architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Dunino, Zvenigorod and Moscow

Moscow

This time Moscow has shown to me its private side. First, though, we had to ride next to the outrageously high fences rising along the posh Rublevskoye highway where all those who have money and an urge to make everyone know about it have their dacha or home.

Moscow
And then all of a sudden you get to this tiny road with low fences, out-of-use phone booths and cars growing into the soil. By the way, the spot with the phone booth out-of-use and a new one in-use, seems to be also the one either with a better mobile reception or with too many phone-calling memories attached as we spotted 2 people simultaneously talking on their phones right there.

Moscow

But we were actually after the place where one of my favourite personalities of the 20th century lived, the Russian writer Mikhail Prishvin. He bought a house here in Dunino in Podmoskovye (the Moscow region) after the war and settled here with his wife and dog(s).

Moscow

Here, who would believe this is the same Moscow river as that wide highway running through the capital, near the Red Square and the Stalin’s skyscrapers?

Moscow

Life is so calm and unpretentious in Dunino. It’s obvious why Prishvin with his love for nature and simple life would move here and come to Moscow only when his car would break down 🙂

Moscow

Mikhail Prishvin lived here with his second wife who was his real soulmate, although 26 years younger than him. They found each other when Prishvin was 67, just before the war. This cozy house is just impregnated with the love they shared.

Moscow

I’ve been reading his diaries recently, not in the chronological order though. I started with the torturous 1930-31 and now moved on to the after-war 1948-49.

Moscow

Reading his daily musings and piercing thoughts about his country, about life and just about everything, makes you understand the very truth of his saying that for every line of his diary he could as well have got 10 years of execution.

Moscow

The house and the garden with beehives and many trees are very peaceful and as if waiting for their master to come back from the usual hours-long walks in the forest.

Moscow

Best-known in Russia for his short stories about nature and animals (and thus mostly read only in childhood), Prishvin as a writer, as a thinker, as a skillful photographer, was so very beyond this ‘tagline’ that persists today. Just read his Ginseng novel: yes, it’s so very romantic and out-of-place (written in the early 1930s and published in 1933 when the country was preoccupied with very different things like labour camps etc) but so very poignant, so philosophical (in a good way).

Moscow

I’m glad that writing a master’s thesis on this very novel did not ruin my love to the writer. I’m still discovering the treasure he left behind him, reading his diaries as real revelations of the era. Prishvin outlived Stalin for just 1 year but considering the things he dared to think and write down (though without publishing of course, his diaries only came to the public in the 1990s), he was way too lucky.

Moscow

Our next stop was in Zvenigorod where Prishvin used to walk sometimes. Under torrents of rain we ran into the Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery which houses a local museum as well as executing its original functions.

Moscow

This monastery founded in the 14th century was pretty famous and quite rich in the old days. Now it looks a bit shabby but obviously gets its fair share of tourists and pilgrims who willingly buy bread (each of the items seems to be called Monastery-soemthing) and kvas.

Moscow

We spent quite a bit of time at the bread store but we also visited the museum which is divided into several section. With every new section we entered, the weather would change to the better. When we went out of the last one, the sun came out and the rain stopped.

Moscow

The sun finally opened my eyes to the surroundings and I regained interest in taking photos and in general looking out of my hood 🙂

Moscow

The spring always comes to Moscow earlier than to St Petersburg which is always lagging behind. My eyes were happy to see some bright green colors:

Moscow

By the time we went into the bread store and the cafe, it was all very fine. But when we were sitting in the cafe…

Moscow

The rain started again – this time it was recklessly pouring onto the surrounding hills and fields regardless of the shining sun. Here’s how it was:

Moscow

Our last stop before returning to Moscow was an old church hidden somewhere off the busy roads. It was unfortunately all covered in scaffolding so I took a photo of this small house instead. The street is called Gorodok, which is a diminutive of a city or town.

Moscow

Next morning we went to the recently-opened Museum of Russian Impressionism (yes, it does exist!) where we recharged our batteries with sun-lit paintings some of which were from Armenia (and were really good). After that we went to see one of the atypical places in the enormous capital, Sokol or the settlement (village) of artists.

Moscow

Rising up in the background of this photo is a nearby residential house and it’s a tricky question what seems to be more out of place: this high-rise monster or this village with tiny wooden houses? Although they say it is much more expensive to buy any of these houses than a pretty posh apartment in the center.

Moscow

The history of this unexpected village planted right in the middle of a ‘normal’ high-rise Moscow district is quite recent: it began in 1923 when the ideas of a garden city were in the air (including St Petersburg, then Leningrad) and so a community of artists, scientists and other intelligentsia were granted the right to use the land. The streets of this village are named after famous Russian artists, although they say not many artists live here now. It still preserves an atmosphere of an ordered village but the ever-present fences do not allow you to see many of the houses.

Moscow

We left the district on this bright blue tram. Seems so out-of-place in a more-than-busy capital like Moscow, doesn’t it? And yet the line crosses streets and parks and many people do still prefer this means of transport as it takes them to those hidden places where people actually live.

I really enjoyed this private side of Moscow!

This post goes to the Travel series where you can find more posts on Moscow under ‘Russia’.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Ryazan and a Bit of Moscow

Ryazan

On the first weekend of December I continued my adventures in Russia visiting Ryazan, and old city some 180 km away from Moscow. I took a train from St Petersburg which arrives pretty early in the morning. After getting some more sleep and a substantial breakfast at the hostel I went out to see the sights. It was snowing and there was unfortunately no sun at all. My first stop was at this church (Borisoglebsky Cathedral) which has a street running underneath it:

Ryazan

It was super slippery walking there but here it is from the other side:

Ryazan

Walking a bit forward to the Ryazan Kremlin I found this wooden house with a menacing note that informs its tenants of an imminent resettlement this summer… I hope they will somehow keep the building (just two steps away from it is an almost entirely burnt down wooden mansion ‘under reconstruction’).

Ryazan

The door was open:

Ryazan

I can imagine it’s not very easy living in such place but it’s so elaborate and just beats flat all the later built stuff around… Note the external thermometer outside of the window – don’t believe the weather forecast, trust your own sight:

Ryazan

Finally I got to the Kremlin where the tourist life was about to begin. It was Saturday after all:

Ryazan

It’s a pity there’s no observation point on any of the bell towers in the city (or did I miss anything?) cause it would be great to see the landscape – and the cityscape – from above. The rives Trubezh and Lybed, the tributaries of the larger Oka river, create a curious and beautifully carved landscape with meadows and hills.

Ryazan
Somewhere beyond the city lies the territory described by the Russian writer Konstantin Paustovsky whose short stories we all read as children in Russia. The old-school wooden building in blue is the river pier from where you can travel to the Oka river:

Ryazan
The Kremlin is traditionally situated on the top of the hill surrounded by the river streams. This is a part (ruined) of the Shelter for People (as opposed to the Shelter for Nobles situated nearby) and the Church of the Holy Ghost with a non-common two-pinnacle style.

Ryazan

I really liked this People’s Shelter building which curves a bit in the center:

Ryazan

The Ryazan Kremlin was founded in 1095 (which is also considered to be the foundation year of the city itself) and it continued developing mostly throughout the 13-18th centuries. Even though its walls are made in brick is preserves the traditional white-washed wall style:

Ryazan

I really like all those architectural details:

Ryazan

Enhanced with the snow:

Ryazan

These two buildings house the local History Museum where I spent almost third of the day, not only escaping from the cold but also actually learning something about the region – and about my country too.

Ryazan

There was this exposition on a woman who collected local crafts in the beginning of the 20th century. Looking at all those intricate embroidery, lace and skillfully woven cloth made me sigh and conclude that we’ve lost such a huge part of our heritage. We don’t know it, we ignore the meaning of all those colours and symbols and patterns.We don’t even know the parts of the traditional Russian costume.

Ryazan

There is also these reconstructed halls which look pretty touristy although I appreciate their attempt at recreating something super-(kitchy)-Russian:

Ryazan

After the museum I went on exploring the Kremlin (and the city).

Ryazan

The windy and mostly white-washed wall territory of the Ryazan Kremlin has a later Assumption Cathedral with this amazing mosque-like door which was unfortunately closed as it can only be visited during the warm(er) months. This is the main church in the city.

Ryazan

Here it is seen from the mound together with the bell tower and the wall inside which there is a… toilet 🙂

Ryazan

The mound looks really cool:

Ryazan

There’s a short street called Rabochaya (Working) running almost back-to-back with the mound. It has several obviously non-inhabited wooden houses like this one, built somewhere in the beginning of the 20th century I suppose:

Ryazan

This is another cathedral which is decorated with the colourful tiles looking particularly good against the (decadently non-) white walls:

Ryazan
Looking at the Kremlin from the Soborny (Cathedral) park and the Church of Spas-na-Yaru:

Ryazan

With all the churches and cathedrals, Ryazan has two Bezbozhnaya streets – Atheist or literally God-less Streets. TWO. Pervaya (First) Bezbozhnaya and Vtoraya (Second) Bezbozhnaya. They probably have other problems to solve than to rename those two streets, like the center of the city in a somewhat bad state:

Ryazan

I wondered off the Kremlin into the pedestrian Pochtovaya (Post) Street visiting of course the local post office in the search of ANY postcards that won’t be sold in packs. The green building behind the statue (to some famous nobleman) used to be the city’s main bank. Ryazan has a number of imperial buildings dating back to as early as the Peter the Great’s times.

Ryazan

As I spent quite a bit of time in the museums I did not see some of the minor musts of the city. What I can tell you is that the city is a bit of a maze and I discovered most of the sights by actually getting lost while trying to find some other sight. I really liked the presence of several rivers in the city and the way Ryazan builds up on their banks. The only drawback was that I couldn’t find that much of local food there: when I asked about anything local, a puzzled shop-assistant told me they have local kotlety (meat patties) 🙂   So I bought this black bread from the Tula region (another old city around Moscow, famous for its pryanik, samovar and weapons) instead:

Moscow

This is a sourdough rye bread made with fermented rye malt, molasses, kvass wort concentrate (used to make the traditional beverage kvass) and such (a variety of) spices as allspice, black pepper, cardamom, coriander, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. The bread is called Starorussky Nasuschny (Old-Russian Daily or Vital) and it has three bogatyr (aka old-Russian supermen) pictured on its package. The bread was soft and really flavourful! To accompany it I bought some – finally – local  cheese:

Moscow

The cheese – called Myagky Ryazansky (Soft from Ryazan) was somewhat close to Adygea cheese but more dense. The cheese is made from cow’s milk and salt (not too salty). I used it for a pie with fresh coriander and tvorog from the same dairy farm.

So my verdict on Ryazan: it’s big and thus less cozily attractive as Vladimir (or Suzdal). It has interesting stuff in its museums and a rather concentrated old center. Not many local crafts / food detected though. Should be a very nice place to walk in summer with the rivers, hills, an island and the meadows.

Moscow

Later that day I took a fast double-decker train that circulates between Moscow and Voronezh (the region I visited last November) and in just two hours I was in Moscow. The weather was expected to be quite harsh but we ventured out on a (substantial) walking tour in the district of Khamovniky where the craftsmen would make and sell their linen fabric (the now – light – swear word ‘kham‘ originally meant linen fabric) many many years ago. I have never been to this part of the district which is situated closer to the end of the bend that the Moscow river creates (here it is on the map). Our first stop was at the Novodevichy Convent which we all know about from the school history lessons and for the famous people buried there and which is planted right there in the middle of the huge megalopolis. The Convent, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Moscow, has survived almost intact from the 16-17th centuries and is now sort of an open-air museum of Moscow baroque architecture. It is called Novodevichy for a reason (oe a number of reasons): it being new in comparison with the other – older – monasteries and a convent (devitsa = girl) also used for exiling unwanted tsar’s wives and other royal females, like Peter the Great’s grandmother.  

Moscow

While wandering in the district we also had a chance to admire this late 17th century church of St Nicolas in Khamovniki which after an apparently recent renovation looks pretty cake-like. They say Leo Tolstoy used to frequent this church as he lived just several meters away:

Moscow

And it was exactly his house that we also visited that day – located in the same formerly Dolgokhamovnichesky (Long / Big Khamovnichesky) Lane, now Leo Tolstoy Street. Tolstoy lived here in 1882-1901 and created many of his works like The Kreutzer Sonata and Resurrection.

Moscow

The wooden house appears quite small from the outside but has actually quite a number of rooms as it got rebuilt and upgraded several times since its construction in the early 19th century. They say most of the things (I mean exhibits) are Tolstoy’s original belongings. Thanks to his fame and the general love and respect from the official Soviet side, we can now see not a reconstructed but indeed preserved interiors.

Moscow

Some of the rooms look super modest (like the tiny bedrooms with tiny beds and almost nothing else) whereas others look pretty kitchy and crowded with things. Even if you’re not that into Tolstoy’s writings, I would recommend visiting his museum for the sake of the ambience, as a peek into the life of Moscow intelligentsia in the late 19th century. The territory is surrounded with a fence, there’s a garden and some auxiliary constructions (should be nice in summer – as all things are!). It’s also such a quiet place in the middle of the high-rise high-tech Moscow that you can hardly believe it was not erased to the ground. It reminded me of the recently visited Surikov’s museum in Krasnoyarsk – these places just take you away from the real life for a moment.

Moscow

Tried to get some food pictured for my future posts – but in vain. There was a weekend of sunny days but… nothing new or unusual to share with you.

Adding this post to the Travel collection.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Winter Dreams of Vladimir and Suzdal

Suzdal - Vladimir

I recently ventured out on a short escape from the city life to two of the Russia’s so-called Golden Ring of historical cities, Vladimir and Suzdal. They are situated close to Moscow and there’s a direct train that will take you there overnight from St Petersburg. Both cities are among the oldest in Russia classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and both have a long story to tell.

Suzdal - Vladimir

I arrived in Vladimir so early in the morning that managed to gain several hours of sleep at a hostel before going out to explore the sights.  First, I took a bus to Suzdal, which long long ago used to be even larger and more important than Vladimir.

Suzdal - Vladimir

A local bus took me to Suzdal pretty fast and when I got there I was among the very few tourists (more of them arrived later) who were not scared by the wind, snow and general gloomish atmosphere.

Suzdal - Vladimir

However, it actually added to the overall impression of a tiny town resembling an open-air museum more than anything else.

Suzdal - Vladimir

With the whitewashed walls and the white snow (which do not seem that white when you come close to them) and the white sky, Suzdal in winter is a perfect place for listening carefully to its secrets, not disturbed by the hoards of tourists.

Suzdal - Vladimir

I took multiple pictures from all the angles although I was constantly worried that my camera’s battery would freeze. It’s obvious that in summer you are supposed to spend much more time near each point of interest just because it’s warmer but at the same time you probably will not as you will be facing loads of tourists trying to do the same.

Suzdal - Vladimir

Can you feel the fragility and the sophistication of Suzdal in winter?

Suzdal - Vladimir

Its old walls told me stories of the past: after all the town counts almost 1000 years of written history!

Suzdal - Vladimir

It was huge before Moscow became prominent and it had so many churches as no other Russian town could boast of.

Suzdal - Vladimir

But now the only thing that keeps it alive is the tourism: the smallest of all the Golden Ring cities (the concept was introduced in the Soviet era) has the greatest amount of tourists.

Suzdal - Vladimir

The things that you might want to visit in Suzdal are all situated within a walking distance, starting from the Trading Arcades (see pictures 5, 6, 8) and the nearby Kremlin (see the photo above and 5 photos down), which is the oldest part of the town (10th century),..

Suzdal - Vladimir

…with this 13th century church that has a very attractive door:

Suzdal - Vladimir

and the 16-18th century halls and Archbishop’s chambers with whitewashed walls:

Suzdal - Vladimir

It was 10 am when I got to the Kremlin – so deserted:

Suzdal - Vladimir

But the restaurant’s door was half-open:

Suzdal - Vladimir

Just noticed the somewhat conflicting pavement – too new to match with the whitewashed walls.

Suzdal - Vladimir

Looking at the picture above taken from the wooden Church of St. Nicholas makes me travel back to that moment.

Suzdal - Vladimir

Cold.

Suzdal - Vladimir

Snowy.

Suzdal - Vladimir

While the town was patiently waiting for the buses to come in with the tourists, I went to the open-air museum which gathers log-houses and wooden churches of the 18-19th centuries exemplifying the traditional Russian architecture.

Suzdal - Vladimir

For me, the most interesting part is what you can see inside of the log houses.

Suzdal - Vladimir

I know that all this is done for the tourists but…

Suzdal - Vladimir

…it’s so cozy inside! and warm 🙂

Suzdal - Vladimir

Inside almost each house you’re welcomed by a lady or two dressed in traditional clothes who is ready to tell you about the old habits, explain to you the use of all those objects and… discuss politics and smartphone applications 🙂

Suzdal - Vladimir

There are also two windmills, several storehouses and other constructions you would find in a village. There is also a stone house of a well-off merchant.

Suzdal - Vladimir

Leaving the cozy museum of the wooden architecture, I went back to the Kremlin:

Suzdal - Vladimir

…and then proceeded on till I got to the Monastery of Saint Euthymius which I decided to leave for future since I wanted to see Vladimir in the daylight too. On my way I spotted numerous facades, this one, for example, is in the Old (Staraya) Street :

Suzdal - Vladimir

this one is very festive:

Suzdal - Vladimir

and this one looks beautiful:

Suzdal - Vladimir

and this one looks fancy too:

Suzdal - Vladimir

I liked this surviving house dating back to the 17th century with this small ‘baby’ attachment, to my mind – for storing stuff.

Suzdal - Vladimir

I took my old-school bus back to Vladimir and walked there quite a bit along the main street, occasionally turning into the adjacent streets when something caught my eye. Like this tile:

Suzdal - Vladimir

Or this Art-Nouveau school (now university):

Suzdal - Vladimir

It’s interesting that from our first visit to Vladimir about 16 years ago I can hardly remember anything. Even this hallmark of the city, the Golden Gate, somehow did not get engraved into my memory:

Suzdal - Vladimir

It’s lower part is authentic (12th century) while the upper part was added / renovated in the 18th century. The center of Vladimir is pretty low-rise to say the least:

Suzdal - Vladimir

And here’s how it looks from the top of the ex-water tower which is now a museum dedicated to the old Vladimir: how the town looked like before and what the life there was like.

Suzdal - Vladimir

The top floor provides you with a view over the town with its small houses, churches and hills.

Suzdal - Vladimir

A street close to the museum with the road post:

Suzdal - Vladimir

Further along that street:

Suzdal - Vladimir

Another view over the city:

Suzdal - Vladimir

The dusk was already there when I got to the Assumption (Uspensky) Cathedral:

Suzdal - Vladimir

But it looked even more sophisticated and a bit eerie in this bluish light:

Suzdal - Vladimir

The horizon got lost in the snow:

Suzdal - Vladimir

When I got to the St Demetrius Cathedral (12th century), the daylight was gone:

Suzdal - Vladimir

The town turned its lights on and I walked here and there popping into local shops and ended up buying pryanik with cherries (they say Vladimir used to be famous for its cherry orchards) and wild apricot and lemon jam from Dagestan 🙂 I also bought this bread called Mstyora bread:

Mstera Bread

It’s a light rye bread made with rye malt and coriander made according to the recipe from Mstyora in the Vladimir region. Mstyora is actually better known for its miniature art. They make miniatures with a black background similar to the more popular Palekh art which I used to dream of when I was a child – I begged my Mom to buy me a tiny lacquered box to keep my precious objects there.

On the first photo: Stained-glass window at the Vladimir bus station.

This post goes to the Travel series.

G.

architecture · no recipe · St Petersburg · travel

Autumn in Vyborg, a Rusty but Sunny Day

Sunny Vyborg

I just realized I failed to this final post in my ‘Autumn in…’ series covering several Sundays spent in and about St Petersburg this autumn. It’s now so very Happy-New-Year-like in the city that looking at these photos I took in Vyborg back in October makes me recall what’s there underneath all that thick layer of snow 🙂

Sunny Vyborg

That was a rusty but sunny autumn day in Vyborg, actually a really warm day which is not very common for this northern town. Vyborg attracts me by its non-Russian looks and its atmosphere of a really old city which grew around the castle step by step.

Sunny Vyborg

Vyborg Castle is the city’s must par excellence. You just have to go there. It’s still been renovated and they keep digging all around it, discovering new layers of history. This time we had a chance to walk around the immense walls of the castle.

Sunny Vyborg

And of course we made sure to spend some time on top of St Olaf’s Tower (and even more time waiting in the line to get there). And of course I made sure to bump my head on that metal thing while telling other to be careful and keep their head low.

Sunny Vyborg

I absolutely love the rusty and rustic look of the castle. I would even want them to forget about renovation and just keep it ‘frozen’ as it is. Please.

Sunny Vyborg

And although nothing doesn’t really change much in the castle (apart from the new zones that they’ve now opened to public), each time I return I photograph the same details.

Sunny Vyborg

We didn’t go to the museum this time as we we trying to ti catch the fast train back (a bit over 1 hour compared to a slow train of 2 hours or a very slow train of 3 hours, cause it’s Sunday and all the babushkas have to get on at the dacha stops in between Vyborg and St Petersburg). The museum is situated behind this wall inside the castle:

Sunny Vyborg

And here’s not your regular entrance to a (castle) restroom:

Sunny Vyborg

It was a shame spending so little time in the city that day but the sun really helped enjoy every moment.

Sunny Vyborg

Autumn seems so warm and cozy in these photos.

Sunny Vyborg

Lines:

Sunny Vyborg

Note the shoemaker’s vane:

Sunny Vyborg

Knitted chair decorations next to a 16th century burger’s house:

Sunny Vyborg

Each time I go to Vyborg I tell myself that I will finally go away from the old center to see the Finnish Art-Nouveau parts of the city but so far I only managed to catch a glimpse of the Alvar Aalto’s library. Anyway, that was a very fine day.

Sunny Vyborg

More information on Vyborg in my previous post.

This post goes to St Petersburg series.

G.

architecture · no recipe · St Petersburg · travel

Autumn in Gatchina

Gatchina

if I were an artist, I would paint autumn. In our parts an artist needs to be very swift cause autumn does not linger for long and you’d have to paint from memory!

Gatchina

This post continues (and most probably concludes) the “Autumn in…” series. We went to Gatchina, a somewhat neglected royal residence to the south-west of St Petersburg. It is a town in the Leningrad region mainly famous for its palace and beautiful (and big) park. Gatchina with its palace looking like a medieval castle used to be one of the royal family’s favourite places to escape from the capital where they felt not that easy at times.

Gatchina

It’s been a while since I last (and for the first time) went to the palace which is a museum now though we’ve visited the park relatively recently. In summer it’s gorgeous… In winter it all seems to be just lost in snow. I remember that when we went there in winter we got stranded in the park trying to get away from the ski tracks 🙂

Gatchina

The palace is still undergoing renovation after all those years of neglect and its being completely ruined during the war. It was built in the second half of the 18th century by (certo!) an Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi.

Gatchina

It has an underground passage where the tourist guides would diligently stop and tell their chilled (it’s cold down there!) listeners all the legends about it (it was built for mere entertainment though) and would make them repeat some phrases which would then be repeated by the echo.

Gatchina

I can hardly remember anything from our visit to the palace with my schools years ago apart from the fact that we were greeted by the emperor Pavel the First and his wife and then set off to treasure hunting (I cannot even recall what exactly we found in the palace after all!). But it’s obvious that the work is going on and more rooms are now open. We liked the third floor most cause it represents a somewhat nearer-to-us life, that of Alexander III and his family, i.e. late 19th century.

Gatchina

Just when we were ready to go wander in the park, the sun came out though the wind remained. Soon oh so soon it will all be covered with snow. But now there was this autumnal sunlight that doesn’t already shine but… pours? flows? It definitely feels like it’s much more thick than that of summer, if you know what I mean.

Gatchina

It was a pity leaving the park with all that sun in the sky but the temperature and the wind wouldn’t let us stay long. What should we visit next time?

This post goes to the St Petersburg series. And I’m going to travel tomorrow in the wee hours.

G.

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

Repino on Gulf of Finland

Repino

Let’s celebrate summer and my blog’s 5th birthday by looking back at our trip to Repino on the Gulf of Finland. This small town to the North of St Petersburg is mostly famous for its celebrated inhabitant, Russian painter Ilya Repin. In this house called Penaty (the Penates) he lived up until his death in 1930:

Repino

The town itself – or rather a fisherman’s village – used to be called by its Finnish name Kuokkala (from koukku – fish hook which characterized its main industry pretty accurate) until 1948. For what I know it might have been renamed after another famous inhabitant, the writer Korney Chukovsky, but he was not in favor at all. I read about his life in his house in Kuokkala (jokingly referred to as Chukokkala) and all those well-known poets, writers, painters and singers who visited him there. Chukovsky would in his turn visit Repin in his curious house. To do this, he had to first cross the park:

Repino

Of course the house has been rebuilt and renewed several times since its construction in 1906 as all which was left after the Second World War was its basement. Kuokkala was not lucky enough to remain intact.

Repino

We went inside what is now the museum of Ilya Repin to see the interiors (here I should admit that they really put in a lot of effort to recreate its atmosphere) and found two floors of cozy rooms with lots of light and hand-made objects. It feels like a dacha and yet this was the painter’s home for many years. I particularly liked his study:

Repino

and the verandah looks pretty too – there’s so much light in there!

Repino
One of the stars of the house is this dining table which the guests could spin to access the dish they wanted. The Repin family was particularly proud not to be attended by any servants in their house – and so they would instruct all their guests on how to be self-sufficient 🙂

Repino

Unfortunately photos are not allowed in this museum and I didn’t manage to take any of all those cozy things on the second floor. Anyway, Repin’s house and the surrounding park with the painter’s grave are worth visiting. They have that very special aura around them which surprisingly survived or at least got very painstakingly recreated after all these years. I would compare it to the house-museum of Vasily Surikov in Krasnoyarsk, another Russian painter, his friend and contemporary.

Repino

No, this is not Baikal. This is Gulf of Finland, the closest you can get to the sea within the borders of St Petersburg. From Repin’s Penates you just cross the road and you see the sea. The Soviet times did not pass for nothing here: there are numerous health resorts all along the beach. And then the new times also transformed the town, introducing all those expensive and oddly looking dacha. But people still have their beach to walk – and you can walk and walk and walk…

Repino

It might be cold and very shallow but this is our sea 🙂

Repino
This is the Baltic sea as seen from this side, the St Petersburg side (I also happen to see its ‘other’ side in the Kaliningrad region). We had our lunch on the sandy and windy beach and then made a long stroll along the shore talking with my Mother. Love those moments!

Repino

Oh, goodbye summer.

 

This post goes to the St Petersburg and Travel series.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Trans-Siberian Trip Part 9: Vladivostok and Russky Island

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Hello Vladivostok! My friend met me with a flower, such a treat! After a flight which felt like being on a bus as it made several stops on its way from Irkutsk to Vladivostok, Ulan-Ude being its first one. We flew over China twice: before its second stop in Blagoveshchensk and after. It felt so weird to be travelling alone and not to have any more trains to take. Travelling by plane and covering over a thousand kilometers in a couple of hours seemed almost unnatural!

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Walking along the embankment or should I say the shore of the Japanese Sea later that day and listening to a street musician playing a bagpipe I was wondering whether I was in China after all? Or in Thailand? Never seen either of them but it felt like I was truly in Asia.

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My eager eye spotted the decadence and rejoiced at seeing these authentic courtyards which used to be quite a dangerous area and now is mostly occupied by various hippy-artsy places:

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Since its foundation as a outpost in 1860 Vladivostok (‘own the East’ in Russian) has been a melting pot of nations and interests. This district in particular – still called Millionka (either from the ironical ‘Millionaires’ or Million People) – was the local China town with gangsters and smugglers and spies and whatnot. It became a real city within a city but then the Soviets came and cleared the place out in the 1930s.

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Evening view over the city from one of its numerous sopka (volcano, hills). The new districts seem to climb to the top of the hills, the view from there should be amazing, I suppose. Next morning we set off on our way to the Russky Island – across the Zolotoy Bridge – and thus spotted more breathtaking views over the Golden Horn Bay (Zolotoy Rog):

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Then we crossed another impressive bridge called Russky bridge and got to the Russky Island which is located … “9,334 kilometres east of Moscow” according to Wikipedia. That was amazing. I thank my friends who took me there regardless of the distance. I guess those Far Eastern girls just don’t mind those kilometers of walking at all.

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Apart from being quite a challenge in trying to reach one of its capes, Tobizin Cape, through mud and over the cliffs, this island offered to me an insight into the unbelievably different nature of the Far East. It IS different there on the island, no birch trees by the way, which seemed to accompany us all throughout the trip.

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My mind was trying to find a reference, something to compare the sight in front of me with. But it failed! The closest at times was the Mediterranean but the rest, especially with those long capes and gulfs and volcanic rocks and the horizon. I was swept off my feet! The eye would just fail to encompass it all.

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Nature is generous on dimensions there. The Japanese Sea and the Ocean:

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and then… there was all of a sudden this mist, at first just drawing a curtain over the sun:

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People were seemingly unabashed by that change in the weather. They kept jumping off the cliff (I preferred not to look at them but still I could hear them) and swimming. It’s a pity I didn’t as I thought we would find a less rocky beach since there were quite a few of them around… Meanwhile the mist was stubbornly making its way to the city, enveloping everything in its white blanket:

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It wasn’t cold at first so we just walked back to catch the bus (which we missed), stopping here and there to admire the Nature:

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White poppies and thyme of the Far East:

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And that was when people started gradually getting out of the island which inevitably created traffic jams on the only road leading to the only bridge connecting the island with the mainland Vladivostok. We hitchhiked a part of our way on some weird mini-bus full of quasi-military guys (we thought they were either soldiers or some military-style game addicts?) who ate the rest of the very tasty home-made cake 🙂 We thus got to the vast-vast campus of the DVFU or FEFU (Far Eastern Federal University) which looks more like a city and contributes to the population growth on the island:

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They built all the monster buildings there on the ex-military school territory for the 2012 APEC Summit (as well as those two impressive bridges) and later they got revamped into the campus for the recently united three local universities. It’s enormous, there’s a bus circulating on its territory which we took for a quick excursion… and in that mist which was chasing us out of the island the campus in the middle of nowhere looked even less credible. One of the university alumni is Russian singer Ilya Lagutenko and he was scheduled to perform later that day in a concert on the main square. We got there on time but the mist was so thick and cold and damp by then that we failed to wait any longer and went home to warm up our bones. And sample some cooked bracken!

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Next day I went around Vladivostok on my own. I started my journey from walking to the Tokarevskaya Koshka lighthouse, one of the oldest in the country. It’s located on this narrow man-made patch (called koshka) which is washed by the waves from both sides and which disappears with the tide. It felt very… special being there all alone in the early morning, breathing in the ocean and observing the boats passing by. They say that this is the spot to meet the beginning of the day – it seems like the day on this planet starts somewhere over there!

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Then I got on the bus (and here I should say that Vladivostok buses are the most outrageously kitsch-decorated buses I’ve ever seen – inside, not outside) and first visited the Vladivostok railway station. I already felt nostalgia when I looked at all the trains and people going places. The building is in neo-Russian style and has these beautiful ceramic tiles:

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Walking in the city I – as always – mostly paid attention to the remnants of the bygone era. Loved this tiny Pharmacy on the corner:

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This is Vladivostok:

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Quite a mixture, isn’t it? The city is also quite rich in various types of street art, particularly paintings on the walls. Well, birds are abundantly present too 🙂

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The only museum I visited in the city was the Arsenyev Museum called after Vladimir Arsenyev who spent his life in relentless expeditions all across the Far East and wrote books about the region.

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I liked the museum (and the building!) – it was small enough not to get tired and some halls in particular impressed me with their curious ideas of how to display the exhibits. For instance, they had a huge shelve stand with a specific object representing this or that merchant / trade in the city’s history. And this is what you do when you have far too many books:

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They do not need any extra filters there with this mirror:

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I walked along the most central of the streets of Vladivostok, Svetlanskaya. As you can imagine, I was quite happy to see the street  lined with Art-Nouveau buildings as well as decadent Soviet creations. Loved this mirror and the staircase in the local GUM (central department store):

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Walking away from the center and then turning right to the embankment, I saw this submarine turned into museum. Remembering that sheer fright I felt inside the submarine in Kaliningrad, I avoided going inside 🙂

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Zolotoy (Golden) Bridge looking pretty… silver:

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I entered the port area and thoroughly enjoyed those red-brick workshops with layers upon layers of time periods on them:

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My friend suggested going up to see the Gothic-style Catholic church which I did – though I spent quite some time trying to get round all those courtyards and winding parking lots (roads?) leading towards the church. The church itself didn’t impress me as much as the view from up there, revealing even more layers of time:

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Vertical layers too:

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Later that day I thought how weird it was that people living in the easternmost part of my country would go to sleep at the same time as their friends at the other end of it would be at work. And then when you wake up – your friends are still awake on that other side… SEVEN hours, seven time zones!

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My last day in Vladivostok was a lazy day with even more mist, stifling dampness and drizzling rain. First I went out of the city to visit the Botanical Gardens. There I walked in the woods and admired more of that nature (see red fish in the bottom left corner of the picture above?) so strikingly different and yet so near. Then I bought some LPs for my Mother at a store called Kontrabanda (Vladivostok was always famous for it being too close to the capitalist world where they have jeans, Beatles, short skirts and long hair) and as a parting gift enjoyed a tea ceremony at home 🙂 Early next morning it was time to say goodbye – both to the city and the journey.

Vladivostok highlights:

walking along the embankment and people / sunset / sunrise watching

Tokarevskaya Koshka lighthouse (preferable before the tide:)

Millionka district, the local (ex-)China town

Arsenyev Primorye Museum

send old-school postcards with Millionka to your friends on the other side of the world

MISTS (June-July is the season)

Russky Island and other wonderful natural places away from the city

the Ocean, the port and the bridges

Vladivostok in a few words: Hills, ocean and layers of time that are recent enough to be visible and yet old enough to spark an interest. In some ways Vladivostok is pretty close to St Petersburg actually! Equally an ‘artificial’ city built to both defend from and be a window to the world. But just on the other side of the country 🙂 And although the city failed to keep my enthusiasm going for 4 days, I would like to come back.

This post goes to my On Russia and Travel series.

G.