This is the view I was thinking about when I first had the idea of going to Kirov again. That’s the city which I liked the most from the super-travelling job I had back in autumn 2012. Kirov is old, not very large (at least its worth-seeing part) and has a river & hills landscape. What else would I need? 🙂 After all the artificial-ness of St Petersburg, you just need a nice chunk of history, sturdy roots and a splash of more history.
I enjoyed this wintry trip to Kirov, regardless of any of the menacing signs of most imminent death by snow, shown on each and every building, starting from a wooden bird-house to the houses along the street.
And talking about streets I should tell you they were quite narrow to say the least! More like bobsleigh tracks which means extra menace coming from the slippery & hilly hard snow-ice under your feet : ) The same applies to the space left for cars moving way too slow.
The snow did not stop during the three days were were there. And you can imagine that it was doing the same for quite a long time, judging from the layered snow caps on all sorts of horizontal – and even vertical – surfaces.
And this red brick is where the kids go, the school. In short, you get the picture.
And here’s why this super-snowy city is obviously dreaming of summer:
The sign on Svobody Street (Freedom) reads “Africa. Print and ads”. And I noticed more of that kind: July (beauty parlor), Safari, Mali,… What else would be on your mind with such amounts of snow that nobody cares to get rid of?
Here I should probably add some words about Kirov. It’s old, much older than its super-irrelevant Soviet name which it bears from the 1930s. It used to be called Vyatka and Khlynov before. And it is not that old as Moscow but much older than St Petersburg.
The city was build on the way to Siberia from Moscow, becoming a major merchant center. Well, Siberia also meant state prisoners were passing through these parts. Lost of different nationalities lived there too. And you know, when we looked at the costumes of all the nations which inhabited the area, I think I liked the Russian ‘fashion’ (probably for the first time!) for its simplicity. Really, with all our lack of understanding of when ‘this gets way too much’, these costumes look just perfect.
Apart from being historically a crossroads of nations, Kirov is also a centre of traditional arts.
This is Dymkovo toys, small hand-painted clay figurines which thrived through the Soviet period as gifts (they also grew enormously in size) and survived as all-Russian souvenirs till our days.
These were initially ‘disposable’ bird-shaped clay whistles given to kids during festivities. The kids would play around with them and then throw them away and beg their parents to buy a new one 😉
We even went to a workshop and painted a ready figurine ourselves! Guess which one is mine and which was made by an artist? Yeah, easy to tell by the un-steadiness of the lines. This toy is called ‘barynya‘, a woman offering bread and salt to her guests.
And this is also art! It’s a local dry-cleaning which deserves at least a look at thanks to its employees’ flamboyant creativity! I remember this place from my last visit but then I only noticed a very Soviet-looking sign… Who would think that a walk around the building would reveal this?!
Kirov also has this impressively decadent Artists’ Union building:
There was also a hand-painted ad for a local X-Box club. At first I read the name in Russian and was wondering what that might mean (it reads ‘HVOH’ in Russian).
This is also a fine specimen of Soviet unobtrusive advertisement (I’m currently taking a course in Advertisement on Coursera, by the way), promoting a tailor’s. Since it’s still hanging close to the door and there are several layers of text on it, we made a conclusion that there might be a tailor’s still there.
This is the same building. The sign above this super aesthetic door says ‘Elite. Professional items for beauty parlors’. And this is an old and truly historic building by the way! The say the prototype for Gogol’s character in his Mertvye Dushi book lived in it…
And it does look Gogol-ish, with snow surrounding (or rather flooding) it from all sides and with this ambiguity about it – from this side the house looks rather uninhabited but from the rear side it’s something of an office building!
Another fine example I just could not have passed by – and take a picture of it even though my camera’s battery was low. The sign reads ‘Shop-salon. Novelty’.
But actually Kirov is beautiful. Just look at this sugary-white church:
And even this not very perfectly white pavilion looks tremendously picturesque with the blue sky in the background:
Another white spot – the Monument to the victims of War.
Boy was it windy that day and in that place! Biting cold. This is where all the Kirovchane (Kirov citizens) walk. The remains of the ancient Kremlin wall which rises high above the Vyatka river. The river is frozen of course and the landscape is 100% wintry.
This is one of the surviving monastery walls that was inside the original Kremlin. We actually purchased a city guide which gives you an idea of what Kirov looked like when it was Khlynov. It was quite a challenge to walk through the nowadays Kirov having a map of the things that WERE there some 4-5 centuries ago 😉
When I think of Kirov, the colour scheme of my mental image is something like this:
Another monastery – turned into a central sports stadium in the Soviet era. Menacingly un-healthy icicles!
And less menacing – more artsy icicles, looking like a typical Soviet lamp.
And finally. to give you an idea of what the center of Kirov looks like, here’s a line-up of the facades, most of which are just marvellous:
A bit of art-nouveau
And some merchant-style red-brick building
Corner buildings are the city’s specialty
And this is a pseudo-Greek facade which has a weird shop called Greece opposite it. It has a hand-painted sign, it’s supposed to sell everything (from the saying ‘There’s everything in Greece’) and it broadcasts music on the street. A very indie place 😉
After all, Kirov is a very atmospheric place, which can rival Kaliningrad in my top city list, I suppose. To wrap up the Kirov experience, here are my checklist points:
- decent postcards – failed, had to buy overpriced cards with pseudo-Dymkovo motives
- post office – yep
- market – failed but the souvenir shops are to die for! I wish our St Pete ones were as creative and authentic!
- local history museum – done, but too tiny!!
- dairy products and baked stuff – sampled, even bought some yogurt which tasted like ice-cream
- old town – very very very much liked
- book store – bought two artsy envelopes
- local specialités – not sure we tried traditional dishes but at least some local stuff we did! nice cafes and pretty low prices. Here’s raviolli with… fried cabbage and raspberry-cowberry tea:
I could have continued my story and tell you more about this cozy town – which stubbornly remains cozy even with the tons of snow. But you just have to go there, as always. It’s a place where even the hotels are styled after a postoyaly dvor (inn) and people lunch at traktir (taverna, inn). I will just mention that we couldn’t resist buying lots of linen fabrics, a kilo of rye malt for Borodinsky Bread, local pryaniki and of course some Dymkovo statuettes. Definitely to be re-visited in spring. AFTER the moment all the Kirov snow comes down!