Oreshek Fortress where Neva River Begins

Oreshek, St Petersburg region

Thanks to Wikipedia I’ve just learnt that Oreshek Fortress, aka Shlisselburg, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of those places in the region that is very closely knit together with the history of St Petersburg and the deeds of Peter the Great.

Oreshek, St Petersburg region

We went there last week and it was the first time I saw the fortress from the other side of the Neva river which actually takes its source right there, flowing from the Ladoga Lake, the largest in Europe mind you.

Oreshek, St Petersburg region

Normally we would travel to the fortress on bikes from my dacha, visiting the town Shlisselburg (aka Petrokrepost’ or Peter’s Fortress, one of those “absolutely necessary” Soviet (re)names) and having our lunch on the riverside. The fortress is situated on an island which looks (and feels) just like a ship, breaking the waves and the strong wind from Ladoga.

Oreshek, St Petersburg region

By the way, the fortress has several more names depending on what language you speak:) Schlüsselburg (hence the corrupted Russian Shlisselburg), Nöteborg, Pähkinälinna… The first name refers to it being a “key” fortress hence the key on this tower:

Oreshek, St Petersburg region

…while the other two are Swedish and Finnish for “nut” fortress, as it was built in 1323 on Orekhovets island (Nut Island) by the Novgorod people (hence the popular name Oreshek, a small – but hard – nut). And it has proved both its names right: it was a key to the Baltic sea for Russia and it was as hard to conquer as a nut, both for Peter who had to claim it back from the Swedes and for the Germans in the Second World War:

Oreshek, St Petersburg region

It was heavily damaged during the latter as it blocked the way to Leningrad and also courageously defended the only way which connected the besieged city with the mainland, the Road of Life.

Oreshek, St Petersburg region

Over the centuries its strong walls served as a prison, especially during the tsarist times when the various politically unwanted citizens lived and died there in harsh conditions. An American-style prison where all those anti-monarchists spent their lonely days in cold and damp cells without even a possibility to lie down during the day:

Oreshek, St Petersburg region

For those who did not get enough of cold cells in the Peter and Paul Fortress, there is a chance to see several of them fully reconstructed. And just outside there’s this blooming apple tree growing from the grave of Lenin’s brother who was hanged there. Of course this is not the authentic tree but it’s now a tradition to grow an apple tree on that spot. And I should say it really helps cheer the visitors up a bit.

Oreshek, St Petersburg region

There’s also a dungeon where it is so cold and eerie that you want to escape as soon as possible. And get back to that apple tree – or even better leave the fortification walls and stand a bit there where the Neva river begins. You almost feel like you’re standing on a ship looking ahead of you.

Oreshek, St Petersburg region

I tried to capture the sound of waves and the wind but all I got was a shshshhsh:) So here’s a Thai picture instead. Wait, this is not Thailand, this is Neva!

Oreshek, St Petersburg region

How to get there: We accessed the fortress from the right bank of Neva (more precisely, a township called after one of the fortress’ prisoners, Morozov) with the help of a fearless rock (music, I mean) fan motor boat owner, who took us there in just no time and 100 RUB one way. There are more ‘civilized’ (organized, legal) ways to get to Shlisselburg from St Petersburg, try getting on a bus 440 from Rybatskoye metro station or 575 from Ulitsa Dybenko; then take a ferry boat from Shlisselburg town to the island for 250 RUB 2 ways. Also, there’s a way to get there on water directly from the center of St Petersburg: take a hovercraft from the Admiralteyskaya Embankment pier or the Dvortsovaya Embankment pier (the tour lasts 5 hours).

The whole island is a museum, belonging to the same ‘chain’ as several other St Petersburg-history-related museums (see my stories here and here). The entrance to the fortress is 200 RUB and includes a guided tour in Russian (English on demand, I guess). The somewhat un-updated information about the museum in English is here.

Adding this post to my

St Petersburg Environs in May

Orlinskoye Lake

This fragile spring-time stage of the nature before all the summer abundance comes in is so very fleeting. I enjoy it the most. When the summer comes it’s all very fine of course but there’s no contrast, everything seems to be even. That’s why I like setting sun in summer, it brings in the contrast and you start appreciating the day that’s gone.

Orlinskoye Lake

May in Russia is notorious for its holidays (May 1 for Labour Day and May 9 for Victory Day) and the start of the dacha season. This year we chose to go outside St Petersburg (following a tradition which is probably as old as the city itself) heading not to the dacha but to two environs instead. In the very beginning of May we went to the Orlinskoye Lake near Gatchina (St Petersburg region).

Orlinskoye Lake

We were happy to see the lake before the hoards of tourists and locals come and make shashlik to loud music (and leave heaps of rubbish all over the place). There was peace around the lake.

Orlinskoye Lake

We also met an amateur diver or rather a treasure-hunter who was trying to fish out some antiques on the shore and found a 1903 coin with his metal detector.

Orlinskoye Lake

The journey took us some hours to get there and especially back (as all the dacha and shashlik people were also trying to get back to the city before everybody else), but we managed to breathe in some pretty fresh air and enjoy the forest which used to be a park, actually.

Orlinskoye Lake

You see, the Stroganovs, one of the famous Russian dynasties, used to have their manor there – and so they planted the trees and had their own beach. Probably that’s why the treasure-hunting makes some sense there.

Orlinskoye Lake

But we were in for nature:

Orlinskoye Lake

Next week we also moved outside the city which was ready to host the Victory Day parade and other crowded events, and headed to Pavlovsk. There the nature was also actively awakening – and yet we managed to see it while it was still dormant in some parts:

Pavlovsk in May

The spring sunlight is so delicate, it seems:

Pavlovsk in May

…and then you turn towards the sun and there’s just a whole wall of light pouring on you:

Pavlovsk in May

This post goes to St Petersburg collection.

G.

Pillow-like Corn Bread

Corn Bread

This recipe has been in my ‘to-do’ collection for years. And now that I’ve made it I’m impressed! So super airy and soft – and so very sunny, like a yellow pillow:)

Corn Bread

I’ve made it with polenta (corn meal here in Russia is either too fine or too grainy, like grits) and I liked the color and the texture it gave to the bread. Be aware though that this bread requires a poolish so it will take some time before it gets to your table:

Corn Bread

The author of this recipe says it comes from North America, where corn is one of the main food sources. So let’s say this is yet another country-specific recipe to my collection!

Corn Bread

1 year ago – Almond Biscotti and Sour Cream Snickerdoodles

2 years ago – Makowiec or Poppy Seed Roll for Easter

3 years ago – Experimenting with Sourdough Bread

4 years ago – Peach Cheese Cake for Victory Day

Corn Bread adapted from www.breadcetera.com will make an airy and soft bread with a crisp crust and tiny yellow grains inside. For the entire recipe click on the link.

My changes and remarks:

Used polenta instead of corn flour (corn meal); did not use any couche to proof the bread, just left it covered after shaping.

I enjoyed the process of creating the pattern on top of the loaves: you’re first dusting it with flour except for a strip in the middle (I used a ruler instead of a strip of paper) and then scoring to make it look like a kernel. It didn’t come out that very kernel-like in my case though.

Corn Bread

And just as any super-soft bread expect this one to dry out pretty fast (I mean it!). So if you’re intending to make the entire recipe, be sure to freeze the ‘extra’ loaves. I froze one (and good for me – as I had to reshoot it after accidentally deleting all my pictures of the other two loaves).

Corn Bread

Result: This bread will make soft slices with crunchy-crispy crust (that will most definitely break into pieces), perfect for morning. It doesn’t have a very distinct flavour but the colour is visible:

Corn Bread

Golden crust and yellow crumb:

Corn Bread

This post goes to my Yeast Bread and By Country collections.

G.

Poppy Seed Twists for Easter

So fragile, so tender!

It’s Easter time in St Petersburg and after all the excruciatingly prolific snow we are actually having an early spring! So fragile, so tender!

So fragile, so tender!

Almost transparent…

So fragile, so tender!

For this Easter I decided to make something similar to what my Mom would do for the festive table back when we were kids – a poppy seed roll. Perfect timing – I found this recipe just in time for the occasion.

So fragile, so tender!

I remember the quite longish procedure of preparing the poppy seed filling which involved taking out the gigantically heavy meat grinder: mother would process the seeds and sugar through it and we would watch.

So fragile, so tender!

And we would also collect the first herbs and methodically keep the onion skins for the egg part of the Easter festive table. If you want to learn how to dye eggs with onion peels and spring plants, click here.

So fragile, so tender!

Since forever I don’t really like kulich (the traditional Easter-time sweet leavened bread), particularly that type which has raisins inside. But my Mom would make those too (in all sorts of enameled mugs usually found in all Soviet families) and put them all in a huge kastrjulya (pot) so that they do not dry out. But we would ignore them with my sister: we were in for the poppy seed & walnut rolls!

Mohnkringel or Poppy Seed Buns

1 year ago – Almond Biscotti and Sour Cream Snickerdoodles

2 years ago – Spring in Pavlovsk Park and Blueberry Muffins

2 years ago – St Petersburg the Great

4 years ago – More on Smart Use of Leftovers

Mohnkringel or Poppy Seed Twists adapted from www.seitanismymotor.com (who also notoriously invented the word:) will make tasty not over-sweet buns loaded with poppy seeds. For the entire recipe visit the link above.

My changes and remarks:

I substituted vegan ingredients with the usual ones (i.e. used cow’s milk instead of soy milk and vegetable oil instead of coconut oil). Also, instant dry yeast worked perfectly well for this recipe. As for the filling, I processed poppy seeds in blender (first I rinsed them and soaked in hot water for a while) and added honey instead of molasses or agave nectar. I didn’t add milk for the filling as it was already too runny, so had to ground some peanuts and throw them in too.

Then, when I was already folding the dough, the filling would just threaten to escape and break through the dough, so I decided to stop rolling the dough out (the second rolling) and made ‘twists’ instead of circles. I don’t have a donut pan so placed my kringel on a silicon mat.

Mohnkringel or Poppy Seed Buns

Result: Soft and chewy, just like I wanted. The flavour is nice and tangy (there’s all that lemon zest in the dough and the filling!). And the combination of poppy seeds + nuts is always a blast! I would add just a tiny bit more sugar though but not too much so that the balance is preserved.

Mohnkringel or Poppy Seed Buns

This recipe goes to the Sweet collection.

For more poppy seed ideas, check this Cardamom Flavoured Cinnamon Rolls.

G.

Russian-style Pear Cheesecake

Pear Cheesecake

When you have pears hard as wood and two packages of Russian tvorog, you just go and make an improvised cheesecake. It turned out to be quite Russian, I should say, because tvorog is pretty grainy compared to the much softer cream cheese. Anyway, here’s a more or less accurate reconstruction of that improvised Russian-style cheesecake with pears:

Pear Cheesecake

1 year ago – Deli Bread with My Un-Favourite Ingredient

2 years ago – Dying Eggs for Easter the Natural Way

3 years ago – Apples and Oranges

4 years ago – Biscotti and On Soviet Food Stupidities

Russian-style Pear Cheesecake will make a soft but rich cheesecake with that very tvorog texture and flavour.

Ingredients:

for the base:

  • 90 g of butter, cold
  • 70 g of sugar, but actually to taste
  • about 180 g of flour
  • an egg
  • some cold water
  • a dash of nutmeg

for the cheesecake:

  • 500 g 5% fat tvorog (or a grainy type of farmer’s cheese)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g or more of sugar, to taste
  • 2 Tbs of cornstarch
  • a pinch of vanilla extract
  • 4-5 small pears or other fruit
  • some ground cardamom

Procedure:

First, make the base: mix flour with sugar and nutmeg, then cut in cold butter. I usually work in the butter with my hands after I precut it into pieces. Your mixture should resemble crumbs. Mix in the egg and add the water little by little so that you get a kneadable dough. Do not over-knead though. Cover the bowl and leave it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, you can start making the filling. Rub the tvorog with the sugar, mix in the eggs one by one, add the cornstarch and the vanilla. Slice the pears in your preferred fashion (I leave the skins on and do not pay too much attention to the appearance).

Grease a round springform pan. Now take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it a bit bigger than the size of your baking pan / spread it in the pan with fingers (which I did). You should be able to make quite tall borders with this amount of pastry. Lay the pieces of pears all over the bottom, sprinkle with some cardamom. Then pour all the cheese mixture on top. Give it a nice shake to distribute the mixture evenly.

Bake at 160-170 ‘C for about an hour (check at 50 minutes). Leave to cool and then keep refrigerated. It will slice better after some time in the fridge.

Pear Cheesecake

Remarks: No need to buy unripe pears for this cake:) And I think any fruit will do as long as you like it! I didn’t add any sour cream (smetana) either which might have added a creamier taste to it. Also, be careful with the sugar – mine was a little bit too sweet!

Pear Cheesecake

Result: A chewy kind of cheesecake, if you know what I mean. It is more like the Russian zapekanka which is made with tvorog, eggs, sugar and a bit of flour.

After some time in the fridge, the slices were not falling apart that much and looked more ‘professional’. But I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures:)

Pear Cheesecake

This recipe goes to the Sweet and Russian collections.

G.

Spring and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

Spring and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (aka Pushkin) equal a very very enjoyable Sunday! Let’s dive into the Art Nouveau architecture straight away, by visiting one of the first modernist buildings in St Petersburg:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

It’s such a coincidence that the first building discussed in the book on Art Nouveau in St Petersburg I picked up today for reading would be this very dacha!

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

According to the legend, Queen Victoria presented it to one of her relatives from the Russian royal family Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich of Russia (grandson of Alexander II), who ordered it to be built in the very end of the 19th century by British architects. Hence the English-cottage style:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

The Soviets first gave it to Lunacharsky and then to the famous scientist Vavilov who had his study in this building. Since then it is still occupied by Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry. You can spot their greenhouses to the right:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

And thanks to them they also preserved the garden surrounding the dacha buildings. Not all them survived though. But the over-hundred-year-old cedars are alive!

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

This building has become a film star thanks to becoming a filming location of the much loved Soviet Sherlock Holmes series back in 1980. It was filmed from the outside to make a perfect home for one of the characters in The Adventure of the Empty House. And from the inside it impersonated a hotel in Switzerland in The Adventure of the Final Problem :) And how amazing it is actually inside – oak furniture, doors and wall panels… Pity we couldn’t enter to see all that!

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

The early spring decadence can only rival with that of autumn.

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

The ivy is still dormant, there are a few flowers around and the sun graphically emphasizes the details. And Art Nouveau is in the details.

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

This nearby building was less lucky. Just a few years ago the clock tower was still holding on but now it is pretty much threatening the passers by. This is the stables, actually.

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

And this one is a later addition by the court architect, in the same style. It was supposed to house the duke’s guests along with one of the first cars in the country (and a chauffeur).

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

This used to be an arch – for that very car to drive through:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

Details:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

And this one:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

Very decadent:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

And just for a change – the glorious gates to Catherine Palace:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

This post goes to my St Petersburg series.

G.

A Getaway to Veliky Novgorod

Novgorod

Veliky Novgorod, or Novgorod the Great, welcomed us with a cold and gloomy weather but the next day was it was sunny and even warm. A run across the bridge over lake Ilmen and along the tourist-less Kremlin walls was just what I needed!

Novgorod

You somehow miss such moments in St Petersburg – because it is rarely people-free, there are no REALLY old places and the overall feeling is that of a European city rather than one in Russia. And that’s why this getaway to Veliky Novgorod was like a breath of very fresh air to me. Couldn’t get back to senses for about a week afterwards!

Novgorod

You can see the Kremlin to the left of the photo above – with its red-brick walls and the bell towers. The Kremlin has been upgraded and rebuilt over the centuries but as it was not destroyed during the Tatar-Mongol yoke, it somehow represents that old Russia which most of the cities just lost.

Novgorod

This white wall was reconstructed there where the merchants would sell their goods, on the Merchants’ Side, opposite the Kremlin. The Ilmen lake and the Volkhov river provided the water way needed for the development of the trade.

Novgorod

Veliky Novgorod was rich and independent until Moscow took over. It traded with the Europe and the East. And it was a republic too!

Novgorod

The next day after we arrived I took a picture of the same place in much better weather circumstances. This bell tower is right in the middle of the Novgorod’s Kremlin:

Novgorod

Veliky Novgorod is the land of churches. Of all sizes and centuries. This tiny church is on the Kremlin’s territory too:

Novgorod

And I think I like it more than one of the oldest stone churches in Russia, St Sophia (11th century):

Novgorod

This one (on Ilyina Street, away from the Kremlin) is just like a rocket in a mist:) Although that was not exactly a mist but the smoke coming from some spring-cleaning in the nearby courtyard. We tried to bang on the door but no one would open, so we called the number indicated on the door and got inside to see some Theophanes the Greek‘s frescoes.

Novgorod

Opposite this church is this monastery. With wonderful architectural decorations. You can tell these were HAND-made. Unique!

Novgorod

And even random architectural forms in the courtyard of our hostel (which occupies a quite old building too) do remind you of a church:

Novgorod

Well, not to mention that some citizens of Novgorod the Great actually LIVE inside a church! This one is St Ilya on Slavna, transformed into a residential building in the wild atheist times:

Novgorod

Last time we were there in 2013 and there were cats looking out of the window. This time we were observed by a local instead. The building is just mind-boggling.

Novgorod

Nice combination of the rusty brick color with the grass.

Novgorod

Another example of architecture blending in with the nature (and vice versa):

Novgorod

Some Moscow-style architecture for a change, with a pink-colored church in the background:

Novgorod

Birds enjoying the spring sun:

Novgorod

Absolutely love those shapes, patterns and volumes:

Novgorod

Another rocket-like church, with a later addition visible to the left:

Novgorod

This is a church in Perynsky Hermitage. Similar windows with small circles and the inevitable signs of the civilization:)

Novgorod

The Perynsky Hermitage stands on the Ilmen lake, where we spent some time enjoying the pine forest and the first signs of the spring:

Novgorod

And this is a different type of Russian churches, but the one which persisted the most. This is Vitoslavlitsy, an open air museum with all those log houses and churches collected all over the region to make an entire village.

Novgorod

It might be quite touristy (especially during summer and various festivities) but I like it there.

Novgorod

You can enter almost all the residential buildings and see what’s inside.

Novgorod

The interior reconstructs mostly later centuries but still you can get a feeling:

Novgorod

This long stick is a proto-lamp:

Novgorod

The Russian stove which was the first thing to be constructed when a house was being built, the place for baking, cooking…

Novgorod

… sleeping (on top), washing (inside!), giving birth etc.

Novgorod

Nice:

Novgorod

The so called “red corner” – for the icon, the beautiful hand-woven and embroidered towel and a lamp. During the Soviet times this expression got a different meaning – the place for Soviet propaganda power in a building.

Novgorod

We didn’t have much time there but I could have stayed longer.

Novgorod

Very cozy. Although a traditional Russian isba (the word comes from istopit, to heat) would be heated po-chernomu, without a pipe letting the smoke outside of the building (hence the dark walls) – all this combined with small and low windows.

Novgorod

And the windows from the outside:

Novgorod

And some more churches before we leave Veliky Novgorod:

 

Novgorod

As you can see, I’m much more interested in their architectural forms than in what they represent:

Novgorod

For me they represent the history, the tradition and the people. And the connection to all of it through the centuries.

Novgorod

More of the rusty colors. Looking good in the sun. After just a couple of centuries:)

Novgorod

Those shapes!

Novgorod

The lace-like decoration of this church reminds me of a traditional hand-woven towel.

Novgorod

So white and decadent.

Novgorod

Hope I could give you an idea of a – well – real Russian city.

Novgorod

The weekend was great. Miss travelling and learning about my country!

Adding this post to the On Russia series.

G.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 270 other followers

%d bloggers like this: