Kaliningrad in Spring: Ships, Sea and Robots

Kaliningrad, Russia

My first time in Kaliningrad was last autumn when the city was at its most haunting stage I guess. This time with the warm(er) Baltic climate the city was much homelier and less mysterious – or was it just that we somehow got used to it? Looking at my autumn post made me wonder how different the city might appear to you 5 months later – and how differently you can see the same things!

Kaliningrad, Russia

And we did revisit quite a lot of sights in the city – although we also saw the new stuff. I thought that these new places would just add up to that mixed impression of a heavily 1970s Soviet urban creature with the traces of its past hidden here and there. However, the city did not produce the same effect on me this time – even with all its almost autumn-like weather on the first day.

Kaliningrad, Russia

A mansion in Handel’s Street. I somehow came to a conclusion that Kaliningrad is in its essence is all about matted colours and surfaces. Including the 1960s-70s stuff, like this ehm prison block of flats.

Kaliningrad, Russia

It seems that the city was living off these buildings for so long without caring for the old nor constructing new, that the recent addition of the glossy buildings just doesn’t work: they stand out of the crowd so much! That creates a very special patchy cityscape. Like that in the very center of Kaliningrad where the newly reconstructed Fishers’ Village is:

Kaliningrad, Russia

In the background you can spot the ever-present 1970s houses with – at that time – innovative design blocks hiding the staircases between the floors. You can also see that the village’s lighthouse is already loosing its luster – the city’s spell is taking its own!

Kaliningrad, Russia

The Cathedral is also a reconstruction (the entire island used to be full of houses). I wonder how the city looked like before the 1990s when they started building it on the remnants of the original cathedral (preserved thanks to the assumed Kant’s tomb, Kant being revered by the Soviets). Well, it was 100% dominated by this robot’s head juuuust to the left of the cathedral:

Kaliningrad, Russia

We’ve started investigating into the history of the House of Soviets (Dom Sovetov) and we found out that it was almost completely ready back in the 1980s when after lots of cuts to the initial project and the long-long construction it was just abandoned. I don’t know why, but I’ve always had this interest in the abandoned or unfinished houses, they acquire some kind of a mystery about them, as if this disuse (especially unexplained) make them much less trivial as the surrounding buildings.

Kaliningrad, Russia

I also wonder how those constructors feel about this ambitious project they took part in – it’s right there in the center of the city, visible from all corners and should be a constant reminder to them. Especially with the fact that the city managed to install new windows and paint the entire building in 2005 for the sake Kaliningrad’s anniversary – or rather merely to let them be gradually knocked out by vandals. If you’re attracted by such monsters, you can even find videos online showing in what state the House of Soviets is inside.

Kaliningrad, Russia

Kaliningrad is one of those places where you have to know what to look at before you set out on your sightseeing. For example, you don’t just find old Konigsberg-time houses when you’re in the center, you have to look for them in the quiet streets just behind the main roads (like near Kutuzova or Telmana Streets). Although some of the old stuff is heavily covered with graffiti – which in this case was actually quite creative:

Kaliningrad, Russia

The white on the girl’s eyelashes are actually two girl names. Look also at the psychedelic colours on the left and here:

Kaliningrad, Russia

Red bricks are scattered around the city.

Kaliningrad, Russia

This street name is Tiles Street (similar named streets can be found in the district). According to the German tradition they have separate numbers (sometimes extra letters) for each entrance of a single house, which is a bit misleading, like when you realize that the street doesn’t actually count so many buildings as the map might suggest!

Kaliningrad, Russia

Just a random arch :)

Kaliningrad, Russia

And in order to see the Cathedral in this way you will have to get on Vityaz research vessel, which is a part of the city’s Museum of the World Ocean. A must as far as the museums go! I enjoyed the visit to this ship most of all – never been to such a classical vessel not to mention its rich history! I guess that this ship has something of that particular romantic & courageous aura that the 1960s movies and novels gave to the researchers in the USSR (especially those who went out into the fields, like geologists or polar scientist whose work was also to help build up the wealth of the country). There were songs and poems created about them, making every kid want to become a cosmonaut when they grow up :)

Kaliningrad, Russia

Here is a glimpse into the food side of a research vessel’s life: above is the pantry (see how the plates are attached so they do not fall) and below is the kitchen (look at the size of the pots!). There was also a separate room for baking bread.

Kaliningrad, Russia

Vityaz has come through some turbulent years since its construction in 1939 in Germany, through its transfer to UK and finally its transformation into a Soviet ship for scientific research. During its life as a research vessel it served its country and the science at its best, but no matter how much honoured and appreciated, it was almost completely taken to parts and pieces in the 1980s when nobody cared for it anymore. However, in the 1990s it gave birth to the Museum of the World Ocean becoming its first exhibit.

Kaliningrad, Russia

The Museum itself tells the story of Konigsberg-Kaliningrad as a major port, with an entire skeleton of a wooden ship on display right in the middle of the room. There are some curious objects as well and these famous variety of canned fish that the Soviet food industry was supplying the country and exporting abroad:

Kaliningrad, Russia

The Museum occupies a large slice of the embankment with some of the historic buildings reconstructed and also being reconstructed, as it continues to grow. This is a souvenir shop with the urban legend of Konigsberg, the riddle of the seven bridges (how to cross every each of them without setting foot twice on any of them). Try solving it yourself!

Kaliningrad, Russia

More reconstructed port-related buildings. Looking too smooth to be true but still a very nice initiative! We also visited the aquarium – I’m not a big fan of fish, especially cooked, but I guess that was quite interesting.

Kaliningrad, Russia

The last thing we visited was the submarine. I’m probably less fond of submarines than I’m of fish… so I was really happy when the long corridor inside ended and I realized I didn’t have to make the entire way back to get out of it!

Kaliningrad, Russia

Getting though the corridor was quite a challenge. Not to mention the overall suffocating atmosphere – regardless of the fact that there was sun shining outside and the submarine was a museum exhibit moored (and not submerged!) peacefully for the sake of – mostly – entertainment… Well, if you’re a pacifist with hidden claustrophobia – just make your visit a very brief one :)

Kaliningrad, Russia

The signs on the door warn you of the truly wonderful possible outcomes of your visit to the submarine – Get out immediately / Move to the stern / Fire in this sector / Water in this sector / Move to the prow. As I was passing doors to each new sector I was hoping not to hear the Morse code for these warnings…

Kaliningrad, Russia

This is how a kitchen looks like in a submarine. Don’t ask me how the ‘shower’ and the WC look like. Nor the beds. Who would deliberately consent to live in such hostile conditions I wonder… I wouldn’t like to cook in such a kitchen by no means!

Kaliningrad, Russia

No, this is not a laser blade from the Star Wars saga. This is where the torpedo gets out of the submarine. Brrrrr! We definitely need some cheering up after that! Here’s some:

Kaliningrad, Russia

The windy Baltic sea, listen:

Kaliningrad, Russia

We went to Svetlogorsk (former Rauschen) on a sunny but rather windy day. This small town continues to play its Baltic resort role years after its coming under the Soviet rule. We took an elektrichka to get to the coast, walked all over the town in search of old German country houses and enjoyed the sea immensely. Even though it’s so different from the  – paradoxically for a citizen of St Petersburg – more familiar Mediterranean sea. And nothing can rival a buterbrod with tea on the seashore!

Kaliningrad, Russia

Svetlogorsk means a city of light and that’s a very true name (although the German Rauschen is also appropriate, meaning ‘to rustle’ and even sounding so). It’s also green with the aroma of warmed pines but all the while a bit artificial too, as most of the small resort towns / villages are. And old school 100% ;) Just like Agia Marina or the sandy Sestroretsk. Here’s the most famous building in the town:

Kaliningrad, Russia

Looking like a mushroom with eyes this military sanatorium was built in the early 1900s to become a spa clinic. The sun clock on the tower was added in the 1970s. And this wall is all green in summer, though now it looks like a bird’s nest or something:

Kaliningrad, Russia

And this is … the funky massage department :)

Kaliningrad, Russia

This harmless birdie can be seen all over Svetlogorsk – this time it demands “Where’s the forest?” And did you know, the Svetlogorsk seagulls are silent compared to the squeaking St Pete seagulls!

Kaliningrad, Russia

After soaking in the sea wind and even getting a slight headache, we left with the elektrichka and the same cohort of babushkas back to Kaliningrad. On our last day in the city we walked all along the street called Litovsky val which doubles the former fortification wall: some of its super-long old buildings run continuously along the line and no doubt hide some of the original stones inside. And just when it was getting really warm … we had to leave Kaliningrad for a much less spring-like St Petersburg! In Kaliningrad we spotted chestnuts sprouting right in the ground and blossoming trees and green grass. Such a pleasure!

Kaliningrad, Russia

As far as my usual travel checklist goes, this time we visited the local market (or rather just an array of various kiosks under one roof), found pretty post cards at the Museum and did notice some minor changes in the city. Like there were no more chairs outside the airport :) We also sampled more local dairy, bread and buns: I can mention rye bread with crushed rye and sunflower seeds, a kind of diet egg-less gingerbread with cocoa and raisins and … soft and vanilla-laden sochni!

No Easter food-related post this year – I’m busy replicating that kovrizhka (gingerbread) we tried in Kaliningrad! :)

Adding this to my Travel series.

G.

Furshtatskaya and Kirochnaya Streets, St Petersburg

Furshtatskaya Street, St Petersburg

It recently dawned on me that it’s been over 10 years that I’m in love with Pink Floyd (obviously triggered by my reading of Nick Mason’s Inside Out) and suddenly some very first pictures I copied to our first very slow computer came to my mind. I searched for them on my laptop and found some silly curious stuff I totally forgot about. This is indeed a very strange thing when you can somehow make those particular sensations re-emerge ten years later with the help of music and reading! And sure enough I recalled the – now defunct – DevotedToDavidGilmour.co.uk website which at the time gave me so much joy and relief in that I was not the only one crazy in love with a certain David Gilmour! You might say – and what does this teenage fan love have to do with the post on St Petersburg? Well, absolutely nothing :) Just wanted to pay tribute to that time and to those people I found through Pink Floyd, especially you, my overseas Mexican guitar-star Paloma!

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

I could have told you a lot about my teenage love but let’s face it, I still love Pink Floyd :) So we’d better turn to the other favourite of mine – the architectural discoveries of St Petersburg. I actually treated myself to this new walk in the center of the city, as I decided not to attend to a free excursion organized by the public library. Instead I walked along the Furshtatskaya and Kirochnaya Streets peeping into the cortyards where possible and also taking to the habit of raising my head more often. Both streets are a perfect example of what can be epitomized as ‘dvuliky Peterburg‘ or a two-faced St Petersburg.

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

Kirochnaya Street runs from Dom Ofitserov on Liteyny Avenue which I talked about recently. Its name derives from a Lutheran Annenkirche built in late 18th century (and turned into a cinema hall you-know-when). However, almost anything starting with Kiro… has to my ear a certain – and in this case fake – Soviet connotation (like the city of Kirov, for example) – this pseudo-etymology plays tricks with my mind in immediately attributing something Soviet to this otherwise innocent street. In fact it used to be called Saltikov-Shchedrin Street over the Soviet period, commemorating a 19th century writer whose books are on the “obligatory reading” list for schools. The street is just laden with various architectural styles, most of which are not in the perfect shape – both in the inner courts and on the front line. Would you believe this is in the full center of St Petersburg?!

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

… and next to this:

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

This eclectic-style monumental dokhodny dom (revenue house) stands out of the crowd, occupying two house numbers along Kirochnaya Street (1899-1900 by Pavel Syuzor). It’s green for starters and it has an enormous arch.

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

  And the frontal view:

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

It’s richly decorated in the best traditions of the eclectic style. It’s one of those buildings when you take a photo and only later discover more details: your head just won’t keep that long propped up!

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

Always wanted to get inside… But now even the entrance to the interior cortyard (cour d’honneur) is blocked. This very helpful and informative source on St Petersburg architecture gives you lots of photos of the interior. And oh-oh, looking at the inside photos of this modernist building make me want to get in there at once!

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

Built by Boris Gershovich in 1904-1905, this house is easily spotted (as long as you pay attention to the facade rather than to the bulky signs on it) and if you’re a fan of modernist architecture, its door ‘roof’ will transport you to Paris :) Oh, the curvy and rounded details! The exterior door was open but the second was was not so I did not see all the treasures hidden in there (including stained-glass windows and galleries). Just found out there was an excursion in this house todaaaaay and I missed it…

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

I guess this has been trod upon for more than a century:

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

I pretty much like the rustic masonry too:

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

And the grate:

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

And here just next to it is the other side of the city – what’s left from the – then super-innovative – 1936-1937 constructivism building:

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

And again – side by side to the Soviet addition is this mid-19th century PINK mansion built for Caesar Kavos:

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

Somewhere after that I turned into the depth of the first open cortyard (this is the golden rule of St Petersburg – and probably of many more cities – just follow the folk and enter anything that is open :) and by winding my way through less parade-like typical St Petersburg yards…

Kirochnaya Street, St Petersburg

…I ended up rejoining Furshtatskaya Street (see the very first picture) which actually runs parallel to Kirochnaya! This is a narrow early 19th century building by an unidentified architect redesigned in 1901 to become a modernist house. Again green and white and again – standing out of the crowd, though this time the size doesn’t matter!

Furshtatskaya Street, St Petersburg

Furshtatskaya Street bears its name thanks to the Preobrazhensky regiment which was housed there (renamed after a revolutionary during the Soviet times). It has a pedestrian alley right in the middle of it and is best known for two things – consulates and one of the oldest and the most beautiful civil registry halls in St Petersburg. In this eclectic-style late 19th century mansion my sister got married:

Furshtatskaya Street, St Petersburg

Ah yes. And this is how it looked inside on that day in June 2013 – or just a sneak peak into what an civil marriage ceremony involves in Russia – a beautiful couple, lots of guests throwing rose petals in the streets (this is how you can easily tell a civil registry hall from a plain building) and a pompous speech delivered for the umpteenth time by a registrar which no one ever remembers .)

Furshtatskaya Street, St Petersburg

There’s much more to both of the streets – but I would bore you to death with the photos if I followed them house-by-house! Although for me they are far from being boring. Adding this to my St Petersburg series.

“And then one day you find ten years have got behind you…”

In apprehension of more Kaliningrad adventures.

G.

Discovering Cityscape with Cheese and Yogurt Biscuits

St Petersburg

Ulyany Gromovoy lane 6, 1879-1880

It’s been very windy, very-very windy these days. Yesterday at Kosheen’s concert at a St Petersburg club the singer observed that in such a piercingly cold city there are such romantic and poetic people :) She seemed actually very happy and was apparently enjoying herself and the enthusiastic crowd. Being rather on the short side I now have a usual ache in the neck after standing and jumping with my head popped up. That was a rather different concert from the one in Rotunda, to say the least :) But I guess I needed some energetic ‘injection’ to shake myself up a bit!

St Petersburg

Ulyany Gromovoy lane 4, Eclectic style, 1880-1881 (more photos)

This post is actually about a previous evening when – instead of a French conversational club at another public library – I ended up listening to a lecture on the Decembrists who were kept prisoners at the Vyborg castle before been expelled to Siberia. When you learn about those young intellectuals at school you do not feel any pity or any particular feeling towards them, it all seems kind of boring as far as I remember.

St Petersburg

Vosstaniya Street 13, Eclectic style, 1882 (more photos)

 And during the Soviet times they were praised and venerated as people revolting against the tsar with some of them trying to get rid of him by apparently violent means… But after watching the 1975 movie The Captivating Star of Happiness about the destiny of the women who followed the Decembrists all the way to their very harsh exile places in Siberia, I grew more interested in the topic. So this lecture read by a very knowledgeable woman working at the Vyborg museum, got me captivated and made me miss the conversational club! :) I went there for the first 30 minutes before the club’s meeting starts and ended up listening to the entire lecture.

St Petersburg

On my way to Liteyny Avenue, one of the main streets of the central St Petersburg, I revisited some very curious places. After reading several books on the architecture of St Petersburg I finally started ‘digging in’! I mean I can tell one style from another and sometimes even recall some details about particular buildings. You remember the essential concept underlying the entire St Petersburg cityscape? The mix of so many different styles and levels of beauty that create this crazy architectural heaven.

St Petersburg

An unidentified two-storey house squeezed in between the only operating Catholic church in St Pete over the Soviet period (Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, 1909, at least this one was not converted into anything) and an eclectic building of 1899, with an ugly recent addition (instead of a constructivist building) on the corner of Konvensky lane and Mayakovskogo Street.

St Petersburg

This monumental stone wall is the oldest puppet theatre in Russia Bolshoy Teatr Kukol (est. 1931, never been there… they also have some performances for adults), housed in a 1910s building. And here is an exquisite modernist building of 1900:

St Petersburg

Right opposite the library where I was heading to is the late 19th century building in the pseudo-Russian (or neo-Russian) style, former Officers’ House and now the museum of the History of the Troops. Never been inside due to the lack of interest in the war theme, but surely there should be very curious things inside:

St Petersburg

And now we’re finally entering the Lermontova central library, a flat two-storey building dating back to 1799, which immediately impressed me with this staircase that you wouldn’t expect in such a low-rise:

St Petersburg

Again, I didn’t have the chance to see all the rooms there, but they feel just like walking inside the Winter Palace! The Lecture took place in the White Hall with a big chandelier and white columns but there’s also quite a modern space on the ground floor which is something like an open-space room for various meetings. It might take you several lives to inspect every object at display at the Hermitage – and it will definitely take all the cat’s nine lives to see all the interesting buildings in St Petersburg!

St Petersburg

And now on to a much shorter food part of this post.)

Cheese & Yoghurt Biscuits from www.thethreecheeses.com

A year ago – Darnitskiy Bread

Two years ago – What a Peach! Sunny Cake and a Zesty Cranberry Cake

Three years ago – Some St. Petersburg Shots and Breadsticks

Cheese & Yogurt Biscuits adapted from www.thethreecheeses.com will make very soft cheesy scones. Follow the link to see the entire recipe.

My changes: Used some unidentified Russian cheese instead of Cheddar and cottage cheese (tvorog) + kefir instead of yogurt. Completely forgot to add sugar. I brushed the tops with some kefir and had to bake them longer (was worried about them looking a bit too soft).

Cheese & Yoghurt Biscuits from www.thethreecheeses.com

A bit of cheese peeping through

Remarks: I would suggest adding more salt as these scones are rather on the bland side. Or a sharper cheese, like in the original recipe, or some spices.

Cheese & Yoghurt Biscuits from www.thethreecheeses.com

Result: The inside is very soft with some melted cheese here and there while there’s also crust making these scones look rather like puffs. They do not have a very distinct flavour so you can eat them with something spicy like some soup. I recently tried another savoury biscuit recipe which was way more zesty, check out these Buttermilk Biscuits with Fresh Parsley & Garlic (I used dill instead of parsley and added some whole-wheat flour).

Adding this post to St Petersburg and Lunch / Dinner collections.

G.

Concert in Rotunda and Country Applesauce Muffins

Zinger House, St Petersburg

This week I continued exploring the mass of concerts and other events offered free at the St Petersburg libraries. I enjoyed going to these in Strasbourg which is especially rich in various cultural events. And you know what? Their ‘free’ status rarely meant they are low-quality or something. The same applies to the free events I’ve been to in St Petersburg! Actually the list of things one can do for free here is just amazing.

Music Shop, St Petersburg

On your way to the Ex-House of the Dutch Reformed Church you pass along the art-nouveau Zinger House and then this famous Music Shop on Nevsky Avenue. Continuing your walk, at the crossing with Bolshaya Konyushennaya Street you notice the familiar criss-cross of the wires against the St Petersburg sky.

Bolshaya Konyushennaya Street, St Petersburg

I was certainly in the mood of observing the things ABOVE my head that evening!

Concert in Rotonda, St Petersburg

An impressive door of the Arts and Music Center of the Mayakovsky Public Library promised some new discoveries inside. I have passed along this building so many times during and after my student years and never had I ventured inside! Shame on me…

Concert in Rotonda, St Petersburg

The concert was due in some 20 minutes so I had time to explore the interior of the former Dutch church built in the 19th century for the Dutch community of St Petersburg. It is now referred to as Rotonda (Rotunda) and is the place for various expos and concerts.Yet another example of converting churches into cultural institutions after the Revolution – a very-very lucky sort for a church during the Soviet times!

Concert in Rotonda, St Petersburg

You can imagine that the acoustics is great, particularly if you manage to get your seat right in the center under the cupola. Although in order to get there I had to move seats twice and end up with a very annoying spectator right behind me. She was all commenting and talking loud. A true connoisseur.)

Concert in Rotonda, St Petersburg

They say this is the most popular shot among the visitors of the Arts and Music center. And although I am not a huge fan of classical buildings, I think this one is something special. I didn’t have the chance to look inside the rest of the rooms but according to the photos on the center’s website, they look very modern and inviting! They have a huge list of heavy XXL-format art books there.

Concert in Rotonda, St Petersburg

The concert included pieces from mostly classical music created by French composers, performed by St Petersburg theatre Zazerkalye, one of my most beloved places in St Petersbyrg when I was a kid – a truly magical place for children! Although this theatre is mainly known for its children-oriented performances, they also stage operas and other concerts for the grown-ups.

Concert in Rotonda, St Petersburg

This woman played very beautifully. It was a completely different experience from that in the Smolny Cathedral where string orchestra of teenagers was performing. This was a truly professional musician who made her violin speak to the spectator’s hearts and years. There was also a woman performing Ravel’s compositions in Hebrew and Aramaic – I enjoyed the songs in Aramaic most of all, a very ‘world music’ experience, much more moving than, say, Bizet!

Country Applesauce Muffins from www.williams-sonoma.com

And now – some food which I devoured ate before the concert. After celebrating the final exhaustion of our apple stocks earlier this month with Apple Pancakes, we are now left with another task – use up the tiles of jars with various apple jam and apple puree, successful and not that very successful… The second type is the one I usually add to the recipes asking for honey or jam.

Country Applesauce Muffins from www.williams-sonoma.com

A year ago – Darnitskiy Bread (a time-proof recipe, I’m still using it almost every week! Like today, for example)

Two years ago – What a Peach! Sunny Cake and a Zesty Cranberry Cake

Three years ago – Oh Mon Dieu, Ces Baguettes!..

Country Applesauce Muffins adapted from www.williams-sonoma.com  will make s dozen of spicy and very good muffins. This is a very successful recipe which leaves you enough space for improvisation! Visit the link to see the original recipe.

My changes: I added just a bit of chopped hazelnuts, used less salt and less sugar, and opted for sunflower oil. As for the applesauce, I had our neverending homemade apple puree.

Country Applesauce Muffins from www.williams-sonoma.com

My first edition (on the photo above) featured chopped up hazelnuts which made the muffins quite crunchy. The second edition (pictured here with a rough thread) was done with no extra sugar, flaxseeds instead of nuts, a bit of olive oil instead of sunflower oil and some wheat bran. But wait – there’s more! There’s this third edition :) I made it just now with some orange zest chopped up finely (it caramelized and added crunchiness and extra chewiness), no seeds/ nuts but oat bran along with wheat bran and ginger.

Country Applesauce Muffins from www.williams-sonoma.com

Remarks: The batter – and the resulting muffins – might seem a bit on the dry side, so I would suggest using a runny applesauce/ apple puree / apple jam and probably adding more of those apple chunks which make these muffins even tastier. Pay attention to the baking time – these muffins will not escape from the cups so they do not need high temperature and lots of time to bake. Try experimenting with different spices too.

Country Applesauce Muffins from www.williams-sonoma.com

The greatest bite is when you have this moist apple chunk!

Country Applesauce Muffins from www.williams-sonoma.com

Result: An easy recipe for chewy muffins, a cross between gingerbread and jam muffins. This recipe asks for just 1 egg, no special preparation and when it is ready, the aroma is super! And they came up very handy to use leftover apple jam!

Country Applesauce Muffins from www.williams-sonoma.com

Adding this to my collection of Apple recipes and to St Petersburg series.

G.

Tribute to St Petersburg in Spring (2014)

Breaking Ice on Moyka River, St Petersburg

I have procrastinated with this post for 1 year. So here is a tribute to St Petersburg in spring – and a visual souvenir from last year. All I can say is that spring 2014 was much more dynamic in its events for me – while the nature was much more dormant than this year.

Breaking Ice on Moyka River, St Petersburg

I remember seeing this tremendous ice breaking on Moyka river. We admired it from the windows in our office. And then I was walking to Gostiny Dvor to purchase a birthday present for my colleague. Gostiny Dvor is a central department store which is veeery old, yellow (more yellow houses!) and has a very interesting perspective:

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The shop windows reflect the sunlight and visually widen the gallery.

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 And then I went to two birthdays in one day. The second one was in a cafe called ‘The Attic’ with all the Soviet paraphernalia you could imagine. There was also this lamp with the most recognizable symbols of St Petersburg (or rather – Leningrad). The spire of St Peter and Paul Cathedral and the Fortress:

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And St Isaac Cathedral with the typical St Pete street lights – but definitely not typical Soviet street lights!

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To these traditional St Petersburg / Leningrad symbols I could also add the spire of the Admiralty with the golden ship on the very top and the bridges during the white nights of course!

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Last year that was for me the ‘best view‘ one could have when working in St Petersburg. Well, I can always take a walk in the center and see it! Nostalgia is not killing me these days, by the way. All that happened – happened. And I’m glad that this post is published finally :)

All photos are from late March 2014.

Adding this post to my St Petersburg series.

G.

Architectural Walks in Kolpino Part 4 – Privokzalnaya Square

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This is already the fourth chapter of the architectural walks in my native town Kolpino which is located close to St Petersburg and is actually a part of its agglomeration. I’ve started the Kolpino series (part 1, part 2, part 3) back in 2014 and all the photos were actually taken in the summer. Let’s investigate into the Square that surrounds the railway station this time. This Privokzalnaya square (literally around the railways station) is the first thing one sees when arriving in Kolpino from St Petersburg by train – it forms a true ensemble which doesn’t fit in one post – or one shot! : )

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The book that I’m reading now (on Avangarde architecture in Leningrad) cites various projects designed by Alexander Gegello, a prolific Soviet architect who created or rebuilt quite a lot of buildings in Leningrad and the USSR. For example, the Dvorets Kultury (the Palace of Culture) in Kolpino was Gegello’s work. And this ensemble I would like to tell you about today was also partially designed by Gegello but mostly by Mikhail Klimentov, in collaboration with other architects, and finished by 1955.

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Gegello was working both in the constructivist and the neo-classical (or Stalin’s empire or Stalin’s neo-classicism) style – the latter following the former and becoming the dominant style up to Stalin’s death. Klimentov already belonged to the Stalin’s official style and you can instantly feel that in the ensemble.

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This district was heavily bombarded during the Second World War as Kolpino was just on the front line. Actually, entire city was almost erased and only some old buildings remain. So the in the 1950s Klimentov’s architectural bureau responsible for the reconstruction of the district was trying to commemorate the bravery and the struggle of Kolpino citizens by making monumental buildings. They were thinking BIG.

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Hence this dominant tower with a spire and the figures of a worker and a woman impersonating the Motherland for sure. Peace, labour, new life and the revolution, of course. There are also various bas-reliefs all around the building. It looks both onto the railways and to the Komsomolsky Canal, and IS still visible from a distance since there are no other high buildings around blocking the view.

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I always wanted to get there, to the top floor of the tower and look around. Here’s a chance to get a closer look at the sculptures on the top and some shots from the roof here. But I usually just pass under one of its arches leading to the inner court – a habitual shortcut from the railway station to my home.

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But boy are these arches tremendously elaborate and oh so dilapidated (and smelly)…

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The Stalin’s official style, neo-classicism, was all about grandeur and at the same time lavish details, resulting in a weird cross between the classical Roman monumentality and the Soviet decorative propaganda.

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I wonder if this VKHOD (entrance) sign was lit in the night? The lamp is definitely very old too:

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Gosh, this door has seen a lot! And is almost “eating” the ground now.

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Another arch unveiling another building by Klimentov and Co:

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This building – although in a distance from the Square – is right in the center of the two curving sister-buildings. They say it used to be a local library and then housed a bank. In pure architectural terms it is there to create a perfect perspective (see the second picture from the top).

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This is the inner part of the sister-building on the other side of the square. It is rounded as it follows the curve of the round square – and doesn’t look that very sophisticated.

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Here’s the curve from the Square side:

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The curve in its perspective plus some Kolpino folk:

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And some more details of the ground floor, obviously designed to house stores and organizations. The grate:

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This lamp did not survive to the passing of time but look at the decor:

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The center of the Square just could not do without a statue of Lenin by Manizer and Fedotov, 1957:

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One of the things people usually notice in Lenin’s or other communist statues is where they are looking at or pointing at. Lenin is looking somewhere in the direction of this:

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Who knows if he approves of it or not, hard to tell from his noble face. But the thing I can tell you is that this phenomenon of lampposts, walls, bus stops, entire kiosks etc covered with small paper stickers and bearing traces of milliards of stickers preceding them is something that is going away. People used it before Internet arrived, you know :) This bus stop board is a survivor from God knows when. I did not check since the summer 2014, it might as well not be there anymore.

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But this flag-holder is here to stay in its relative safety up there on the wall. The Square was the starting point of many an organized manifestation-demonstration in the Soviet times and anyway every building had such a flag holding thing for the May 1st or November 7th celebrations.

Why are the old things infinitely more attractive than the new ones? Because the old things have history. They might have belonged to someone else and that makes you curious to begin with. They might have some mystery about them, some unknown facts that you would love to find out. The old Russian proverb says ‘An old friend is better than two new friends’ and I agree with it.

Will try to finally publish all the Kolpino walks soon(er or later). Adding this to my St Petersburg series.

G.

Running for Vivaldi and Pistacho Sourdough Bread

PISTACHIO-WALNUT SOURDOUGH BREAD from bewitchingkitchen.com

Yesterday we almost missed a Vivaldi concert in the Smolny Cathedral. We ran about 3 km in 30 minutes as we were being late and there was no other means of transport on a Friday night… except for ‘our twos’ as we say in Russia! The concert was well worth running for anyway. It’s been a long time since I last had such a mixture of emotions all at once – and such acute emotions. The music was so powerful that I was smiling and crying at the same time – something that happens to me only with very beautiful music or with some very dear memories.

Vivaldi concert in Smolny Cathedral, St Petersburg

There’s nothing like listening to great music being played live. The kids from the St Petersburg Conservatory School performed Four Seasons inside this huge baroque cathedral with neo-classical interiors (think white columns and a huge golden chandelier). The acoustics is great there and I’m afraid I have no remorses from enjoying this cathedral as a concert hall rather than as a church. In a way turning it into a concert hall in 1980s helped save the degrading 18th century building from being – who knows – demolished. And after all a concert hall where people enjoy such unearthly music as Four Seasons might be one of the best transformations that ever happened to a church over the Soviet period!

Vivaldi concert in Smolny Cathedral, St Petersburg

The building itself is a very beautiful sight – it’s super-tall and yet so delicate and light! I love the combination of blue and white against the St Petersburg sky. And although the entire district surrounding it has long been associated with the government and consulates, still Smolny Cathedral is something cloud-like and … a bit cake-like :) It reminds you immediately of another Rastrelli’s famous creation, the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. And since we’re talking food now…

PISTACHIO-WALNUT SOURDOUGH BREAD from bewitchingkitchen.com

Here’s a quick note on Pistachio-Walnut Sourdough Bread that I’ve turned into just Pistachio Sourdough Bread. I managed to taste it (notice those three tiny slices in the picture below) and it was rather dense and chewy. We still have some pistachios left from my last year trip to Aegina. The nuts do not give a very distinct flavour but I always enjoy them in the crumb, a small gift from the sunny Greece :) Ah yes, it’s again cold and super-windy here in St Pete, as if those amazingly warm days we suddenly had so early just were not there.

PISTACHIO-WALNUT SOURDOUGH BREAD from bewitchingkitchen.com

A year ago – 2,800 km of Russia Seen from Above

Two years ago – What a Peach! Sunny Cake and a Zesty Cranberry Cake

Three years ago – Double Citrusy Heaven

Pistachio-Walnut Sourdough Bread adapted from bewitchingkitchen.com will result in a smallish loaf with dense crumb and some nuts to chew on. Follow the link to see the entire recipe.

My changes: I added all the levain which I made with rye flour and my rye sourdough starter. As usual I increased the percentage of rye flour in the dough too, as well as added more whole wheat flour along with some wheat and rye bran. I skipped the walnuts and added the pistachios crushed, not whole. I forgot to slash the top but it cracked anyway.

PISTACHIO-WALNUT SOURDOUGH BREAD from bewitchingkitchen.com

Remarks: I don’t like the way walnuts look and taste like in bread (they add this purplish color and turn into something rubbery) so I usually avoid them in sourdough bread recipes with long fermentation time. The pistachios do not result in something crunchy either after all the hours but I prefer them to walnuts in bread.

PISTACHIO-WALNUT SOURDOUGH BREAD from bewitchingkitchen.com

Result: Very dense and chewy, the crust is not that thick though. The loaf is small so be quick to snatch a bite! Enjoy your bread and the music :)

Adding this to my Sourdough Bread recipe collection.

G.

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