shoes! It was also used to write documents on at the time Alexander Nevsky fought on these shores against Swedes.

Ust-Izhora

Some shots of the life on the Neva banks – this is a children’s playground, very marine-themed:

Ust-Izhora

There was also this building with an almost blind wall which – in theory – was being renovated. It looked quite ominous…

Ust-Izhora

And this is a local post office with a surviving Soviet times mail box and traditional woven rugs drying on the railing. The letters CCCP (USSR) were painted over and the word Russia was written across for a quick transformation from the Post of USSR into the Post of Russia. I guess the real transformation took much more effort : )

Ust-Izhora

I didn’t take any photos of the monument to Alexander or the church in Ust-Izhora (which you can see on my Father’s photo), but I managed to take a photo of this Fire department near Rybatskoye metro station (the closes one to Ust-Izhora) – these guys do know how to attract attention! 01 is the number you call when there’s fire in Russia.

Fire Department

***

If you follow Neva’s flow from the East where we just were to the West, you will eventually get to Finland, as Neva flows into the Gulf of Finland. Gulf of Finland (Finnish Bay as I tend to call it, failing to recall the official name) is one of those places where St Pete people go to make picnics, walk along the shore and surf. People also come here to celebrate weddings, just as my sister did last year. You can hardly swim in there as it’s very shallow – you will have to walk and walk and walk till it gets anywhere close to your waist. Most of the shore used to be occupied by health resorts, now some of them are still operating, some of them got turned into more luxurious places. Soviet elite used to have dachas along the shore, now another elite is enjoying the sea. They say a meter of this land costs ridiculously expensive.

Finnish Bay

Forgive me for this fallen horizon, I was trying to picture this perspective with the stones which are common to this area (especially up there to the North, in Karelia and Finland). Here’s a more straight one with… a shower :)

Wanna take a shower?

A bit surreal with all that wind and clouds and people walking in coats:

Wanna take a shower?

We actually went to a health resort situated very close to the shore to visit our relatives and decided to join in and walk along the water too, meeting everything from this golden statue (obviously a Soviet sculpture left here from the good ol’ times)…

Golden couple

to ehm Ibiza resort bar!

Ibiza bar?!

…and windsurfers enjoying rare sun in their swimming costumes:

Finnish Bay

The sky was amazing (especially through polarizing lenses) – the sun appeared but closer to the end of our visit, so when we were walking along the shore, the sky was more of a ‘drama-drama’drama’ style:

Finnish Bay

So, yes, we do have the sea in St Petersburg, but… Baltic Sea is a rather cold one =)

Finnish Bay

Anyway, sitting there and listening to the waves made us really appreciate (and partially realize) the fact that we DO HAVE SEA IN ST PETERSBURG! :)

Finnish Bay

Moreover, just about 30 minutes later – and you are already enjoying the sun!

Finnish Bay

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Finnish Bay

We also walked in the ‘forest’ nearby, breathing in the pine trees and making our way through the sand hills which gave the name to this place (Dyuny in Russian). Back at the health resort, we spotted these friends who were mock-fighting in a moment:

Friends

And this three-legged fox who was peacefully lying in the sun:

Three-legged fox

The entire family and their izba-style house:

Large family

Almost every animal had their story in that mini-zoo next to the resort (there were also rather threatening-looking crows who were just dreaming to snatch those tourists’ fingers, it seemed : ). The resort itself bears the signs of the recent renovation which as it is normal in Russia is half-finished. We even tried some food at the ‘restaurant’ (ex-canteen) where the patients dine and I for the …th time came to the conclusion that there is no meat-free diet – even a medical one – in Russia = )

Mountain Ash

We also spotted the trees of Mountain ash – the symbol of autumn. When the berries get that red it means it’s high time for the children to go to school : )

Mountain Ash

Just as Bird Cherry we use mountain ash for lots of things, like medicine, alcohol, flour. I’m not saying that we eat it every day but at least it’s known that you can make things out of the fruits. The timber is also used for decorative furniture. And how about decorating the lamp post with the ivy?

Lamp post

I didn’t take the photo of the completely ‘lost’ lamp post so densely covered with the ivy that we didn’t realize at first that was not a tree but lights : ) I wonder if it’s still operating in the night and if yes – how it looks like?

This post is a part of my St Petersburg series.

G.

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