architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Public Dental Clinic in Art Nouveau Mansion

Chaev's Mansion

Imaging fixing your teeth in an Art-Nouveau mansion without paying a single kopeck / cent, etc? That’s what might happen to you if you live permanently in the Petrogradsky district of St Petersburg and need a dentist. Yes, some crucial things are still free of charge in Russia, we inherited it from the USSR.

Chaev's Mansion

The mansion that the public (and hence free) dental clinic occupies since 1935 was originally built by Vladimir Apyshkov (who would later create the impressive Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge over Neva) for a wealthy engineer in 1906-07.  It was consequently purchased by other people and enhanced with two wings, one of which was designed by Fedor Lidval. However, the mansion is still known as Chaev’s mansion, after its first owner.

Chaev's Mansion

This is a rather cold type of Art-Nouveau, that is sometimes referred to as ‘hygienic style’, meaning a polished appearance almost devoid of any decorations, with the buildings usually faced with smooth bricks and tiles. In this case the choice of the ‘hygienic’ moderne (Art-Nouveau in Russian) for Chaev’s mansion almost predicted its future use!

Chaev's Mansion

This mansion’s style is edging on the neoclassical one as well. Just look at these figures (above) or this railing on one of the mansion’s staircases:

Chaev's Mansion

And as usual – everything in Art Nouveau is in details:

Chaev's Mansion

The mansion reminds me of another – more well-known – mansion of the Petrogradsky Island which belonged to the famous Russian ballerina and emperor’s sweetheart (they say) Kschessinskaya (now occupied by the Museum of the Political History of Russia). It was built in 1906 and had definitely – and immediately – an influence on other mansions designed during that period.

Chaev's Mansion

Chaev’s mansion is planned in a curious way: you enter through a tower-like cylinder…

Chaev's Mansion

and proceed into a round hall with a mirror ceiling (which originally was a glass ceiling to allow for natural light to flow in):

Chaev's Mansion

And then there’s yet another circle waiting ahead – the winter garden, like in Kschessinskaya’s mansion:

Chaev's Mansion

Very generous windows!

Chaev's Mansion

These three elements are interspersed, creating not only quite unusual space but also a weird sensation (must be even more weird when your teeth are aching!). They say that the glass ceiling was actually the third floor’s, well, floor, where the servants would live. Their dining table used to run all around that glass ceiling / floor not to block the light. Also, the kitchen and the laundry were placed on the top floor to avoid the unwanted aromas in the master’s room below.

Chaev's Mansion

It’s not that easy to imagine how it used to be in this mansion 100 years ago. Some of the interiors have been reconstructed but it’s obvious that all the oak panels, paintings and Louis XVI furniture are long gone.

Chaev's Mansion

And when you hear those dentist’s sounds (brrr!) you are for sure reminded that all these people sitting around waiting (wearing the inevitable bakhily – plastic overshoes, see the women’s feet in the picture below) are not Chaev’s guests!

Chaev's Mansion

A long-living leftover from the original mansion?

Chaev's Mansion

They say that the pool room is now occupied by the ‘dental cabinet #3’ whereas the head doctor sits in the former boudoir. The orthopedists are in the bedroom and the dental laboratory is in… the bathroom 🙂 By the way, this dental clinic was one of the only that worked all through the Siege of Leningrad.

Chaev's Mansion

 An interpretation of Otto Wagner‘s omega?

Chaev's Mansion

By the way, Chaev mansion is on … Roentgen Street (used to be Litseyskaya Street), close to the First Medical University campus. Which needs to be investigated into as well sometime soon!

This post goes to my never-ending St Petersburg series.

G.

cookies · sweet

Oatmeal Cookies with Sesame and Prunes

Oatmeal Cookies with Sesame and Prunes

Before I start a whole series of posts with my recent Crimea trip, here’s a quick recipe of crunchy oatmeal cookies with sesame seeds and prunes. Less words, more oats! 🙂

Oatmeal Cookies with Sesame and Prunes

1 year ago – Working Class Hero: Down-to-Earth Vyborgskaya Side

2 years ago – Addictive Grissini and Sourdough Bread Twists

3 years ago – Pear Clafoutis, Jelly Muffins and Scandinavian Twists

4 years ago – Colours of Summer

5 years ago – Gros Sablé Breton or Je ne Mange pas Six Jours

Oatmeal Cookies with Sesame and Prunes will make crunchy sesame-flavoured cookies perfect for the capricious St Petersburg summer. ATTENTION: the measurements are given in a very approximate manner…

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 200 g sugar
  • 50 g butter, softened
  • 50 g sunflower oil
  • 250 ml of oatmeal mixed with some oat bran (I used medium-sized oatmeal, not the instant type nor the old-fashioned)
  • 150 g oat flour (I used tolokno, a rough grind of oats) mixed with some all purpose flour
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • prunes, chopped (to taste)
  • sesame seeds, plus extra for coating

Procedure:

Beat eggs with sugar, add softened butter and oil, continue beating well. Beat in the oatmeal and oat bran (you can omit the former if you want), baking powder, soda, salt and nutmeg and then add oat flour mixed with some all purpose flour, enough to achieve a rather thick mixture. Mix in chopped prunes (I scolded them with boiling water beforehand) and sesame seeds. Ideally, you should get a pretty thick mixture that will allow you to skip the chill-in-the-fridge step (to save time). But you can of course place the cookie dough in the fridge (no need to cover) for some time (20-30 minutes) first. I baked the first batch right away while the rest of the dough was waiting in the fridge (can’t say there was much difference in the end).

Oatmeal Cookies with Sesame and Prunes

Preheat the oven to 175 ‘C. Take a small ball of cookie dough (moistening your hands with some water might help), roll it in sesame seeds and place it on the baking mat / parchment paper, then slightly flatten it with your hand. Continue with the remaining dough (the cookies will spread while baking so consider making two batches). Bake for about 20 minutes but be careful – do not overbake otherwise the cookies will be a bit too crunchy!

Oatmeal Cookies with Sesame and Prunes

Remarks: Prunes are really quite distinct in these cookies, so if you prefer a more neutral dried fruit or something more traditional, try making these with raisins. You can also experiment with flour, adding some whole wheat flour for a change.

Result: Crunchy, pretty sweet cookies, with an accentuated sesame flavour … and sesame crunch 🙂

Oatmeal Cookies with Sesame and Prunes

As I was taking pictures on the balcony, one of the cookies did fall from the fifth floor. It survived the fall almost intact apart from being attacked by an ant when I went out to find the errant cookie. Then we used the good Soviet anti-microbes solution which worked well with the unpacked bread they used to sell in the USSR and in the 90s: scorch the thing holding it close to the gas burner and turning it from all sides – and you are safe!

This post goes to the Sweet recipe collection where you will find more cookie recipes.

G.

no recipe · no-dough · on USSR / Russia · vegetarian

Two Foodie Projects from Yaroslavl

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

In this post I would like to tell you about two food(ie) projects I came across at a local food market in Yaroslavl earlier this year. Our gourmet order arrived recently and now we are savouring some zesty Greek sun-dried olives with thyme and paprika and artisanal goat & sheep milk cheese from… Russia! Never did our fridge emanate such flavours 🙂

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Chalet na Cherdake (Chalet in the Attic) is a delicatessen project by an enthusiastic foodie based in Yaroslavl, Irina Baryshnikova and her husband Evgeny. Foodies and travellers, they first started making delicatessen for their friends and then in 2015 opened an online gourmet store, or a ‘shop of home delicatessen’ as Irina calls it. Or better still, a lavochka, an old Russian name for both a bench and a shop :).

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Why Chalet na Cherdake? Irina’s family lives just under the roof of a 5-storey house with windows looking over a forest. There they’ve created their own small chalet and this is how they call their home since. No more explanation is needed 🙂

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Irina’s a true foodie who loves travelling and sharing, as well as a true magician who knows how to make delicate and at the same time daring combinations of flavours. Irina’s idea is to sell only those things she and her family enjoy eating: ‘we make what we really love’, says Irina. Her recipes are inspired by the ingredients from all over the world: Italy, Israel, Britain, Ireland, Greece…

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

In Chalet na Cherdake shop you will find a selection of high-quality delicatessen (no preservatives!) from sun-dried pears and apples to exquisite strawberry confiture with basil (!).

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Irina also willingly shares the recipes she uses herself in her kitchen – from a spicy pumpkin cake with dried fruits to the Russian all-time favourite salad recipe, vinegret (vinaigrette). You can find these recipes on Chalet na Cherdake website (in Russian).

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Jars of delicious olives, tomatoes, jams and curds can be ordered online and delivered to major Russian cities (and at really affordable prices!) or purchased in Yaroslavl, Kostroma and Rybinsk. And one more thing I like about this project – each returned glass jars gives you a 10 RUB discount on your next purchase 🙂

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Our order arrived really fast – imagine our impatience to open the parcel as we had to wait till Monday as the pick up point was closed over the weekend. We were not concerned with the olives – they can last for quite enough time – but with these curious rounds.

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Along with 4 jars of olives (who can resist some giant olives from Greece?) we also ordered some goat & sheep cheese made by Irina’s fellow foodie and a talented cheese-maker and master of affinage, Irina Vyrupaeva.

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Irina has an entire website dedicated to everything cheese-making with advice, recipes and an online store of cheese-making tools and stuff.  It’s called Pro Syr (About Cheese) and there you will find most amazing things, from molds for Caciotta cheese to … mould  for  blue cheese :), as well as recipes for homemade tvorog (cottage cheese), advice how to verify the quality of milk and other cheese-making secrets.

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

The cheese we received in the parcel from Yaroslavl is fragrant and different in texture. As I’m a complete dummy in these things (with all my adoration for cheese), I can only say that it looks and tastes, well, as a real cheese should. And it goes perfectly well with olives by Irina and bread (by me:).

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Irina Vyrupaeva takes part in various cheese events and organizes workshops on cheese making. Irina is not your amateur cheese-maker, by the way, she is a certified professional who advises cheese-makers and restaurants on the technological side of the thing. Irina doesn’t just make cheese from goat, sheep and cow milk following the formulas but she also creates her own recipes, like the Cosa-Nostra cheese in the photos (cosa sounds like koza, a she-goat in Russian). One of Irina’s recent projects she started with a chocolatier from Moscow is, yes, cheese chocolates – I can only imagine what crazy a melange might be if you combine Camembert and dark chocolate!

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

You can find Irina’s creations in her recently launched cheese shop in the center of Yaroslavl, called Khleb-Syr (Bread-Cheese). There you will also find the other Irina’s delicatessen 🙂 And I admire both women for their courage, energy and mastery! These two projects has made me proud of the Russian creativity and skill. I wish both Irinas lots of inspiring ideas and enough time to make them real!

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Find out more:

Visit the Chalet na Cherdake project’s website to find out more about Irina’s foodie magic or join her group on FB.

Irina Vyrupaeva‘s cheese-making advice and video can be found on her Pro Syr website (you can also join her FB group).

And I guess… I guess there will be at least two things in the nearest future: I’ll have to order more and I’ll have to start a new page to collect the foodie projects from Russia 🙂

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Dunino, Zvenigorod and Moscow

Moscow

This time Moscow has shown to me its private side. First, though, we had to ride next to the outrageously high fences rising along the posh Rublevskoye highway where all those who have money and an urge to make everyone know about it have their dacha or home.

Moscow
And then all of a sudden you get to this tiny road with low fences, out-of-use phone booths and cars growing into the soil. By the way, the spot with the phone booth out-of-use and a new one in-use, seems to be also the one either with a better mobile reception or with too many phone-calling memories attached as we spotted 2 people simultaneously talking on their phones right there.

Moscow

But we were actually after the place where one of my favourite personalities of the 20th century lived, the Russian writer Mikhail Prishvin. He bought a house here in Dunino in Podmoskovye (the Moscow region) after the war and settled here with his wife and dog(s).

Moscow

Here, who would believe this is the same Moscow river as that wide highway running through the capital, near the Red Square and the Stalin’s skyscrapers?

Moscow

Life is so calm and unpretentious in Dunino. It’s obvious why Prishvin with his love for nature and simple life would move here and come to Moscow only when his car would break down 🙂

Moscow

Mikhail Prishvin lived here with his second wife who was his real soulmate, although 26 years younger than him. They found each other when Prishvin was 67, just before the war. This cozy house is just impregnated with the love they shared.

Moscow

I’ve been reading his diaries recently, not in the chronological order though. I started with the torturous 1930-31 and now moved on to the after-war 1948-49.

Moscow

Reading his daily musings and piercing thoughts about his country, about life and just about everything, makes you understand the very truth of his saying that for every line of his diary he could as well have got 10 years of execution.

Moscow

The house and the garden with beehives and many trees are very peaceful and as if waiting for their master to come back from the usual hours-long walks in the forest.

Moscow

Best-known in Russia for his short stories about nature and animals (and thus mostly read only in childhood), Prishvin as a writer, as a thinker, as a skillful photographer, was so very beyond this ‘tagline’ that persists today. Just read his Ginseng novel: yes, it’s so very romantic and out-of-place (written in the early 1930s and published in 1933 when the country was preoccupied with very different things like labour camps etc) but so very poignant, so philosophical (in a good way).

Moscow

I’m glad that writing a master’s thesis on this very novel did not ruin my love to the writer. I’m still discovering the treasure he left behind him, reading his diaries as real revelations of the era. Prishvin outlived Stalin for just 1 year but considering the things he dared to think and write down (though without publishing of course, his diaries only came to the public in the 1990s), he was way too lucky.

Moscow

Our next stop was in Zvenigorod where Prishvin used to walk sometimes. Under torrents of rain we ran into the Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery which houses a local museum as well as executing its original functions.

Moscow

This monastery founded in the 14th century was pretty famous and quite rich in the old days. Now it looks a bit shabby but obviously gets its fair share of tourists and pilgrims who willingly buy bread (each of the items seems to be called Monastery-soemthing) and kvas.

Moscow

We spent quite a bit of time at the bread store but we also visited the museum which is divided into several section. With every new section we entered, the weather would change to the better. When we went out of the last one, the sun came out and the rain stopped.

Moscow

The sun finally opened my eyes to the surroundings and I regained interest in taking photos and in general looking out of my hood 🙂

Moscow

The spring always comes to Moscow earlier than to St Petersburg which is always lagging behind. My eyes were happy to see some bright green colors:

Moscow

By the time we went into the bread store and the cafe, it was all very fine. But when we were sitting in the cafe…

Moscow

The rain started again – this time it was recklessly pouring onto the surrounding hills and fields regardless of the shining sun. Here’s how it was:

Moscow

Our last stop before returning to Moscow was an old church hidden somewhere off the busy roads. It was unfortunately all covered in scaffolding so I took a photo of this small house instead. The street is called Gorodok, which is a diminutive of a city or town.

Moscow

Next morning we went to the recently-opened Museum of Russian Impressionism (yes, it does exist!) where we recharged our batteries with sun-lit paintings some of which were from Armenia (and were really good). After that we went to see one of the atypical places in the enormous capital, Sokol or the settlement (village) of artists.

Moscow

Rising up in the background of this photo is a nearby residential house and it’s a tricky question what seems to be more out of place: this high-rise monster or this village with tiny wooden houses? Although they say it is much more expensive to buy any of these houses than a pretty posh apartment in the center.

Moscow

The history of this unexpected village planted right in the middle of a ‘normal’ high-rise Moscow district is quite recent: it began in 1923 when the ideas of a garden city were in the air (including St Petersburg, then Leningrad) and so a community of artists, scientists and other intelligentsia were granted the right to use the land. The streets of this village are named after famous Russian artists, although they say not many artists live here now. It still preserves an atmosphere of an ordered village but the ever-present fences do not allow you to see many of the houses.

Moscow

We left the district on this bright blue tram. Seems so out-of-place in a more-than-busy capital like Moscow, doesn’t it? And yet the line crosses streets and parks and many people do still prefer this means of transport as it takes them to those hidden places where people actually live.

I really enjoyed this private side of Moscow!

This post goes to the Travel series where you can find more posts on Moscow under ‘Russia’.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Yet Another Getaway in Veliky Novgorod

Veliky Novgorod

Veliky Novgorod was good. It is already for the second time that this trip happens exactly at the moment when I most need this getaway. And when the weather is great too – windy and sunny – you unleash your carelessness and relax.

Veliky Novgorod

Last year our first day in Veliky Novgorod was pretty nasty in terms of the weather but this time I made quite a bit of sunny pictures.

Veliky Novgorod

These are the gates of the most venerable cathedrals in the region – Saint Sophia Cathedral of Veliky Novgorod. Never actually paid any attention to the details, always just looking at these gates as a whole while passing by. Gosh, did they have tons of time and skill in the old days!

Veliky Novgorod

Inside the cathedral it was warmer than outside so we lingered for quite a bit in there. It sometimes helps when you don’t have to pay attention to the sights as a whole (because you have seen them several times already) and so start enjoying the details:

Veliky Novgorod

Just outside of St Sophia there is this building with a funny balcony. I think it’s now a local center for kids where they teach them arts and crafts. We heard some music playing there. Right next to the school is the kremlin wall (no, Kremlin doesn’t exclusively refer to that red fortress in the center of Moscow, it can be found in other cities of Russia).

Veliky Novgorod

If you cross the bridge leading from the kremlin to the other side of the Volkhov river, you get to the Trade Side of Veliky Novgorod, where they have so many churches (and these are just a fraction of what was there before) that you can barely remember all their names.

Veliky Novgorod

I love how they grow from the earth (this church is almost 650 years old!). Sometimes they have to undig them out of all the culture layers that have accumulated throughout the years. And most of the times the years are pretty visible on these old walls:

Veliky Novgorod

Inside the walls of the late 17th century church:

Veliky Novgorod

Love those lines which are breaking all the rules of your school geometry lessons!

Veliky Novgorod

OK, here’s some geometry for you:

Veliky Novgorod

Our hostel was located in a very good spot, wasn’t it?

Veliky Novgorod

Next morning we went to Perynsky Skit on the Lake Ilmen where the monks would settle to get away from the busy monasteries. The tiny pieces of ice were rocking on the waves coming ashore the lake, creating some delicate music – or were they telling legends of the old times?

Veliky Novgorod

We made a wonderful sunny walk in the forest nearby and then visited the Yuriev Monastery, a must of all the coach trips to Novgorod:

Veliky Novgorod

Just a couple of meters away is the open-air museum of traditional Russian wooden architecture called Vitoslavlitsy.

Veliky Novgorod

It’s a bit of a tourist trap (especially if you just close half of the territory for reconstruction) but I still love it.

Veliky Novgorod

You can enter most of the buildings and see how the old Russians used to live:

Veliky Novgorod

There are houses of rich peasants and merchants as well as churches, a windmill and other buildings. A bit like they did it in Suzdal but I like the quality of their interior work much more.

Veliky Novgorod

Pity those vatrushkas were not real! 🙂

Veliky Novgorod

And there under the towel I suppose is a Novgorod carrot pie since we are in Novgorod!

Veliky Novgorod

And there to the right are blini while in the foreground is the traditional karavay bread served with a pinch of salt to the bride and groom at the weddings:

Veliky Novgorod

Can you spot some berries in between the window panes?

Veliky Novgorod

A babushka coming back to her duties after the lunch break:

Veliky Novgorod

Russian stove in a wealthy merchant’s house:

Veliky Novgorod

The icon corner is called krasny ugol (red or also beautiful corner) in Russia. The white and red towel has its meaning:

Veliky Novgorod

And here’s a workshop of a wool-maker:

Veliky Novgorod

View over the Yuriev Monastery from the open-air museum:

Veliky Novgorod

Can imagine how delicately green the city is now but back then in early April it was still rustic and brown, so very early spring-like. A wonderful start to the season!

Read my last year’s post for more details on Veliky Novgorod.

Adding this to my Travel collection.

G.

architecture · no recipe · St Petersburg

Tsarskoye Selo in Wait for Spring

Tsarskoye Selo

We went to Tsarskoye Selo right on the day when there was a blast in the St Petersburg metro. We were on the train when it happened so our escape from the city was very timely. Tsarskoye Selo is just a 30 minute train ride from the center of the city and yet it feels as if you really get into a different world and time.

Tsarskoye Selo

It’s curious that while being technically a part of St Petersburg Tsarskoye Selo is always some years behind – for me the town is stuck somewhere in the late 1990s – early 2000s. Although this doesn’t apply to the ex-royal residence and now a public park / museum, which is, well, out of time.

Tsarskoye Selo

In this time of the year – and on a work day – probably the most striking is the atmosphere in the park(s) of Tsarskoye Selo. There’s just literally no one there. The winter is not completely gone and the spring lingers to arrive, so there’s this feeling of in-between, of something suspended, waiting.

Tsarskoye Selo

The ponds are still covered with ice and the trees are graphic, resembling some black and white painting or shadow theater. Or simply ink spilled on paper.

Tsarskoye Selo

Just a few more weeks and the parks of Tsarskoye Selo will be teeming with tourists on any day of the week. But now you can still enjoy a solitary walk – or a solitary seat 🙂 And wait for the spring, open to all winds – and the view.

Tsarskoye Selo

But the birds are singing, they know the spring is very close.

Tsarskoye Selo

The color scheme of nature is brown – black – greyish white. More colors will arrive later. Can you imagine: all the colors, all the possible forms of life are there in the seemingly dead nature? Just wait and see.

Tsarskoye Selo

Here’s Tsarskoye Selo in spring, summer and autumn.

Adding this post to the St Petersburg collection.

G.

architecture · no recipe · St Petersburg

Avant-Garde Architecture at Narvskaya Zastava

Narvskaya Zastava

I started this post back in June 2016 when I was discovering new places along the red line of the St Petersburg underground. I took photos inside Narvskaya metro station having in mind an idea for a new walk – and later a blog post – around that area called Narvskaya Zastava (i.e. a frontier post leading to Narva). Which only happened in March 2017 when we went on the Avant-Garde Architecture excursion with the St Petersburg through Engineer’s Eyes project (the same one we went to re-discover the gorgeous Vitebsky railway station with). Unfortunately, the excursion did not turn out to be a huge success – neither in terms of the participation (we were just 7) nor with the actual participants. However, it made me see those crucial avant-garde place that I had been meaning to visit.

Narvskaya Zastava

The excursion started from the Narvskaya metro station, one of the first stations in the city opened in the south of the city in 1955. It was not built in the constructivist or any avant-garde style at all (although the very first Moscow stations were) but I think it’s worth stopping here for a while – especially in the light of the recent events in St Petersburg metro. Narvskaya’s ground pavilion looks pretty classical and routinely Pantheon-like, a leftover from the Stalinist architecture which after his death was doomed to die too. Very soon Nikita Khrushchev would take over the architectural line (as well as the power) and bend it in a very different direction, creating cheap faceless block of flats that people were only happy to move in. They are since called khrushchevki.

Narvskaya Zastava

I bet those doors in the background are there from the very beginning. I don’t normally like those bronze decorative things but here they look right. When you enter the station and go down, there are these marble bas-reliefs with sturdy never smiling (even the children!) Soviet people of various professions. All so solemn and out-of-this-world. As this entire district surrounding the station was largely a workers’ one, the station’s theme is all about labour and its glorification.

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

I like these semi-circles of lamps, they look kind of art-deco-ish.

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

It is true that the first users of the Leningrad metro were rather its visitors (and admirers). After all they were meant to be such – as these museums under ground, these temples of culture were supposed to cultivate and instruct those who would take the metro to work – and, well, work work work 🙂 Not much time for museum-going, you know.

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

Now, more than 60 years later, people still wonder at these temple-like first stations of the Leningrad subway. We don’t have that an abundance of Stalinist stations compared to Moscow, but still you can spend quite a lot of time discovering those original stations. And not only them of course!

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

It’s a pity we use metro rather as… users now, we don’t have time for the details and rarely do we stop to admire them. The symbols keep loosing their meaning and I guess not all of the today’s passengers would tell you what this 1955 stand for. A similar grate but in silver can be found inside the Vosstaniya metro station.

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

We didn’t really need a bus for this excursion really – it can be made on foot with no problems, most of the objects being pretty close to each other. Our first stop was at this school built to cater for the needs of a fast-growing workers’ district in 1927 – hence its name celebrating the 10 years after the October Revolution (Desyatiletiya Oktyabrya). They say it was built in a shape of hammer and sickle but there’s no official proof to that.

Narvskaya Zastava

The school is still functioning! It has this rounded wall with classes and an observatory tower (not used anymore due to light pollution) and there’s this weird interpretation of the hammer and sickle symbol pictured on the first photo of the post. The same architect, Alexander Nikolsky, created also a super progressive banya for 4000 customers a day located in the same district – the banya functioned until pretty recently but is now in such a state that I didn’t even try taking a photo.

Narvskaya Zastava

This is yet another constructivist public building in the district – a 1928-33 profilaktory (a health institution for preventing illnesses), now a hospital. With all the strive of that period for better and more effective, this profilaktory was designed to have continuous windows for more light (which never happened) and separate entrances for different groups of patients, etc etc. The years have had their toll on the building and now it has lost its avant-garde looks.

Narvskaya Zastava

Our next stop was at one of the local workers’ residential areas / townships or zhilmassiv. Like the one near Yelizarovskaya metro station (built in the same years, 1925-28) it has its own style and a signature detail: a semi-arch ‘growing’ from the wall. Nikolsky also participated in this project called Serafimovsky Gorodok as well as Gegello and Simonov. There are 7 houses and a laundry, creating a lot of space in the middle for a playground. That was one of the first projects of building an entire district in the city.

Narvskaya Zastava

Same architects were simultaneously building another workers’ township just a few blocks away, on Traktornaya Street – for the workers of the nearby Putilovsky, later Kirov Plant. Same signature semi-arch:

Narvskaya Zastava

And the rounded stairwells with a triangular canopy:

Narvskaya Zastava

This project is different in that it creates an entire street of 16 houses and not a square district with a playground in the middle. These neat houses came without bathrooms but with a niche for a perspective bath tub because at that moment the Soviet industry was incapable of making tubs 🙂 It’s a pity that with the active construction all across the district and the cars parked all over the place, this street doesn’t create the same effect anymore – it used to be some kind of a local landmark, with that school mentioned above at one of it’s ends and an arch at the other.

Narvskaya Zastava

Another must-stop of the district is the House of Soviets with a tall tower and quite a different aesthetics as it was built already in the early 1930s by architect Noy Trotsky (not to be confused with Lev Trotsky), known for his project of another House of Soviets in the Moskovsky district. They say that the building was faced with ground tombstones of a eradicated cemetery…

Narvskaya Zastava

I didn’t take any photos of yet another landmark of the Narvskaya metro station district which is situated right in front of the station pavilion – the local fabrika-kukhnya, a factory kitchen catering for the busy workers and their families. It is now so defaced and turned into such a mess of various signs that you can hardly recognize the original project by Barutchev, Gilter and Meerzon.  The same trio of architects also created fabrika-kukhnya on Vasilyevsky Island and in the Vyborgsky district. At first I thought these ‘stepping’ windows corresponded to the staircases but actually these are amphitheaters for lectures.

Narvskaya Zastava

And this is yet another constructivist project hidden behind the buildings on the Stachek square. Created by Gegello and Krichevsky in 1930-33, it housed some technical education institution and now it’s a store selling furniture… The ‘head’ of this building looks pretty familiar – it resembles Erich Mendelsohn’s Krasnoye Znamya factory’s power station on Petrogradsky Island.

Narvskaya Zastava

Our ultimate stop was in the local Dvorets Kultury imeni Gorkogo, Palace of Culture named after Maxim Gorky, a must that would adorn every large city of the Soviet Union, otherwise called Dom Kultury, house of Culture, if talking about a smaller town (I’ve definitely written about palaces and houses of culture in one of my posts about Kolpino). We actually had a chance not only to enter the building but also visit some of its parts hidden to the general public. Although this originally avant-garde creation of 1925-27 (architects Gegello and Krichevsky) has been heavily uglified by various add-ons throughout the years (this is how it looks now), it’s one of the city’s best preserved authentic palaces of culture.

Narvskaya Zastava

We had a chance to stand on the stage looking into the rows of chairs. These red chairs are here from the 1920s, can you believe that? The ribbon-like boxes look cool. Although I do not really like the color scheme 🙂 I only once was in this concert hall as a spectator – and that was when I knew nothing about the building, which is – as many constructivist creations are – almost like a machine or an organism with many functional sections and layers.

Narvskaya Zastava

This curvy corridor / gallery uniting two parts of the building is now closed and taken over by the flower pots. It runs on top of the concert hall with its windows looking out to the Stachek square.

Narvskaya Zastava

Some remains of the past in the library – it also has wooden bookcases with a 1930-something metal stamps on them. The library looks really sad with its old books and as we could gather – almost no readers at all. And here’s the staircase with the original wooden railing:

Narvskaya Zastava

It’s clear that in the today’s world it’s too hard for such an organization to survive without renting out its premises to various shops and clubs, so the building looks pretty patchy both inside and outside. It leaves an impression of slowly but steadily dying organism. Almost 90 years later it still carries out its function as a local center of culture and sports but it’s been attacked by the parasites for too long.

Adding this post to the St Petersburg series.

G.