Petrogradsky and Aptekarsky Islands in Details

Kuybysheva Street, St Petersburg

I’ve been quite a lot in and around the Petrogradskaya Storona (Side) of St Petersburg recently. Both Petrogradsky and the nearby Aptekarsky islands are pretty attractive in terms of the architecture of the late 19th-early 20th century.

Kuybysheva Street, St Petersburg

You see, these islands were originally used as a dacha territory (those were the islands already lying beyond the city limits) and the stone mansions were less frequent here than wooden houses for some decades. It was only later, closer to my favourite architectural periods, art nouveau and avantgarde, that the construction boom spread all over the Petrogradskaya side. And that is why these two islands have quite a young face.

Kuybysheva Street, St Petersburg

This part of St Petersburg evolved in its own separate way compared to the center of the city. And still today you can tell that this district has some specific aura around it, as if you enter quite a different city.

Kuybysheva Street, St Petersburg

Volumes and geometry. All these photos have been taken in various spots across the two islands and during several walks. Blisters and tired legs guaranteed :)

Kuybysheva Street, St Petersburg

Deciphering the city’s layers of history and culture – it’s amazing!

Kuybysheva Street, St Petersburg

Post of Russia mail box, converted from the Post of USSR.

Petrogradsky Island, St Petersburg

The inner yard of this 1933-38 late constrictivist residential building for the employees of Svirstroy. The red colour of the walls is original, distinguishing it from the rest of the constructivist creations. The building is pretty curious (some photos of the facades in my 2013 post). This sort of brutalism is somewhat more attractive than the Brezhnev’s era architecture. It has a longer history…

Petrogradsky Island, St Petersburg

Found this painted door advertising a house travel agency offering 5% discount to the residents. Doesn’t it look great, a painted advertisement? Or am I desperately old-fashioned? :)

Petrogradsky Island, St Petersburg

Found this uncommon decoration for a basement in a Stalinist house (actually, a recent addition) on Pesochanaya Embankment. Just found out it used to be Dom Khudozhnikov, a 1961 residential house + workshops for the Soviet artists (you know, it’s easier to control people when they’re all gathered in one place…). And during the Siege of Leningrad this spot was occupied by the city’s main radio station which was keeping the citizens alive.

Petrogradsky Island, St Petersburg

Don’t trust your own eyes – this quite avant-garde-looking building on Chapygina Street is actually a modernistic orphanage (1913-14) converted into an obschezhitiye (communal house, dormitory) in the Soviet period. Very curious volumes!

Petrogradsky Island, St Petersburg

Next to it is this 1936 residential building aka Admiral house. Although it is covered in columns and stuff as the official style would demand (Stalin’s neoclassicism), its brutal texture gives away the ex-preferences of the architect, a style by then fallen from grace – the constructivism… So Buryshkin (that’s the name of the architect) once the constructivism ceased to be accepted (he built among other things the Pravda newspaper HQ and a workers’ township similar to this one) became a ‘converted’ neo-classicist – actually, every architect just had to do that in order to continue their work.

Petrogradsky Island, St Petersburg

The craziest university building you can imagine. Brezhnev’s red-brick brutalism (1970s), the epoch that hardly interests me as the matter of fact. Looks like an unfinished factory or a crematorium… And yet my sister studied there. There’s a legend passed down from one generation of students to the other that the architect actually committed suicide once the building was finished. Judging from what a labyrinth it is inside with the staircases running in all possible directions, I shouldn’t wonder… Next to it is a beautiful modernistic building that you would definitely prefer studying at :) – the oldest premises of the Electro-Technical University, aka LETI.

Petrogradsky Island, St Petersburg

This is one of the most well-known constructivist industrial building in St Petersburg – the 1925-26 switching station of Krasnoye Znamya (Red Banner) textile factory. Don’t be surprised that it’s situated on Pionerskaya Street running parallel to the Krasnogo Kursanta (Red Cadet) Street where the factory’s HQ are still located. But what this station so special about it is that it was originally projected by Erich Mendelson, the German expressionist architect, the first foreigner to design buildings for the young USSR. However, his original project was highly amended to such an extent that he renounced from his creation. A very futuristic thing in a sad condition, as is very often the case with the constructivist heritage. You actually have to get to this place in order to feel the weight of its history in full…

So much yet to see! I wish I had an entire life just for this :)

Adding this to my St Petersburg series.

G.

Veggie Dishes, Improvised

Yellow Lentils with Bulgur and Cauliflower

Back to food for a change. Two improvised vegetarian recipes I threw in together when I got tired of the usual pasta-rice-buckwheat circle. I’m actually thoroughly enjoying this ‘throwing’ procedure, which allows you to get curious results and varied flavours. It is all very easy and creative, so join in!

A year ago – Chasing Alexander Pushkin in Tsarskoye Selo

Two years ago – Zucchini and Aubergine Whole Wheat Pizza

Three years ago – Moscow and Courgette Pies

Yellow Lentils with Bulgur and Cauliflower (improvised) will make a fiber & protein-rich vegetarian dish.

Ingredients:

  • cauliflower, broken in florets, if frozen no need to defrost
  • yellow lentils, rinsed
  • bulgur
  • olive oil
  • turmeric
  • chopped herbs such as dill or parsley
  • toasted pumpkin & sesame seeds, optional

Procedure:

Start with heating a deep pan, then throwing in bulgur and adding a splash of olive oil so that the bulgur is ‘moistened’. Don’t let it burn! Then add the cauliflower (frozen is fine), and the yellow lentils. Cover them with water. The moment the water starts simmering, season with salt and add some turmeric. You can either throw in the chopped herbs now or add them later. I usually cover the pan with a lid and add more water if it boils off. Don’t overcook the lot, cause both cauliflower and yellow lentils are quick-cooking buddies! Check the bulgur and if it’s cooked, than the dish is ready. Serve with some toasted pumpkin & sesame seeds, a splash of soya sauce and some white cheese, to taste.

Yellow Lentils with Bulgur and Cauliflower

Remarks: You can adapt this recipe to your own taste buds and hunger. You can adjust the amount of each ingredient according to your preferences. The yellow lentils I was using for this recipe cook very fast and if slightly overcooked become quite mashy. You might want to add them later! Also make sure to add enough salt, this dish might get a bit bland without the extra soy sauce. Next time I would add some chopped onion as well.

Result: Yellow and quite unusual! The turmeric adds just a tiny bit of spiciness (try curry instead), the bulgur remains crunchy while the cauliflower and lentils are soft.

By the way, if you’re not sure what bulgur is (I learnt about it for the first time in Strasbourg and since then it has entered our family cooking) and what benefits it might have, here’s what you read on Wikipedia: ‘Compared to unenriched white rice, bulgur has more fiber and protein, a lower glycemic index, and higher levels of most vitamins and minerals’. Sounds pretty impressive!

***

When I think of aubergines I most often immediately think of garlic. This is such a traditional combination for our family that it just comes naturally. Mom used to fry aubergines with crushed garlic and this fragrant duet is solidly engraved in my mind. As these superbly coloured eggplants or aubergines are in season now, I’m carpe-diem-ing them a lot in my cooking :)

Garlicky Aubergine Rolls with Cheese and Olives

Garlicky Aubergine Rolls with Cheese and Olives (improvised) will make salty and zesty rolls with melt-in-your-mouth cheese inside. The preparation requires some time.

Ingredients:

  • aubergines, preferably long
  • soft white cheese such as Adygea, Feta or farmer’s cheese, sliced
  • olives, sliced
  • some hard cheese
  • garlic, minced or crushed, to taste
  • olive oil
  • dried oregano (or any other herb)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • sesame seeds

Procedure:

Preheat the oven to 180 ‘C. Grease a large baking sheet. Wash, clean and slice the aubergines – you will need long slices for the rolls but the short bits are ok too – these will also go in. In a small bowl combine some olive oil, dried oregano, coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, plus minced or crushed garlic (if you’re not sure about the amounts for this mixture, make it small for starters, you can always make more!). Rub this mixture (or brush it over) into the aubergine slices – I left one side clean and so placed the aubergines clean side down onto the baking sheet. Bake the aubergines until they get quite soft but not burning! Just peep in from time to time. Meanwhile you can slice your cheese and olives. When the veggies are ready, take them out of the oven and cool slightly. Places cheese and then olive slices on each aubergine slice, season (if your cheese is not very salty already) and roll from the short side (the bits too small to roll can just be made into ‘towers’ of cheese and olives). Don’t worry if they naughtily unroll – just tuck the ends under the rolls and push the rolls close together. This will also facilitate the next step: grating some hard cheese over, sprinkling with oregano and sesame seeds. You now need to reheat them and make the cheese melt, that’s all – so you can place the sheet back into the oven onto the highest rack. Be careful not to burn them!

Garlicky Aubergine Rolls with Cheese and Olives

Remarks: I’ve repeated this recipe without rubbing in / brushing with the oil + herb mixture, just splashing some oil over the sliced aubergines and then baking them. The result was less interesting from the first super-garlicky variant. Also the second time the quality of the cheese was better and I also grated it on top but I was quite careless to let the rolls overcook and the smallest of them became hard. 

Result: Garlicky! And cheesy. The aubergine flesh is very soft while the skin is crunchy (sounds pretty carnivorous, doesn’t it?). Perfect as appetizers – I can imagine piercing them with a toothpick to make them into snacks.

Enjoy!

Adding these to my lunch / dinner recipe collection.

G.

It’s Museum Time in St Petersburg Part 2

General Staff, Hermitage, St Petersburg

This post is a sequence ion to the It’s Museum Time in St Petersburg Part 1 that I published a year ago. During this spring and summer I’ve already collected quite a number of museums – big and small – that are worth visiting. One of them deserved an entire post (Menshikov Palace) so I won’t talk about it here. To tell the truth I have no idea how many museums (state-owned and private) there are in St Petersburg but I can tell you it will take a big chunk of your life just to see Hermitage or Russian Museum ‘decently’. And these are but the two of the largest museums! So we’d better concentrate on the more sizable but nevertheless quite curious places which can tell you a lot about the mysterious country that Russia is :)

The Russian Museum of Ethnography, St Petersburg

I will start with my all-time favourite museum in St Petersburg (since I was a child) – the Russian Museum of Ethnography, St Petersburg. It used to be pretty dusty, with all those Soviet inscriptions and difficult-to-read stands. And nevertheless I just loved it, regardless of the dusty smelly exhibits and the blemished tags!

The Russian Museum of Ethnography, St Petersburg

Among my personal most cherished halls was the one with the costumes and objects from the Caucuses and the one with the reconstruction of the Russian isba. Ah yes, also all those small detailed models with tiny village people dancing and eating blini to celebrate Maslenitsa! Since then the museum has really been going through a thorough upgrade. It’s much more readable and attractive. And certainly less dusty (though there are some halls still wanting renovation left). And surely the best place to learn lots of things about the various peoples living in and around Russia.

The Russian Museum of Ethnography, St Petersburg

A collection of hand-made wooden distaffs for spinning fibers

The Russian Museum of Ethnography, St Petersburg

I doubt if it was particularly comfortable wearing this scarf… But the collection of national costumes (by country, region and even city) is amazing! Now that they’ve put it on display in a much more synthetic and, well, attractive way (with other related objects), they’ve really made this collection speak to the visitor.

The Russian Museum of Ethnography, St Petersburg

Various types of a Russian isba, a traditional wooden house, and the interior of one:

The Russian Museum of Ethnography, St Petersburg

Important info on the Russian Museum of Ethnography: open from 10 am to 6 pm on all days except Mondays and every last Friday of the month. They have various workshops (like handicraft for children), lectures and a highlights’ excursion offered every Tuesday at 12. It’s located side by side with the Russian Museum (which it originally made part of) on Inzhenernaya Street. The ticket costs 250 rubles or zero if you’re under 18 :) The museum is large, so plan your visit accordingly.

***

General Staff, Hermitage, St Petersburg

General Staff  or Generalny Shtab is a part of Hermitage (yet another part, as if the Winter Palace and the adjacent palaces were not enough! :) But obviously this is a less crowd-packed building even on the free entrance days (every first Thursday of the month). It’s located right on the Palace Square and – as a building – is famous for its irregular angles and a wonderful view on the Winter Palace.

General Staff, Hermitage, St Petersburg

It’s been recently renovated to house various temporary exhibitions that just wouldn’t physically fit into the main Hermitage building(s). Also – probably in an attempt to attract more visitors – they’ve moved all the Impressionists there. And for me they are the point of visiting Hermitage in a way… Although I somehow liked it more when they were all squashed in a small but luminous room in the main building.

General Staff, Hermitage, St Petersburg

The rest of the stuff there is these gilded columns, chandeliers and endless enfilades of gifts for the emperor’s family given by this or that super-prominent figure of the past… I know that some people would love seeing all those giddy pompous presents (the more extravagant the better – that seems to be the rule of thumb for most of the gifts) but I walked fast not paying much attention. I was there for the Impressionists!

General Staff, Hermitage, St Petersburg

This room is supposed to create an effect of it being twice as big: the half chandeliers are reflected in the mirrors as if they are whole. Well, the recreated rooms are beautiful but… a bit too imperial-heavy! Built by the famous architect Carlo Rossi, the General Staff was the HQ of, well, the General Staff, the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry. The Western wing still belongs to the military while the Eastern wing is a labyrinth-like museum (probably due to the fact that they are still adjusting it to the purpose).

General Staff, Hermitage, St Petersburg

There you will also find Kandinsky, collections of various stuff left from the ministries and even more imperial arts. However, there were also some rooms dedicated to the art nouveau in Russia (or modern) which I liked for its delicate display:

General Staff, Hermitage, St Petersburg

Important info on General Staff (Generalny Shtab): As any of the Hermitage buildings, the free entrance is every first Thursday of  the month. It’s open from 10.30 to 6 pm (Wednesday till 9 pm!) except Mondays. It will cost you 300 rubles to get inside or 600 rubles to visit it along with the rest of the Hermitage museum buildings (but don’t even try to do that in a day…).

***

Moving away from the center of the city, to the Aptekarsky Island on the Petrogradskaya side of the river Neva, there is a ‘chamber’ Museum of the Russian Avantgarde squeezed in between the modernist mansions and boring Soviet buildings. It’s a wooden house which belonged to Mikhail Matyushin, an avantgarde artist and musician who delved into colour and vision, and his wife Elena Guro, also an artist. It’s a quite new museum, open in 2006, and it tells you about the avangarde movement of the 1920s-30s in Leningrad.

St Petersburg Museum of Avantgarde or Matyushin's House

The house is something of a museum object in itself. First of all – it’s wooden. It’s built around 1840-50s and has had a long association with the literary society of Russia. It used to be something of a place where artists and poets could find shelter and hot tea. The house survived both the fires of the October revolution and the Siege of Leningrad but had to be reassembled from new materials in 1987 and then again in the 1990s. Anyway, you feel as if you got suddenly transported to a dacha (there’s also a small garden) with creaking staircase and wooden furniture.

St Petersburg Museum of Avantgarde or Matyushin's House

Most of the exhibits were either under construction or on the road, being borrowed by a museum somewhere, so the visit was quite brief. The first floor is dedicated to the history of the house and its illustrious visitors and residents such as Mayakovsky for example. I didn’t really appreciate Matyushin’s or Guro’s art that much (or probably just wasn’t so to speak prepared to take it in) but I liked their students’ studies of colours and various avantgarde wallpaper designs.

St Petersburg Museum of Avantgarde or Matyushin's House

Important info on the St Petersburg Museum of Avantgarde or Matyushin’s House: Open daily from 11 am to 6 pm (Tuesday until 5 pm) except Wednesdays. This is a branch of the Museum of the History of St Petersburg (see my previous post on Rumyantsev Mansion and the St Peter and Paul Fortress). It has a small but interesting bookstore which offers inexpensive books on the history and art of St Petersburg (not only avantgarde), also in English. A tiny museum worth visiting for its old St Petersburg (or even dacha) flavour. Tickets – 100 rubles, free entrance – each Friday.

***

Museum of Printing, St Petersburg

And finally here’s another ‘chamber’ museum right in the center of the city, on the Moyka river embankment between Nevsky Avenue and the Palace Square. This is the Museum of Printing situated in the former (and first) HQ of the Pravda newspaper. However, it’s for those who are not super-interested in printing as it tells more on the byt (way of life) of a dokhodny dom in St Petersburg rather than printing. There are several rooms of a typical St Petersburg residential house of the late 19th – early 20th century recreated there. In addition, enjoy the fact that you will actually enter the museum via a recreated (an operating) bookstore, ushered into a small room telling you about the history of the house and then asked to go out onto the staircase to enter another apartment where the rest of the exhibits are – a curious way of laying out the museum! :)

Museum of Printing, St Petersburg

The light was poor inside so I didn’t take photos of the Pravda HQ or the rest of the rooms. One of the exhibits that did concern printing however was this collection of the printing presses and various tools and machines in the former printing workshop. The museums organizes interesting workshops where you can create your own book cover, for example.

Important info on the Museum of Printing: This is yet another branch of the Museum of the History of St Petersburg. It is open from 11 am to 6 pm and until 5 pm on Tuesdays. Closed on Wednesdays. The ticket is 120 rubles. A very small museum which will not take long to visit – a perfect match for an information-laden and tired tourist :)

Hope you’ve found a museum to your liking in St Petersburg. There will soon be a separate post on the Museum of Political History of Russia, which really deserves to be dealt with in much more details.

Adding this to my St Petersburg series.

G.

The Brilliant Peterhof, Russian Versailles

Peterhof, St Petersburg

It was Peter the Great who dared outdo Versailles by creating a shiny new residence on the road from the capital to the port-city of Kronshtadt. Hence the name Peterhof which means ‘the court of Peter’ (aka Petrodvorets). Since the Peter’s times it has grown and bloomed and become a true treasure of the country.

Peterhof, St Petersburg

Peterhof is one of the most famous and popular environs of St Petersburg – at least the most brilliant one. It is situated to the west of St Petersburg, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland. To the students of my alma mater, the St Petersburg State University, it’s best known for the campus misplaced situated 29 km from the city.

Peterhof, St Petersburg

Its location on the Gulf of Finland adds up to the particularly effective impression one gets when arriving there from St Petersburg on board of a hovercraft. This long promenade with the Grand Cascade and the Palace designed by Rastrelli (the same guy who built the Hermitage, Smolny Cathedral and Catherine’s Palace in Tsarskoye Selo) right in front of you.

Peterhof, St Petersburg

But we arrived from the other side, walking first in the town to the Lower Park. Close to Aleksandria Park there is this vast red-brick ensemble of the emperor’s stables. Part of the buildings are still occupied by a sanatorium (yes, people are housed in the ex-stables. But those were EMPEROR’s stables!) though there are plans to reconstruct the stables making yet another sight for the tourists.

Peterhof, St Petersburg

The ensemble was designed by Nikolas Benois, the emperor’s architect, in 1848-55 in pseudo-Gothic style. It does look like a castle!

Peterhof, St Petersburg

With various towers growing up towards the sky :)

Peterhof, St Petersburg

Once you’ve paid for your ticket to enter the Lower Park (called so in contrast to the Upper Garden, situated higher, obviously, farther from the water), you soon start the descent to see the main attraction of the ensemble – the Grand Cascade and the Grand Palace – in its entirety.

Peterhof, St Petersburg

The levels on which the two parks are situated is visible on this photo:

Peterhof, St Petersburg

I took it from the Lower Park and on top, beyond the tourists, there’s the Upper Garden (with free entrance, smaller and less posh). I must warn you that you will walk a lot :) There are now even tourist mini-trains and something like golf cars for the tired visitors. So take it easy, make frequent stops and enjoy the beautiful regular gardens, splashes of fountains (there’s enough wind there, so close to the Baltic sea!) and – probably less so – myriads of tourists even during the week.

Peterhof, St Petersburg

This is the iconic view of the Grand Cascade. And here is how it looked like after the Second World war… It got so ruined, looted and ravaged that there were only walls left. And then it was literally reborn from ashes, with the works starting right from January 1944 when Peterhof was reconquered by the Soviet army and continuing up to now. The process has been painstaking to say the least. Some of the statues were buried in the ground in an attempt to preserve at least something from the rapidly advancing Hitler’s army in September 1941. Some treasures got evacuated from the city when the war broke out. But who could have saved all of the beauty…

Peterhof, St Petersburg

Seeing it now in all its luster (compared even to what I recall from my school-time visits) makes me at the same time proud and also somewhat estranged. I mean, the parks are great, the palaces are shiny and most of the objects are carefully renovated – but it feels a little bit soul-less… though when I was a child this place was like a holiday in itself, like a luna-park and ice-cream combined :)

Peterhof, St Petersburg

This is one of my favourite shutikha – a ‘cracker’ fountain which gets you all soaking wet just when you think you are ‘in control’ and in safety :) See that guy on the green bench? Previously he (it’s usually a guy – and what a job!) was pedaling right at the moment when a ‘victim’ (mostly kids) was nonchalantly hopping from one pebble to the other, trying to find that very stone that will switch the fountain on :) Now the guy is a bit lazy so he’s operating the switch a bit randomly. Sorry if I’ve ruined the mystery! :) When we learnt it with my sister back then, it was like finding out that all your letters to the Father Frost (Santa Claus) never made it to the North Pole cause he didn’t exist! I remember I was convinced each time that only I knew which stone was the ‘button’ to make the fountain work – and the result was inevitable change of clothes (thoughtfully foreseen by my Mother), a lot of excitement and once even a minus one primary tooth in my mouth :)  There are various other fun fountains in the park, like a mushroom with water running from its cap or an entire part of an alley suddenly turning all the passers by wet as mice (well, not suddenly after all – it operates on a strict schedule with PA announcements made in advance!). And there are, well, the other sides of the fountains too:

Peterhof, St Petersburg

This is Eve (Adam’s on the opposite side of the park). But the place I still love the most is this ridge with a row of trees running parallel to the water:

Peterhof, St Petersburg

This is the easternmost end of the park, and beyond the bridge there’s the Gulf of Finland. The wind up there between the trees just sweeps you off your feet!

Peterhof, St Petersburg

Walking up there you can see both Kronshtadt to the left and St Petersburg to the right.

Peterhof, St Petersburg

Feels like you’re on the seashore… That makes me think that although Peter the Great might have exaggerated a bit with the utmost necessity of building St Petersburg right there on the bogs (the location is one of the things the citizens keep blaming Peter the I for :), the are so many things we enjoy about it, like this pearl called Peterhof, Peter’s court.

Peterhof, St Petersburg

He built his Mon Plaisir palace for his own little retreats here and, well, we can understand why! If by then you are tired of the crowds, you can leave the Lower Park and go into the Upper Garden with its ivy alleys and straight-cut bushes. There’s also much to see apart from the tourist-packed parks. The center of Peterhof is a UNESCO World Heritage sight as well as the parks are. While we were driving through the town I could spot some modernistic cottages and these wooden houses too. There are also more ponds and pavilions and churches in Peterhof. A true open air museum!

Peterhof, St Petersburg

This is St Peter and Paul’s Cathedral, is a 1894-1904 neo-Russian church designed by Nicolas Sultanov. I cannot say that I like the neo-Russian style that much (at least here there too many details piled up) but I definitely liked the majolica decorations. And here’s where we end our journey for today.

Peterhof, St Petersburg

Some useful info on Peterhof: The park is huge so plan your visit ahead (there are eating places but also benches for buterbrod :). There are numerous pavilions, grottoes, museums and small and big palaces to visit, so if you’re looking forward to seeing lots of gold and porcelain, you might want to get a composite ticket. Otherwise you just get the entrance ticket and then pay for each other object separately. The Lower Park is where all the cascades and fountains are – and the entrance costs 500 rub. (you can enter the park only once with this ticket). The Upper Garden has free entrance. Aleksandria Park (a less popular landscape park) requires a separate ticket. If you arrive by public transport and not by water, choose the entrance close to Aleksandria Park – by walking some metres away from the main entrance you will avoid awful crowds and lines.

To get there you can take a bus number 200, 210 or marshrutka (commercial bus) number 224, 300, 424, 424-A from metro station Avtovo; marshrutka 103 (K-224), 420 from metro Leninsky Prospekt; marshrutka 343, 639-b from metro Prospekt Veteranov; marshrutka number 404 from metro Baltiyskaya. The stop you need is called Fontany. You can also try elektrichka, a suburban train (about 45 minutes) from railway station Baltiysky to Novy Peterhof from where you should take bus number 344, 348, 350, 351, 352, 355, 356 to get to the park. You can also choose a very convenient means that will take you right from the Hermitage or the Bronze Horseman to the Lower Park by water – a hovercraft (meteor). It costs quite a lot but takes just 30 minutes to travel. But do not buy a 2 way ticket for the hovercraft, cause once you enter the Lower Park where the passengers leave the boat  and then leave it to go to Upper Garden or the town, for example, you will have to buy the entrance ticket to Lower Park again – to get on board of the boat…

Adding this to my St Petersburg posts.

G.

Family Recipe: “Terty” Tvorozhnik or Sweet Cheese Pie

Midsummer at dacha

Before sharing with you our family recipe – here are some slightly belated midsummer shots taken at our dacha. Just to remind me that St Petersburg is not always rainy and windy :)

Midsummer at dacha

New dwellers of our garden this summer:

Midsummer at dacha

This one in particular looking like a hair pin all girls would wear in the 1990s :)

Midsummer at dacha

Mom’s been extra-creative these days and this is one of the pillow cases she made out of various bits and pieces – employing her truly Soviet practicality:

Midsummer at dacha

And here’s the recipe – “Terty” Tvorozhnik or Sweet Cheese Pie. The recipe requires for grating the chilled butter first – hence its name, Terty or Grated. Tvorozhnik is basically a type of a dish with tvorog (cottage cheese) as the main ingredient. It’s a bit hard to identify the type of this Tvorozhnik  – this is not a pastry pie, it’s more of a crumble pie though it keeps shape.  Khmmm :)

“Terty” Tvorozhnik or 'Grated' Cheese Pie

I don’t have a slightest idea of whether this recipe is actually Russian or not, I just know that it once came from a family friend. I guess it might be from the Soviet era, judging from the simplicity or rather availability of the ingredients – but not sure here either. This has been our family’s staple for years, though it’s been some time since we last made it. Mom had an idea of baking it some days ago – and so we did!

“Terty” Tvorozhnik or 'Grated' Cheese Pie

A year ago – Two Sourdough Bread Recipes

Two years ago – Greek Briam with Danish Rye Rolls

Three years ago – Moscow and Courgette Pies

“Terty” Tvorozhnik or ‘Grated’ Sweet Cheese Pie adapted from our family friends’ recipe. Will make a soft and crumbly cheese pie. Best eaten warm! See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 100 margarine straight from the freezer – I used butter, see Remarks
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • sugar
  • soda
  • vinegar

For the filling:

  • 250 g cottage cheese (tvorog) – mine was 5% fat
  • ½ cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • vanilla

Procedure:

Grate the butter, add the flour and a bit of sugar, then pour just a little bit of vinegar over about ¼ of tsp soda and add it to the mixture. The ‘dough’ part is ready – it should resemble crumbs but it won’t be homogeneously crumbly. Divide the mixture in two parts – one will go for the bottom layer and the rest – for the top.

Mix the filling ingredients. I also added some flour as the mixture seemed too runny.

The best way to bake this pie is in a round pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle one part of the dough mixture onto the bottom, leveling it out. Then spread the filling (don’t worry if it is runny) and finish off with the rest of the dough on top. Bake on the bottom rack at 180 ‘C for 25 minutes and then some more time on the top rack with the ‘top heat’ option, if there’s one in your oven.

“Terty” Tvorozhnik or 'Grated' Cheese Pie

Remarks: I think one of the key ingredients of this pie is the butter. I suggest you’d rather not use margarine but butter of good quality. Don’t overdo the sugar part – I added too much to the dough I guess. The top layer will get crunchy if you go for the additional baking time using the top rack. Some bits of the crumble will fall off – but no worries, the rest will be gobbled down!

“Terty” Tvorozhnik or 'Grated' Cheese Pie

Result: Pretty sweet and crumbly – at the same time very soft and addictive! Will make a great supper, especially if served warm straight from the oven – the sweet cheese matches the floury crumble perfectly.

See another terty pie from our family recipe collection.

Adding this to Sweet and, well, to Russian recipes too.

G.

Multiple Faces of Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

Did I tell you that St Petersburg is composed of so many islands? The official number is 33 – at least all of these islands have official names. With all the canals and rivers there used to be about 100 once but now there’s less. Anyway, unless you really ‘switch your mind on’, you rarely realize that by crossing a bridge you get to yet another island of St Petersburg! One of the most charismatic and modernistic of them is the Aptekarsky Island, on the Petrogradskaya Side.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

Let’s first deal with its name – Aptekarsky means Pharmacy in Russian. It was Peter the Great who ordered to grow medicinal herbs and plants on this island. There’s now the Botanical Garden of St Petersburg, a bit dilapidated but yet quite refreshing. There’s even a Japanese garden, open on demand only. By and by the island – apart from housing various medical institutes – became the destination for fresh-air-seeking citizens of the capital. They built here their mansions (osobnyak) and dachas.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

After visiting the Botanical Garden and making a short walk around, I ventured on a larger walking tour of the island on my own. 200-something photos, a museum, a funny postcard sent back home and several books on St Petersburg – this is my day! Not all the 210 photos made it to this post, the details of this island just driving you mad in their abundance and intricateness… It’s not the opulence of the baroque and not the grandeur of the classical or Empire styles. And yes, Aptekarsky Island – as many of the city’s districts – is the paradise for those who enjoy every detail of an interesting building… But it’s also a little hell cause you just physically can NOT pay attention to every detail and investigate all the buildings :)

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

There are so many faces to this island indeed, so I will only stop by the most significant of the sights. Or at least those of them that I enjoy stopping by the most :) This is the super-angle of the First residential house of the Lensovet (the local governmental body of Leningrad) as it used to be known, built in 1931-34 by Levinson and Fomin right on the waterfront of Karpovka river, separating Aptekarsky from Petrogradsky Island. One of the finest constructivist specimens in the city – and in the typical semi-decadent state.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

The platforms on top were supposed to work as a solarium. This was a house for the political elite of the city, not some regular blokes, the workers. They say initially there were just 76 apartments in this giant, some of which contained SIX rooms and some were two-story! There were also such unheard-of novelties and luxury for that epoch as built-in furniture, BATHROOMS,  oak staircases…

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

The inner or back yard was also a not your babushka and kids place. There are these rather weird pavilions – if one can call it so. And this wall is not a necropolis! This is a very khm… eccentric and sinister to say the least decoration in the backyard, with repeating reap and flower patterns still remaining.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

Talking about decorations, there are some – again – rather cemetery-looking urns in the front, solid stone benches and basreliefs of tractors, sturdy women with a ball and flags and no less sturdy Soviet footballer. Those were the days when the ideas ruled the world – and those were very DEFINITE ideas, you know, a step to the right, a step to the left – and you’re dead, as we say in Russia…

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

The avant-garde with the constructivism as its prominent movement, followed the modern or the Russian Art nouveau, was meant for the majority, for the masses (with reservations, of course, like this house for the local elite). Contrary to the previous movements, constructivism tried to get rid of all the retro-, neo- and pseudo-, yielding something new and unique. Denying the past -yes, but also creating – though not for very long. In fact, constructivism made its appearance for a very short period, though, until it was overthrown in its turn by the Stalin’s neoclassical towers, columns and enormous sculptures of workers and women. But it shone brightly during its brief triumph, carrying the country to the new life with its ascetic looks reduced to basic geometric shapes, however dilapidated and ugly it might look nowadays. There are more of it on Aptekarsky Island but we’ll move a bit back in time – and farther into the island to see the rest.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

But we don’t have to walk a lot – just behind the Lensovet house is this 1905-07 modernistic mansion belonging once to a famous actress Savina, recently renovated and now looking like a musical box – particularly in stark contrast with the sinister Lensovet. And if you walk just a tiny bit farther into the courtyard, you’ll find a tiny house-workshop of an artist with numerous amusing and creative… creations all around the house :)

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

And again close to the Lensovet house is this 1906-07 tram switching station by Zazersky who also created a number of … modernistic public WCs :) And they do look great! One of them – still operating – is in front of the Admiralty. He was also one of the architects behind the Palevsky zhilmassiv which I recently visited.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

And since we’re somehow still walking along the Karpovka river embankment… Here’s another facet of the island!

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

We’ll now turn into one of the most architecturally curious streets of St Petersburg, Kamennoostrovsky Avenue which runs all across the Petrogradsky and Aptekarsky Island. Its name refers to Kamenny Island, yet another island located nearby. My previous walks along this mine of modernism can be found here and here.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

One of the most interesting modernist buildings I’ve ever seen! It was built by Konstantin Markov in 1908-09. This style is also called Northern modern, as it combines the Swedish and Finnish modern architecture with the St Petersburg features.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

It looks just like a fairy-tale castle and at the same time there’s something from the Nordic seas… It used to be a residence hall of the nearby Electro-Technical University and now there’s the office of a local radio station and apartments. There’s an artist’s workshop and living space in the tower (photos).

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

And there’s also a pharmacy which I just HAD to enter :)

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

And this another beautiful-beautiful 1906-07 dokhodny dom by the famous modernistic architect Lidval has 25 (!) types of windows (no, I didn’t identify all 25 of them but I was close…) and – at least initially – spacious apartments (interiors).

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

Look at the metal work! I was mesmerized by this building, walking all over it and having those moments of happiness which might as well look rather weird for those who just don’t get it :)

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

See also the first photo of the post – the Soviet druzhba narodov (‘friendship of nations’) painting covers the firewall of this building, cause next door was a hotel called… Druzhba. Along the same Chapygina street, running perpendicular to Kamennoostrovsky Avenue, there’s the former main TV center of Leningrad, now the headquarters of a local TV channel. Chapygina thus became something like Fleet Street in London or Wall Street in New York – a metaphor for the city’s TV industry. By the way, the TV tower visible from many places in St Petersburg is also situated on this island.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

Parallel to modern / art nouveau, there was this neo-classical style, yet another return to classicism that St Petersburg witnessed in the early 1900s, long before the Stalin adopted and adapted it as the official style of USSR.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

1901 retrospectivist dokhodny dom by Ryabov (interiors) which houses a museum of Feodor Shalyapin, the famous Russian opera singer who used to own the building. Retrospectivism was an architectural movement comprising both neo-classicism and the pseudo-Russian style of the early 20th century. The most prominent architects of that movement later became the leading figures of Stalin’s neo-classicism.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

1908-10 neo-classic dokhodny dom by Schyuko (interiors). Vladimir Schyuko was an academic and a rather prolific architect, always winning this or that medal for his buildings.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

Here’s another of his gloomy creations located nearby, a 1910-11 neoclassic dokhodny dom, almost Renaissance-like with its balconies, a fountain and super-white interiors.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

1913-14 residential building by Yakovlev and Zazersky (interiors), with a recently open Museum of… hand fans! This St Petersburg is just swarming with museums! Moving further in time, here’s a 1933-35 house for the employees of the nearby Experimental Medicine Institute by Lansere and Ryumin. The facade is all covered with basreliefs of dogs, cats and other animals, as well as different medical tools. It’s one of the many ‘specialist’ residential buildings, constructed for various specialists, the elite of the city’s industries.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

Moving even further in time and closer to Kamenny Island, here’s a 1954 residential house built in Stalin’s neo-classic style with these curious wooden doors:

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

I should tell you that moving yet further in time just doesn’t attract me. Each time I make my architectural walks my eyes just wouldn’t stop at anything beyond 1950s, I guess…

And so that you could make a more realistic walk, this is how Aptekarsky island sounds like – cars, seagulls and wind:

Adding this to the ever-growing St Petersburg series. This summer seems to be deliberately “not that very hot” to spend more time wandering around the city!

G.

Soft Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate

Chez moi interior design school, by Sergey Kozienko

Back in April I started baking for my sister’s friend’s interior design workshops. Natasha opened Chez moi interior design school for non-professionals following her own passion towards home design. Hers is the first school of the kind in St Petersburg. So here’s my first ‘commercial’ double batch of muffins and cookies pictured by Sergey Kozienko.

Chez moi interior design school, by Sergey Kozienko

That day the participants learnt how to lay out and decorate the table with the delicate white flowers and rough tree bark. The overall feeling is that of spring 100%! I did not attend the seminar but I was told the guests thoroughly enjoyed the dessert too! :) Such a partnership makes me look at my baking from a completely different point of view! I’ve been giving baked goods as gifts, even swapping bread for other things, feeding guests at friends’ birthday parties… But not completely unknown people with the tastes and preferences I totally ignore.

Chez moi interior design school, by Sergey Kozienko

Since that very first collaboration with Natasha back in April I’ve been asked to bake again the oatmeal cookies that proved to be particularly popular. I’ve also baked them for our family. I’m sharing the recipe with you!

Soft Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate from gastronom.ru

A year ago – Petits pains sans pétrissage and Stand-By Bread

Two years ago – Greek Briam with Dannish Rye Rolls

Three years ago – Midsummer’s Black Currant Rhubarb Cake

Soft Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate (Myagkoye ovsyanoye pechenye s shokoladom) translated and adapted from gastronom.ru will make chewy not over sweet cookies. Best eaten chilled with hot tea! ATTENTION: the cookie dough requires a 4-6 hour rest in the fridge! See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour – I also tried adding some oat flour once (tolokno)
  • 1.5 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 cups brown sugar – I normally use a mixture of regular + brown sugar and add less
  • 50 g butter, soft
  • 180 g dark 60-70% chocolate – I used less
  • half of vanilla bean – I used artificial vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon and / or grated orange zest – I used both
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Procedure:

First cream butter with sugar, then add eggs and beat well with a mixer. Cut a vanilla bean and add the seeds to the mixture, beat well again. Coarsely grate the chocolate. Sift the flour with the baking powder and cinnamon (if using grated zest, add it first to the butter + sugar mixture) and then add it to the butter + sugar mixture. Mix well. Gradually add the oats, mixing well. Add the chocolate last (carefully – it melts!), mix the dough but do not knead. The dough should be thick but crumbly, easily forming into balls. If it’s too sticky, add some more flour.

Cover the dough with a cling film and chill in the fridge for 4-6 hours (I gave the dough an overnight rest in the fridge before baking them in the morning). Grease a large baking sheet or line it with parchment paper (I prefer the second). Make balls of about 2–3 cm across, place them apart on the baking sheet and flatten a bit. Bake in the pre-heated 180 °С oven on the middle rack until the cookies just about begin to brown on the edges and you can smell vanilla and chocolate, for about 10–12 minutes. Don’t be misled by the cookies looking rather soft – they will harden once they are out of the oven. Cool thoroughly before removing from the baking sheet.

Soft Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate from gastronom.ru

Remarks: You can experiment with various sizes – for the workshops I preferred to make them large (and also double the recipe) but smaller cookies will bake even faster. The smaller the oats you use, the more delicate these cookies get. Thanks to the long chilling of the dough these cookies do not spread out much. If you prefer to have larger chunks of chocolate in your cookies, you can grate half of it and roughly chop the rest. And try not to omit the orange zest – it adds extra flavour!

Result: I think what makes these cookies taste different is that they are made with pretty small-scale ingredients. I mean, oats are tiny, chocolate (and zest) is grated. The result is a delicate combination of the flavours. And what’s more, these chewy cookies require just 50 g butter, so it’s worth the effort :)

You can also check out these muffins from applesauce that were already featured on my blog. I used leftover apple puree for these muffins – no need to add lots of sugar! And they were also enjoyed by the guests :)

Adding this post to my Sweet, Chocolate and Russian recipe collections.

First three photos by Sergey Kozienko for Chez moi interior design school for non-professionals.

G.

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