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

Meanwhile in Kolpino

Meanwhile_in_Kolpino

Just came back from Moscow where it’s all summer already, and feeling slightly dizzy after no sleep in my overnight platzkart train I made a walk in the now almost summertime Kolpino. My hometown close to St Petersburg where I first got interested in architecture and all. Just wanted to leave this moment here.

Meanwhile_in_Kolpino

The apple trees are in blossom. We used to have quite a lot of wooden houses all across the town. Since then almost all of them are gone but the orchards still remain scattered here and there, a sort of a silent reminder of what our town used to look like in the old days.

Meanwhile_in_Kolpino

Yep, just like this.

Meanwhile_in_Kolpino

I was actually going to our island-based local park called Chukhonka (after chukhna, Finnic people that used to live there) to see how the nature’s changed since we were there last – only to find out it’s closed until December for a major renovation project.

Meanwhile_in_Kolpino

So I had to make a tour around it but not in it. Also noticed that a long-standing knizhny (a book store, used to be one of the many and until very recently was probably the very last one from the old school type in our town) is on sale. It’s funny how your memories seems to overwrite all those things that used to be with the new stuff that comes to substitute the old. And it already looks as if nothing else existed there before but then you suddenly recall some detail from the past and you realize how it’s all changed.

G.

no recipe · St Petersburg

Alexandrovsky Park before It All Begins

A somewhat traditional report of the ‘before it all begins’ stage of spring from the Alexandrovsky Park in Tsarskoye Selo (aka Pushkin). We went there just for a couple of hours in the afternoon, did some walking, fed birds from the palm of our hands and basically enjoyed that very lingering moment in the beginning of the spring season when everything is getting ready to… spring! Love the geometry of the winter-like tree branches already dotted with the subtle fragile patterns of the upcoming green lavishness. Mom, the expert, says this is an oak tree:

Alexandrovsky_Park

I wanted to take photos of the white and green carpets made with grass and anemones.  Which for some reason seem to prefer only one (!) of the two river banks – I guess the one with more sun exposure. But I failed, it’s just impossible! Maybe a black-and-white camera would do that better.

Alexandrovsky_Park

Mom, the expert, thinks this should be lilac:

Alexandrovsky_Park

And a bit more of that leftover winter graphics which will very soon disappear underneath all the leaves:

Alexandrovsky_Park

Just wanted to leave this memory here. I’m getting reports from Moscow where it seems it’s more like early summer already. So I’m cheering myself up we’re still not there yet, we can seize the moment and enjoy this elusive natural beauty.

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Experimenting with the Soviet black and white Smena 8M camera that was given to my Mother as a present when she was still at school, in 1973 – her first photo camera. That was a popular and inexpensive model for beginners manufactured at the famous LOMO factory in Leningrad – well now you would rather call it a mind-boggling challenge! First and foremost, finding a black and white film was not that very easy, I managed to find only one type and it was quite pricey for an experiment. So I knew the price of every shot 🙂 Although that was not my first encounter with film cameras (I started with Zenith back in the early 2000s), Smena really is a Soviet austerity thing. The trick with this camera is that it is so basic that you can’t focus. Nope. No zooming, nothing, just your reckoning of how far the object is from you (which I’m pretty bad at!). And you can’t even fully get an idea of what will be in your picture once it’s developed either. I mean the thing you see in the finder when making the photo is not all what you get as a result. There are also those icons for the weather conditions that you need to choose from – I think I’ve made a mess with them every time, not mentioning the shutter speed that you have to determine yourself too. Add to this absence of a cap for the lens and a very stiff cover… Also when I had my film developed (which you don’t normally do these days, do you?) it turned out that most of the 36 shots were gone… I mean most of the film was just blank. I dunno if that’s due to the camera or to some error during the developing process but the thing is, I lost all the earlier photos that I did in January, February and March… So I’m left with the shots from early April till mid May 2018. By the way, I’ve deliberately kept the borders on the scanned photos (thanks to my Dad!) so that they have a more authentic feel (read: too lazy!).

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

The first shot that was more or less full (see a black stripe above) and the next one were taken in Tsarskoye Selo on a morning in early April, during the Easter week. That’s the church (below) and the wooden dormitories that I’ve already described in one of my previous posts. I was drawn by the interplay of the shadows and the bright sun on the walls but had no idea how it would look like in a black and white version.

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

A week later in April we took an evening walk in the Aleksandrovsky Park of Tsarskoye Selo. Again I was attracted by the shadows and the perspective of the tree alley. I had to consult my Mother as to what numbers / icons to choose. Absolutely no idea how people’s minds worked back then when everything was not automatically set! 🙂

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Next day at our dacha, trying to capture the warm evening sun of spring:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Late April – some shots taken while walking along Moyka river from – roughly – the Palace Square to Tavrichesky Garden in St Petersburg. The beginning of the active tourist season… I was not sure whether the camera would focus on the river or the lamp post…

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Trying to get that graphic repetition of the (shadow) pattern:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Here I was not sure wether the lamp would fit or not but I was more interested in the swirl:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Early May on the Palace Square, before getting my price for a Russian language competition 🙂

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film CameraExperimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

The sky was so dramatic, the wind was tough, I couldn’t hold myself from making another shot:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

And this is mid May when the weather suddenly turned to very autumn-like rather than spring-time. We took a very fast walk in Pavlovsk, near the Mariental Castle (aka BIP), see the very first photo of the post for yet another take on it:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Obviously tried to get more of the reflection rather than of the castle itself:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

And I think this is by far the best shot – a tiny bit of decadence:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

After all, I liked the challenge. Some of the photos did remind me of those I took years ago when I borrowed Zenith camera from my parents – but that was a colour film camera and much more user-friendly. With Smena I think for a moment I did get that feeling back when with every shot you make you realize that that was probably it – or nothing. You can’t take a hundred and then choose the best one with this camera, you can’t have a preview, you can’t see the result immediately, you just – well, you just ‘fire’ that thing and wait to see! Perfectly old-fashioned.

G.

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

Duderhof and Taytsy Estate

Duderhof

On the last day of May we explored a bit more of the region around St Petersburg, covering two spots in one go – Duderhof (aka Mozhaysky) and Taytsy Estate. Duderhof is situated right at the edge of the city, bordering with the Leningrad region, while Taytsy is already inside the region, though these two are just a few kilometers away from each other.

Duderhof

Our first stop was the 1890 railway station still called Mozhayskaya (after a Russian aviation pioneer Mozhaysky) although the settlement itself has now officially regained (one of) its previous name(s), Duderhof. We have quite a few German or pseudo-German toponyms around here, like Peterhof, Shlisselburg and even St Petersburg itself. The station building is not Art Nouveau yet but definitely very close. And then we moved a little bit further up the road to find this…

Duderhof

As part of my quest to visit all those Art Nouveau mansions scattered all over St Petersburg and its region, I had plans to see this one in particular as it seemed to fulfill not only the architectural ‘rules’ of this movement but also their aspirations towards a perfect location that would serve the purpose.

Duderhof

This is a hospital for cancer patients, built on a hill overlooking the plains below it. There’s plenty of air, so the location is perfect for convalescence and walks in the surrounding area.

Duderhof

And it was built by the maitre of Art Nouveau, Lutsedarsky, right at the start of this architectural movement, yet in its ‘romantic’ stage, in 1900-1902, for the sisters of charity. It does look like a small castle particularly when seen from the road as it sits on the hill surrounded by small houses and fields. The Russian ‘Alps’ view:

Duderhof

Love this semi-circular wooden element:

Duderhof

…and the ‘window’ on the left – not mentioning the grate and the tower!

Duderhof

Not much is known about it, probably due to its extra-muros location. It is now occupied by a skiing school for children actually. Well, at least it’s somewhat looked after, maybe not in the perfect way but it’s not in the worst state for an Art Nouveau site outside St Petersburg either. Contrary to that, all that is left from one of the nearby wooden houses for the invalids (late 19th century) is this:

Duderhof

We climbed up the hill through a sort of a forest to this place – with a view too. This is Duderhof heights, reaching up to 176 meters which makes it the highest ‘peak’ of St Petersburg. A perfect skiing location with very specific snow conditions during the winter season – as well as nice place for walking with a curious mixture of trees and plants, plus a water source.

Duderhof

Unfortunately, the highest point of St Petersburg was not always all about skiing and just had to be very heavily involved during the war. The monument on one of the slopes of the hill represent the feat by the courageous crew of the famous Aurora cruiser who were deployed here with the guns taken from the ship. They got attacked by the enemy and very few of them survived the battle, after which the heights were captured in September 1941. The Nazis used this height to their full advantage of course – the city was there right below their feet… but never was it at their feet!

Duderhof

***

Our next stop was at Taytsy, a small settlement with a long history. As with many estates after the 1917 it got turned into a sanatorium (a sort of a health resort for working people), a collective farm (!) and later a rehab center. Now it serves film crews as a filming location, and inevitably falling into disrepair.

Taytsy Estate

When we were there they were shooting something there, the main building was occupied and we could get a peep inside through a slit in the ‘shutters’. They did not say anything to us wandering about but we didn’t wander off very far either. There are other dilapidated buildings around the main ‘palace’, bearing the signs of their Soviet past on them.

Taytsy Estate

But I wanted to go to Taytsy mostly for the sake of its park which promised to be just as decadent in late spring as it is in late autumn. The lilac was in full blossom and the other trees were preparing for the summer as well.

Taytsy Estate

You can study the way a park which was so carefully planned and then so much cared for for many years, got completely out of hand when left to its own that the nature has got it all back. Particularly obvious with this bridge which was made to look ‘natural’ and now has such a natural look that you can’t get any better than this! (my father’s picture of the same view is here)

Taytsy Estate

The trees looked happy with their now all-natural style.

Taytsy Estate

It reminded me of the abandoned Soviet sanatorium I saw a year ago in Alupka, Crimea.

Taytsy Estate

It was actually built in the late 18th century by a prolific classicist architect Ivan Starov to adorn the 110 ha park. The estate has changed many hands, from Pushkin’s relatives to one of the Demindov family, the noble and super rich family who made their fortune thanks to mining and metal.

Taytsy Estate

Now the estate is abandoned even by those tired workers who used to regain their health here. There were some weird sort of construction going on nearby but we couldn’t see as the territory was behind a fence. I just hope they won’t turn it into a dacha for the rich and powerful.

Adding this post to the collection about the Environs of St Petersburg.

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Spring Memories 2018

Spring Memories 2018

I’ve spent quite a lot of time at our dacha this spring – and later summer. And I guess I have to be pay my dues to the job I’ve been doing for almost a year now which allows me to work from any location and almost any point during the day. Thanks to that I’ve also travelled to new places since I don’t necessarily have to stay at home.

Spring Memories 2018

But at the same time too much is done on the computer which leaves me with no desire to use it any more after I’m done with the task for the day. So even if I have a desire to write to my blog, it’s not enough to actually do it. Which also made me ponder on the whole idea itself – whether I really need this blog etc etc. Ok, no more of this, let’s just leave some spring 2018 memories here.

Spring Memories 2018

The first photos are from April when there’s such an awakening around you, such a joy inside you that cannot compare with any other season I guess. I love the interplay of the seemingly dead / sleeping nature and the subtle but obviously very sturdy and vigorous new life.

Spring Memories 2018

It’s so fast this in-between season – I mean, between the winter and the full-on summer that you’d better open your eyes before it’s all gone.

Spring Memories 2018

This spring gave us a marvelous May which was in a way warmer and nicer than most of the previous summers. And it was also made pretty clear to us that we were to face yet another apple year, a very prolific one though the apples I’m afraid were record sour which made them almost inedible for those with a weak stomach.

Spring Memories 2018

We’re still dealing with the apple harvest and I can only occasionally make something non-apple in terms of desserts since we have so many of them and everyone around seem to be having the same problem so there’s just no way of getting rid of them by giving away.

Spring Memories 2018

During winter I had some thoughts of going back to Crimea to get some proper spring experience just like I did in 2016 but then I realized I’d be better off at our dacha just enjoying life and nature in a sort of a seclusion that a 0.6 ha plot can give you. While making my strolls along and across the multiple dacha cooperatives that stretch for kilometers along the New Ladoga Canal (which in its turn runs along the Ladoga Lake shore), I met quite a few people who were also enjoying their dacha life in many ways though not all of their lifestyles were so to speak healthy. I guess that the relative remoteness from the city (about 50 km) and a more relaxed and village-like atmosphere means vodka will never lose its popularity in these places.

Spring Memories 2018

I’m definitely not a village person, I mean if I were to choose, I would definitely love to live in the country but then I’m absolutely hopeless with all the hard work it entails. And I can only drink my milk already pasteurized and devoid of all the (too) natural aromas, if you know what I mean. But I’m not a city person either which makes dacha a nice sort of compromise in between. Russians love their dacha for a variety of reasons, mine is very personal cause I’ve been spending there most of my summers since my very first one. I’m grateful for those Soviets who had the idea of granting plots to their people. And I’m really thankful for my grandparents who courageously undertook such a hard task to develop a plot from virtually nothing (ex-forest) to such a cozy place. Even a 9’C day somewhere in the middle of July can’t spoil it.

Spring Memories 2018

I can brag on for ages, you know. Need to save my enthusiasm for the rest of the backlog of various posts that I keep postponing for ages.

P.S. Pictured above is the famous Cobalt Net tea pot from a porcelain set very popular in the 1960s. The pattern itself was created even before the end of the war by an artist working at the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory during the Siege of Leningrad.  I’m no fan of porcelain but this one is such an iconic pattern that it’s somehow ‘by default’ included in our inner cultural canon.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

I took two (snowy) winter breaks in Moscow this year. My yet another attempt at taming Moscow couldn’t have happened in a more welcoming period – the temperature outside was around -20 ‘C. Well, with all the wind it might as well have been some degrees lower. I know! And still… It was quite a cozy stay in the Russian capital, which was obviously made even cozier with the presence of two cats who willingly and most generously provided their free (cat) therapy.

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

Probably even thanks to such harsh weather conditions I was more active on the sight-seeing part, as I did manage to go to a couple of museums and visited some parks. This is just a square representing a typical picture of what you could see all over the place in February and March:

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

After all there were loads of sun! Moreover, I had some translation & editing jobs to do so was only happy to drag myself out of the world of the computer and words (one of the reasons why I seem to be neglecting blogging these days). These are some shots from the Timiryazev park (I would rather call it a forest) just after the sunset:

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

Urban Moscow is just a stone throw away:

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

You just need to get through this ‘portal’:

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

Looking back to kind of check whether there’s still way back:

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

Tracks:

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

On one of the days I went to the Russian Realistic Art Museum, located in one of the facilities of a former cotton-printing factory. It’s a private museum which traces the history of the Realistic Art in Russia from the early 20th century till today. As always, I liked the first part of the 20th century much more.

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

I really liked these nostalgic etchings from one of the Vladimir school artists:

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

Outside the museum – typical Moscow (and Russia):

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

After which I went to a super-tiny museum of the Moscow Rail Road which was a disappointment. There was that very train that carried the body of Lenin to Moscow in 1924 and I guess that was and still remains the main exhibit for already many years. On my way there:

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

Yet another day – a trip to the Aptekarsky Garden, all covered in snow and quiet, right in the middle of the bustle and hustle of Moscow. Founded in early 18th century it used to be a real garden with medicinal herbs and stuff. It now belongs to the MGU (Moscow State University) and is open to public. The Aptekarsky Island in St Petersburg is also connected to the efforts of the ever-present Peter the Great. Well, he created the first botanical garden in Russia – among many other ‘first’ things!

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

Made some photos with a black and white Smena camera that day, hope it still works 🙂

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

It was cold but lots of people were queuing to get into one of the glasshouses to get a refreshing glimpse of spring. Most of them were more involved into making selfies than actually looking at the flowers though… Anyway, it was amazing and definitely worth freezing my feet for some half an hour standing in the line!

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

In the tropical greenhouse:

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

Pressed layers of snow outside:

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy
That day there was sun only at the very end of the day:

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

Look who was helping me work:

Moscow Winter Holidays and Cat Therapy

More Moscow stories coming along…

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Moscow Mosaics: The Stalinist Era

Rechnoy Vokzal, Moscow

From my trips to Moscow in late April, June and October 2017 I’ve selected the places that have impressed me most into this first Moscow Mosaics post, united under the same era that they belong to – the Stalinist era. We’ll start from the North River Terminal, built in 1933-37, when the creation of the canal that connected Moscow with the waters of Volga was also under way. So when the construction started, this river terminal was actually standing nowhere near water – the artificial Khimki water reserve was not yet filled with water 🙂 And yes, it looks like that very Doge’s Palace in Venice – and at the same time as a ferry when seen from above. Gosh, I’d love to travel back in time to see how it looked like with all the exclusive stuff inside including a posh restaurant and the artificial marble and the statues and the hairdresser’s, a shoe repair shops, an agitpunkt and a post office. The ideal life of the ideal citizens of the ideal state – as seen by the ideal ruler himself, of course.

Rechnoy Vokzal, Moscow

When I saw it I immediately thought about the Krasnoyarsk River Terminal on Yenisey which was built some 10-15 years later but following the same design. Well, it looks that they both are not in their prime state at the moment. They say the Moscow River Terminal which is in disuse for more than 10 years, will be renovated by 2020. The 1.5 meter in diameter (!) majolica medallions depicting the highlights of the Five-year plan (see the first photo of the post) were hand-painted (!) by a single woman artist (!). To me, the ‘Moscow – Volga 1937’ letters above the entrance just breathe the 1930s…

Central Moscow Hippodrome

Next stop – the Central Moscow Hippodrome which got rebuilt in 1951-55 incorporating the original late 19th century one into this Stalin empire style building with a tower. The tower looks pretty much alike with all those Stalinist era towers scattered all over the central Moscow. Though none of them has horses instead of the usual workers or happy peasants as statues.

Central Moscow Hippodrome

The Hippodrome is still functioning (we saw some horses in action) although I doubt it will ever regain its glory. One day I’ll walk inside but not for the races – to see the interior which seems to be quite nice as well as the public which seems to be mostly dedushki, grandpas.

Central Moscow Hippodrome

Some more of the Stalinist Moscow here, now at VDNKh, or the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy. It’s been undergoing a massive renovation (reconstruction) process recently and it looks so much better now. Hopefully these pavilions too will be soon renovated.

VDNKh, Moscow

Built in 1952 as Glavkonserv pavilion with the best of the canned food there was in the USSR (see the decoration in the windows below), it has been a Gastronom (a sort of a Delicatessen) for quite a few decades since.

VDNKh, Moscow

The trick of the store is that they’ve preserved all the original stuff inside – well, except for the food obviously! Which is a shame, though…

VDNKh, Moscow

How’s that for a shop? Not your usual produkty (grocery store) for sure!

VDNKh, Moscow

This 1954 pavilion was originally destined to showcase the achievements in the construction materials industry, hence the use of the super-tough stalinit, a sort of tempered glass which nevertheless is transparent so – they say – from the inside you feel as if the roof is just floating in the air because the entire glass wall becomes almost invisible. The pavilion was later used to showcase other stuff – nuclear energy, consumer goods and then health care. Haha.

VDNKh, Moscow

And this is a 1952-53 pavilion first built for the Tsentrosoyuz, an authority coordinating all the consumer cooperatives. It too has undergone several mutations, serving as a pavilion for the nuclear energy, mechanization of agriculture, and consumer goods. The style of the building is a Stalinist take on the art-deco.

VDNKh, Moscow

And here’s a small one I liked a lot – Uzbekvino, showcasing wine from Uzbekistan.

VDNKh, Moscow

Built in 1954 as a part of the entire Uzbekistan section (the main pavilion later mutated into the Culture one), it later became Sadko restaurant which did not survive till our days. They say that yet another restaurant is to open here soon.

VDNKh, Moscow

And for the dessert, here’s a Kremlin petrol station, they say one of the oldest in Moscow. It’s situated close to the Pushkin Museum pretty close to the heart of Moscow, the Kremlin. The say also that it is still functioning – though only for the governmental cars. Built after the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour got blown up in 1931, it is – they say again – is the only relic remaining from the gigantic plan to erect a monstrous Palace of the Soviets right on the spot where the cathedral used to be. There was a series of architectural competitions but the Palace itself was never built. In the end (since 1960) they used the foundation for a huge open-air pool right in the center of Moscow which later (late 1990s) got rebuilt as… Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Constructivist Gas Station

Adding this post to the Russian section of the Travel collection.

G.