My recent tram trip to the Polytechnic University campus and park started from the deserted Summer Garden in the heart of St Petersburg. It was a Sunday morning and there was me and an unusual combination of snow and leaves. There was not even any ice on the canals and rivers of the city back then. What a sudden winter attack in early November!
Winter and snow works magic and makes the city – and probably any place in general – more silent. Have you ever though that winter is a silent season? Even a busy city succumbs to this silence.
The city on a Sunday morning is slow and particularly in such frosty weather is also less populated which helps soak in the atmosphere and pay more attention to the details. Which apparently I did as almost all the photos I took on my way from the Summer Garden across Neva to the Peter and Paul Fortress on Petrogradskaya Side were all about…
street lights. Which usually grasp my attention anyway. So here we go:
never actually noticed this peculiar one guarding the gates to the Peter and Paul Fortress:
love those 18th century windows
while the square in front of the Peter and Paul Cathedral looked particularly theatrical:
a deserted path looking more like some movie set:
what a curve!
Then I walked to the terminus of the tram 6A and was lucky enough to get on one which was standing there as if waiting for me. It was only some minutes later that I realize I’m pretty much not used to tramway style of life! The lady was obviously not in a hurry, she checked all the indicators and chatted with the conductor about what they were eating this weekend. At first I was sitting a little bit nervous with the fact we were not moving anywhere but then I started getting into the tramway style of life… Tramways are not all new and warm but they have this stubborn old-fashioned something about them that makes trams and the people using them something of a sect. If you get on a tram no one INSIDE the tram will look at you kind of strange (like, why do you use this slow tram and do not use metro instead?!). They all take it easy, the time and the distance.
Tram 6A starts from the zoo and runs through the Petrogradskaya side onto the other side of the river Neva, to the Vyborgskaya side where it has its terminus at the Finlandsky Railway Station. There I got off and had to wait for quite a time to get on the next tram which would take me back first and then up north.
Tramway 40 has quite a long route though it used to be even longer. It crosses two islands and gets back to the Vyborgskaya side. It was for the first time that I saw the city from this point (I don’t drive so usually experience the city either walking or… taking the metro which is the fastest means of transport), I mean, from the middle of the streets and bridges. Here is the refurbished Aurora cruiser, by the way, and somewhere on the other side of Neva my workplace:
Back to the Petrogradskaya side the tram runs along river Karpovka and stops there where I walked some time ago visiting those Art Nouveau and constructivist spots of the island. Here are two Art Nouveau buildings, a small mansion which belonged to a family of artists and a city tramway power substation.
The best place on a tramway is at the back. It might be quite a bumpy ride if you choose to stay there but then you can see the whole panorama. As we crossed the Kamenny Island, we got back to the Vyborgskaya side where we proceeded to such places in the city where I have never been. Well, starting from this square (Svetlanovskaya square):
This reminded me of the important role that the tramway played in the Siege. It stopped operating only during the hardest winter of 1941-42 but then continued to serve the besieged city in spring 1942. By the way, before the USSR broke up the city tramway network was number one in the world with its 600 km of tracks. It’s a pity most of those crazy routes crisscrossing the entire city are now disused.
I had to get off tram 40 in the middle of the road as there was some accident along the line but we were very close to my destination that day: Polytechnic University campus. And there was sun which brightened the day and made me more resistant to the cold. I wondered off the main building along the sleepy academic buildings most of which were completed in the beginning of the 20th century.
The campus is massive, it starts from the previous metro station Ploshchad Muzhestva and stretches up to the Politehnicheskaya metro station. It’s open to public and I spotted quite a lot of families with children. They wouldn’t pay extra attention to this early 1930s constructivist block though:
My Grandad graduated from this university and he lived in one of the dormitories built in the 1930s which have been partially taken down now (even the street he still recalls the name of doesn’t exist anymore). From what I understand, his dorms should have also been built at around the same time. I still have to discover that district near Ploshchad Muzhestva which I only saw from the tram window. My next point of interest was this hydraulic station, one of the most attractive constructions in the area. Built in 1905 to resemble a watchtower and a garden pavilion at the same time, this tower supplied water until 1953 and also served as a laboratory.
The tower stands in the ‘forest’ or park which occupies quite a chunk of the campus. There was so much snow there that I already thought of skiing which I haven’t done for many years. I didn’t wander further (or farther) as I was getting cold, so I headed to the nearby Politehnicheskaya metro station, saluted the ever present pigeons and…
… oh yes, took metro back home, the fastest but much less nostalgic nor anywhere close to being a sightseeing means of transport (if we don’t take into consideration the stations themselves, like Avtovo one). Will try to dig out other peculiar tramway lines to discover more unusual spots of the city.
This post goes to the ever-growing St Petersburg series.