There are places in St Petersburg that take you on a journey through time. One of such places is actually intrinsically connected with journeys – and time: Vitebsky Railway Station, the Art Nouveau jewel. So let’s indulge into the intricate details of a seemingly utilitarian place.
It seemed to me I’d covered most of its treasures: its Otto Wagner-like details, innovative steel constructions and atmosphere of the beginning of the 20th century (here is my rather detailed post on Vitebsky railway station).
But a recent excursion with the project St Petersburg through Engineer’s Eyes proved me wrong: there were many more hidden treasures to this place than I would have thought.
Also thanks to my Mom (who were brave enough to join this excursion while still having her arm cast. She would later join me on another trip – and now she has her other arm in a cast 🙂 – but that is a different story) I could notice even more details that would have escaped me otherwise. For instance, the tiles on the floor caught her attention.
Another detail we saw at least twice in the building – the mechanism for moving the chandelier up and down to change the candles, now substituted by a row of switches.
This time we also paid more attention to the structure of the railway station – and for the first time did we actually realize that all these ship-shape steel rivets were hand-made!
The guide told us about the process of riveting, that the team would consist of four members, namely the heater, the catcher, the bucker-up and the gunman (you can find a description of the process here). You surely must have seen those crazy photos of the construction workers having their lunch up there in the sky while building the Empire State or some other skyscraper. Countless rivets!
Look at the structure here: there is the luggage storage room on the ground floor, whereas on the second floor there are offices (seen in the background), waiting rooms (to the left) and the entrance to the platforms (to the right), also situated on the second floor due to the high railway tracks.
It looks as if you’re outside because of the drain pipes and the windows looking inwards but it’s not! You can’t take the iron staircase anymore but you can cross the “bridges”.
This is what you would see on the ground floor to the left:
And then up we went to the very roof of the station. It felt pretty weird standing on the top of it and looking at the very structure holding the roof and the cupola – laboriously executed by the hands of many nameless people.
There were other places in the building that we were able to see this time, for example the waiting hall for the first-class passengers. I used to think it as not open to public and used for some high-class delegates or something (the doors were closed) but it turns out it can be admired freely by anyone (also see the very first picture of the post).
The curvy Otto Wagner-like wooden structure to the right of the mirror indicates the now walled up entrance to the first-class restaurant.
They say the restaurant will resurrect soon – we were allowed in to see what is left of the beautiful round hall with big windows, balconies and this wooden cupboard.
I really hope that they wont turn it into a posh place with prohibitively high prices which is what happened to several Art-Nouveau buildings in St Petersburg, their style being traditionally associated with something aristocratic and expensive.
Peacocks decorating the ceiling:
And this is yet another ceiling – in the waiting room for the princes. Interestingly enough, back at the beginning of the 20th century Art Nouveau was too new to be associated with aristocracy and so the royal family would rather have their chambers decorated in a baroque style or something more classical.
Still not discovered – the separate pavilion for the tsar – or should we say a separate railway station with a separate railway line. Now looking pretty run-down from the outside but apparently nicely renovated inside for some luxury offices.
Adding this post to the St Petersburg series.