Backyards of St Petersburg

Goncharnaya Street, St Petersburg

Just as any other big city St Petersburg has its front-door face and its other side. And it has always been so. There is the ‘parade’ Petersburg as we call it (paradny), the official one, with the perfectly symmetric buildings and proper streets, and there’s the – actually – real life of the backyards. Both have been extensively described by poets, journalists and artists: everyone to their taste.

Goncharnaya Street, St Petersburg

When one talks about backyards, there are certain issues that are inevitable to discuss. With St Petersburg of the past you can be almost 100% sure to find a completely un-parade face (khm, face, is it?:) once you leave the flamboyant facades and choose the backdoor instead. The stark contrast can be quite shocking – both with its visual and the olfactory aspects. There are of course streets that are more consistent in their appearance – either nice and proper or dirty and stinky. There’s for instance Goncharnaya Street, just off Nevsky Avenue – very dirty inside and outside, especially in the summer, oh-oh.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

So let’s take a quick look at what you might come across when turning your back to the front and entering in through the out doors of St Petersburg. These photos apart from the first two were taken on the Aptekarsky Island of the Petrogradskaya Side.

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

St Petersburg backyards are most famous for their blind walls built in a circle so that the actual backyard is limited to a ‘well’, hence the special term – kolodets – designating these well-like backyards in my city. A source of gloomy inspiration for many artists, these ‘wells’ actually get affectionately stuck in the hearts of those St Petersburg kids, who spent all their childhood and later years living in a very limited space. And that was the point – occupy as much of the territory with the living quarters cause it was (and still is) so expensive here. By the way, in order to get inside a building like this, unless you’re heading for a store or an office, you have to go into the backyard. Since these buildings are so very jostling each other, it’s not rare that the back walls have weird windows, just like these:

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

Or these:

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

Parts of the house on legs, windows built up with bricks…

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

…and unexpected decoration:

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

A labyrinth of electric wires:

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

And an even starker contrast:

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

A window a bit out-of-place:

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

A birch-tree growing a bit out-of-place too:

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

Century-old bricks and a car-shed:

Aptekarsky Island, St Petersburg

Love the architectonics of multifaceted St Petersburg – both its front-doors and backyards🙂

Adding this to my St Petersburg series.

G.

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