architecture · on USSR / Russia · travel

Crimea in May: Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Vorontsovsky Palace

This is how it looked on the day I arrived in Alupka, on the Southern coast of Crimea – the Ai-Petri mountain perfectly vivid and shining under the sun. Next morning the top of the mountain was obscured by clouds (mist) which should have told me that the weather up there would be a little bit cold but… I didn’t even pay attention to that, it was so sunny down there. And that’s how the Ai-Petri and other adventures began that day.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

The cable road in Miskhor leading to the over 1200 m high Ai-Petri mountain is just a short walk away from the Vorontsov Palace, so there I went and very soon found myself and three other tourists (two of them from St Petersburg) on our way to the top in… a motor car and not a cable car 🙂 That’s one of the ways to gain money for the local men who take the tourists up to the mountain in a car with a few stops here and there for the price of a ride on the cable road.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Our first stop was at the Uchan-su waterfall (from the Tatar ‘flying water’ – which it is, falling from such a height it makes your head tired from looking up) on the Southern slope of the Ai-Petri mountain, where the guarding ladies (with a cat) will let you in once you pay a 50 ruble entrance fee (I immediately recalled The Twelve Chairs by Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov – how the extremely resourceful main character was collecting unsanctioned entrance fee so that the Proval or Fall, a cavern with a lake in the Caucasus, would not… fall).

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Already at the waterfalls did we start to feel some kind of a chill – it was gradually getting colder the closer we we getting to the top of the mountain. Meanwhile, our resourceful driver drove us up to the next stop – at the rotunda overlooking Yalta the access to which is supposed to be forbidden but apparently not so at all in the absence of the guardians. I know I know, I took innumerable photos of the views which cannot render even a tiny bit of what you feel when you are there yourself…

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Then we drove more along the narrow (to say the least) serpentine road up the mountain, listening to all the legends our driver was eager to share. After some more stops we got off the car just before reaching the cable road station to see some tiny white and yellow flowers and… this:

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

No, that was not cotton-wool used as fake snow in the old Christmas decorations. I cannot say we were not at all surprised to see this in May but… Given how cold it was up there, it was easier for us to believe that was real snow! And if you stay on that cliff open to all winds and biting cold long enough, you become as crooked as this tree!

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Oh that colour! My mind though…, well, it was quite frozen by the time we arrived at the top of Ai-Petri, so I can now barely recall the sensation. But I remember that looking down there I had only one idea in my head – there it should be sunny and warm, no more mist, no more strong wind!

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

In fact I got so cold and also instantaneously tired from the nauseatingly persistently offered service (grilled meat, ponies, excursions, whatever you like – how do they all survive up there?!) that I jumped into the first cable car available. They say in winter when the roads are covered with snow, the cable car is the only means to get provision to those who live on the mountain. Brrr! We made it back to the station with a stopover somewhere in the middle where you change cars in 15 minutes against about a 2 h ride up there. ‘Flying’ over the vineyards:

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

When I got out of the cable car and started defrosting a little bit, I headed towards the bus station at the entrance to the Vorontsov park and got on the marshrutka (a commercial bus) that goes in the direction of Yalta. My target was the Swallow’s Nest, one of the symbols of Crimea. First, you get rid of all the souvenir shops greeting you at the bus stop, then you walk many steps towards the castle and then you see this:

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Everyone’s there for the iconic view (there’s also another one from the sea if you take a boat) of this fairy-tale castle that sits on the cliff and seems to be sailing to the horizon. They say it looks like Miramare Castle in Trieste but most certainly it resembles a toy, a miniature castle, even when you get there and stand close to its entrance. The Castle is hanging there for over a century, originally built for the riches it was then abandoned because it started falling into the sea. It was under construction when I was there in May.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Done with the castle, I hopped on the bus which took me to another must of the Southern coast of Crimea – Livadia Palace, the one where they held the Yalta Conference in 1945. While Churchill was hanging out in the Vorontsov Palace, the President of the US was stationed here in Livadia, the former Nicholas II summer residence. Well, one of them.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

I have to say I was much less impressed by Livadia Palace and I decided not to wait for the excursion group. Built round the same time as the Swallow’s Nest, this rather squarish palace seems a bit too… square. However, the park was beautiful as well as the view towards Yalta and over the sea.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Spring in Crimea is gorgeously luscious:

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Much as I enjoyed the nature (there’s this Tsar’s or Sunny Path that runs through many palaces and parks which I would love to take in the future) I was too tired to continue my trip along the coast  and got back to Alupka where in the evening I however found some strength and attention to explore a ghost sanatorium.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

How to get there: I suggest to give in to the promises of the drivers (you will find many of them at the Miskhor cable car from about 10 am) and go up the Ai-Petri mountain in a car and then descend using the cable car. If starting from Yalta, take a marshrutka from the bus station towards Alupka and ask the driver to stop at the kanatka (cable car). If you wish to visit only the Castle and the Palace, the same bus will take you to Livadia (you will have to walk from the stop to the palace), and then you can proceed to the Swallow’s Nest taking any bus going in the same direction. These local buses make numerous stops at sanatoriums, hotels and other places so your journey might take some time. However, I managed to squeeze in these three musts in about 6-7 hours starting from Alupka.

Will continue my Crimean adventures soon, there’s so much I’ve seen and looking through the photos I realize there’s so much I have seen but haven’t really noticed!

This post goes to the Travel collection.

G.

pies · sweet

Red Currant Pie with Ground Oats and Peanuts

Red Currant Pie

Berries from dacha. Some of them are now frozen, some of them turned into a sort of zhivoe varenye (live confiture, consisting of berries strained with sugar, no boiling involved – the best way to preserve all the good stuff in the fruit), some of them eaten raw (gosh, they are so sour!) and some end up as a filling to numerous cakes, muffins and this time also a pie.

Red Currant Pie

This summer with June and July almost sun-less, has not given the berries enough sugar so they are eeeextra sour. Thanks God, no apples this year – I can only imagine how sour they would be…

Red Currant Pie

Red currants are traditionally extremely sour. Yet, I like baking with them, they seem to give that special ‘it’ to the cakes and pies.

Red Currant Pie

After making quick cakes and muffins, I’ve finally got over my laziness and here’s a pastry pie I baked today with the last red currants from our dacha – soft and zesty. Why peanuts in a berry pie? Well, I just had some in front of me.

Red Currant Pie

Same goes with why I decided to add this tolokno (see Remarks below) layer to the pie 0 I guess I just had it on the table at that moment too! However, it seems it was not that bad an idea after all – it has given the berries an extra soft (and sweet) layer and also prevented the juices from destroying the bottom of the pie. I think it worked in a sort of custard-y way.

Red Currant Pie

1 year ago – Lemon-Gooseberry Bars

2 years ago – Greek Olive Buns and Breadsticks

3 years ago – Spanakopita and Mediterranean Vegetable Millefeuille

4 years ago – Summer Goes On with Sourdough Mini-Rolls

5 years ago – Pommes. Pommes de Terre too

Red Currant Pie with Ground Oats and Peanuts

Ingredients (as with most of my recipes – the amounts are very approximate!)

  • 150-200 g sugar, divided
  • lemon zest, to taste
  • 90-100 g butter, cold or from freezer
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • handful of peanuts, ground into flour
  • all-purpose flour, enough for the pastry
  • 2-3 Tb oat flour (preferably tolokno or kama, see Remarks)
  • 1/2 cup warm water, or more as needed
  • fresh red currants

Procedure

First, make the pastry. Cut cold butter into small pieces, mix in about 50-70 g sugar, depending on how sweet you want your pastry, lemon zest and the egg. Working rather quickly before the butter softens too much, add a pinch of salt, ground peanuts and start adding all-purpose flour, delicately but swiftly kneading the pastry with your hand. My idea was to make it rather soft and crumbly so I did not knead it into a disk. Leave the pastry covered in the fridge for at least 30 min.

Meanwhile, prepare the oat flour layer. I used the easiest method for making kasha from tolokno (see Remarks), by mixing it gradually into a small bowl with some warm water, adjusting the amount of flour to achieve rather thick consistency. Add in about 50 g of sugar (the mixture will get more runny).

Line a round or rectangular baking dish with parchment paper. Take the pastry out of the fridge and distribute a bigger (2/3) part of it on the bottom, by gently rubbing it through your fingers. In this way you’re creating a more ‘aerated’ sort of pastry layer rather than a smooth one, so no worries if there are ‘holes’ in the bottom layer. Keep the rest of the pastry in the fridge.

Pour the oat mixture over the bottom pastry layer and scatter red currants on top, finishing with some more sugar, depending on the sweetness of your berries (ours are as usual super sour). Take the remaining pastry from the fridge and rub it through your fingers over the berries. There will be more spaces in the top layer with berries popping out as you’ll have less pastry for it but that’s exactly what you need.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Bake for about 40-45 min. until the top layer is golden and the berries are happily bubbling away.

Red Currant Pie

Remarks

Tolokno aka kama or talkan, is a traditional grind of slightly toasted whole oats, considered to be healthier than what you get with the industrially milled oats. In Karelia they eat it with berries and it’s such a treat! You can of course use oat flour or grind some oatmeal instead.

Red Currant Pie

My pastry ‘recipe’ is not anywhere close to what you would call classic, so feel free to use your favourite recipe. Anyway, I have to confess, putting enough butter into the pastry does make a difference – it’s just what I wanted – soft and crumbly!

Red Currant Pie

Result

Sweet-n’-sour in one bite, very soft and peanut-y, with distinct flavour from the oats detected.

Red Currant Pie

This recipe goes to the Berries and Sweet collections where you will find many more recipes with red currants in particular, like Cardamom and Red Currant Cake, Coconut Red Currant Bread, Pretty Good Red Currant Coffeecake, Moelleux aux Groseilles or Redcurrant CakeRed Currant Meringue Pie, Red Currant Flan and Red Currant and Marzipan Swirls among others.

G.

architecture · on USSR / Russia · travel

Crimea in May: Ghost Soviet Sanatorium

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

In continuation of my post on Vorontsov Palace and Park in Alupka here is my second one in the Crimean series in which I indulge myself into one of my favourite pastimes – exploring decadent places, sometimes but not necessarily including running away from dogs.

Vorontsovsky Palace

When I was walking down to Alupka’s center from where the Sevastopol-Yalta bus dropped me off on the highway, I read a sign on the bus stop – Sanatory Solnechny (Sunny Health Resort), there was even a booth nearby which was supposed to be greeting guests. It was closed though.

Vorontsovsky Palace

On the same day I spotted this mansion with this gate and a fountain behind it. The sign however read Vkhoda Net, no entrance… There were apparently several more of such mansions around with some signs and numbers on them. I realized these were the remains of that very sanatorium. So next evening I decided to go and see if I could actually take a better look at the place.

Vorontsovsky Palace

Sanatoriums were massively introduced in the Soviet Union driven by the idea that even the sole vicinity to the sea, fresh air and sun is capable of making people healthier and more productive. For instance, the Gulf of Finland coastline is stuffed with sanatoriums and children’s camps, all meant to let the sun-deprived citizens of Leningrad benefit from the pine forests and sandy beaches.

Vorontsovsky Palace

People would get heavily discounted putevka (vouchers) to such health resorts from their work places – or from a medical organization. And although a sanatorium is now mostly considered to be a place for elderly people lazily moving from one medical procedure to another throughout the day and enjoying their dietary restricted meals (adapted to the patient’s ailment), that was a way for many people to get some rest with the benefit for their health – at least once in a while.

Vorontsovsky Palace

This sanatorium in Alupka was treating people with TB and nervous system-related health issues – with the view over the mountains, rest in the beautiful park and walks along the sea included. Sign me up! Too late though – seems like it was shut down just recently, its website merely saying that ‘the distribution of vouchers has been suspended’.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

I don’t have any blood-curdling story to go with this ghost sanatorium, there’s just this sad but seemingly inevitable fact that most of the unprofitable Soviet heritage in Crimea – as in many other places across Russia – goes wasted, abandoned, looted and burnt down.

Vorontsovsky Palace

I’ve googled this sanatorium and they say it was established in 1917 (rings a bell?) out of various nationalized mansions and dacha that were unfortunate enough to be built by rich people in Alupka before the revolution.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Little did they know back then that thousands of Soviets willing to recover from illnesses or to regain some health would flood into their leisure houses and their private rooms would be turned into common bathrooms, dining halls and massage cabinets.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Hence, this place in Alupka is double decadence – first it was abandoned by its owners and then it was (very recently) left by the people who ran the sanatorium. Some of the buildings however seem to be used as apartments (that’s where I got driven away by the dogs) – although the ‘medical service’ car parked outside manifests that those who occupy this place are probably its former employees.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Looks like the door to this mansion got a little bit … blocked:

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

This building is way below the ground:

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Now nature is taking its own back, turning these places into a sort of savage woods.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

One of the mansions got particularly unlucky as it was turned into a dump …. with a few cats really loving it there. Meanwhile, how do you find this balcony?

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Govorit Moskva…’ (This is Moscow speaking):

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

This blue house was on the ‘beach’ (there’s not one there, everything is either cemented or full of rocks), I was there in May and someone already wrote ‘Alupka Summer 2017’ in red paint on one of its sides (the hammer and sickle sign from the photo above was spotted near the ‘children’s beach’):

Vorontsovsky Palace

One of the mansions belonging to the sanatorium is just below the hotel I was staying at – it is already in a half-burnt state and the hotel’s owner has the intention to expand his premises incorporating it too. I hope at least one of them will get a proper – and delicate – facelift.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

… They say Abkhazia is the place to go if you’re interested in decadence overtaken by nature. Will go there one day.

This post goes to my Travel series.

G.

architecture · on USSR / Russia · travel

Crimea in May: Vorontsov Palace and Park

Vorontsovsky Palace

Crimea has mesmerized me. It is so multifaceted, it’s so sincere and so yet-to-be-discovered. I’ve definitely had the most enjoyable days of spring 2017 in Crimea when I took a short break and dedicated it to my favourite lifestyle – on the road.

Vorontsovsky Palace

Crimea is unique and yet I found there so many things you would typically admire in so many places in Europe – since I had never been to any of the ex-Soviet Black Sea regions / states before (the southernmost I had travelled in the post-Soviet territory was Samara on Volga), the only points of references for me were Italy, France, Greece… And all of them I could find in Crimea.

Vorontsovsky Palace

The unrivaled beauty of its nature, the simplicity of life and the decadent notes (not to say atmosphere) of a lost Soviet empire (plus cats everywhere :)) all make Crimea a perfect place for me. Except for their dairy products and bread, they do have to work on these two in order to win my heart and respect 100%.

Vorontsovsky Palace

I was travelling alone, without a car and huge budgets, I felt safe and could get almost everywhere using the local transport. People were open and eager to help – and if you avoid high season and ridiculously touristic places, you will get the most out of your Crimean adventures.

Vorontsovsky Palace

Just try not to have high expectations in terms of service and infrastructure, give Crimeans some more time to get over this tricky period and adjust to the demands of a different category of tourists who are no longer satisfied with the Soviet standards. Yet another tip: use bigger cities like Sevastopol, Simferopol and even Yalta as transport hubs and places of cultural interest (rich and important museums are there) but keep to smaller places where there’s a bigger chance of finding the authenticity well preserved – unless not the best specimens of typicized Soviet architecture is what you are looking for.

Vorontsovsky Palace

Although I spent my first day (that was Russian National holiday, Victory day on the 9th of May) in Sevastopol where I met my friend from the Erasmus Mundus times, I’d like to start from Alupka on the Southern side of the Crimean Peninsula. I’ve only been to a fraction of the peninsula (and probably the most touristy one as well – the YuBK or the Southern Coast) but every day I spent there was packed with impressions and could easily make for a separate post. This one will be dedicated to Vorontsov Palace and Park in Alupka (aka Vorontsovsky Palace), a place well known as a  setting for various popular Soviet films.

Vorontsovsky Palace

(insert toad sounds here)

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

I’ve been to several parks in Crimea but I liked this one the most. I would just live there, I don’t need the palace, a shed would suffice with such a natural (and horticultural) beauty around you.

Vorontsovsky Palace

The park is huge and there’s no need to hurry up: take your time while you wander along its wonderful sunlit parterres and shadowy paths winding around stones and brooks.

Vorontsovsky Palace

The park was designed by a German while the palace was created by an Englishman (who also finished off a certain Buckingham Palace, they say).

Vorontsovsky Palace

Later, a certain Sir Winston Churchill stayed here during the Yalta conference. I visited the Palace on my first day in Alupka and quite liked it – probably more so from the inside than from the outside as it represents such a mixture of various styles that you cannot really make head or tail out of it.

Vorontsovsky Palace

The palace is worth visiting (there are audio guides available at the entrance which are included in the ticket price). There are castle-like rooms richly decorated with oak panels and almost Hermitage-like parlours with the view to the sea.

Vorontsovsky Palace

Two parts of the building are connected by a winter garden with marble statues and exotic plants. The gallery leads to this enormous dining room with a mantelpiece and some eastern motifs corresponding to the palace’s (other) Moorish facade.

Vorontsovsky Palace

You can spot this other facade in the photo below. This lion and the roses actually reminded me of a similar ‘composition’ in Pavlovsk where we went today.

Vorontsovsky Palace

That view though… the Black Sea at its best!

Vorontsovsky Palace

A delicate open gallery which got me occupied for a while. It is conveniently located in the shade of the palace, close to the exit to the park.

Vorontsovsky Palace

The 40 ha park occupies half the town or so it seems, especially to those who come to Alupka only to visit the palace. I would however suggest taking a stroll to the left (facing the sea) and there along the coast you will find the so called Rock of Aivazovsky (the marine painter born in Crimea) from which there’s a great view towards Yalta and over the majestic Ai-Petri mountain. I wish I could live in that gorgeous place…

Vorontsovsky Palace

Alupka doesn’t really attract you as a town in itself, though (apart from the park and the palace) there are several places – wonderfully decadent – that I will tell you about a bit later (I hope).

Vorontsovsky Palace

In the evening after the sunset I took a stroll along the sea shore (no way you can swim there, it’s all concrete including the so called Children’s Beach) and inevitably (and with great pleasure) made my way up to the hotel through the garden taking yet another glimpse of that beautiful tree growing (hugging) the tower gate of the palace:

Vorontsovsky Palace

The place where I stayed in Alupka for 2 nights was reasonably priced and untypically tasteful, well-equipped and looked after for the Russian standards (not mentioning Crimean) – it’s called Chetyre Sezona or Four Seasons. I witnessed one family coming back to this place after they got really dissatisfied by merely seeing their next hotel on their route.

Vorontsovsky Palace

How to get there:

I took an inter-city bus (about 1.5 h) that goes from Sevastopol bus station to Yalta and asked the driver to stop in Alupka. Well, technically, you will get off at a highway that goes above the town, so you’ll have to walk down to the sea and then to the left. Another way is to ride all the way to Yalta and take a marshrutka (a small commercial bus) which will take you to the Vorontsov Park straight away using a local (lower) road. Everywhere you go in Crimea there are marshrutka buses with many stops along their way which makes it quite handy if you travel around without a car and would like to save on taxis (which will cost about 10 times more).

Can’t believe I’ve eventually started my Crimean posts!

This post goes to the ‘Russia’ section in the Travel collection.

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · sweet

Midsummer Post about the Best Russian Ice Cream

Sakharnaya trubochka ice-cream

This year’s midsummer post is about the best ice-cream in Russia – sakharnaya trubochka or sakharny rozhok (sugar tube / sugar cone). Although this type of ice-cream is traditionally associated with its сountry of origin, Italy, where it is known as cornetto, millions of Soviet kids are forever grateful to a worker of the First Leningrad Refrigerating Plant for inventing a waffle-rolling machine… and thus making their lives a little bit merrier.

Sakharnaya trubochka ice-cream

Personally I’m not a big fan of super-sweet ice-cream with dozens of add-ins – I prefer the plain vanilla ice-cream in crunchy waffle instead. The extra-creamy one. Glazed with chocolate that delicately breaks when you have your first bite. With that tiny ‘tail’ of the sugary waffle cone filled with chocolate. And that’s exactly what you get with sakharnaya trubochka. An even plainer type of ice-cream that I also like is vafelny stakanchik, vanilla ice-cream in a waffle cone shaped as a glass (hence the name). And contrary to the gelato or other ice-cream-ball-types, it’s filled with the creamy stuff right to the end.

Sakharnaya trubochka ice-cream

By the way, they’ll never get you if you say you’d like a sakharnaya trubochka (tube) in Moscow – they call it rozhok (cone, cornetto) there instead. Well it’s true, it doesn’t really look like a tube but this name just caught on and if you ask kids in St Petersburg which ice-cream they are dreaming of, they’ll immediately say ‘trubochka‘.

Sakharnaya trubochka ice-cream

As its very Soviet name suggests, the Leningrad Khladokombinat #1 was the first refrigerating plant (cold-storage facility) to open in Leningrad in 1934 – and the first one in the country to start producing this very type of ice-cream. The legend has it that a worker from the Experimental workshop Dmitry Smirnov invented waffle-cone-rolling and filling machine and the country has been thoroughly enjoying sakharnaya trubochka ever since (more precisely, since 1946). They say he was also responsible for inventing other mechanisms thus making such ice-cream types as stakanchik and briket (a brick of ice-cream in-between two layers of waffles) available in the USSR.

Sakharnaya trubochka ice-cream

Although they claim they still make this ice-cream according to the state-imposed and state-controlled standard (GOST), Sakharnaya trubochka‘s list of ingredients these daysdoes not seem particularly enticing (I doubt they had coconut butter E476 and soy lecithin back then). However, the main ingredients are still there: cream, milk, condensed milk, butter and vanilla for the ice-cream itself, flour, sugar, butter for the waffle and cocoa for the glaze. Warning: when buying a trubochka, check if its cone is hard enough, otherwise you will miss on the  bet part of it – the crunchy sugary waffle cone.

Previous year’s midsummer posts:

2016 – Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry for Midsummer

2015 – Midsummer: Samovar, Teacups and Saucers

2014 – Midsummer Roses in Pavlovsk and Almond Puff

2013 – Midsummer Berry Smoothie

2012 – Midsummer’s Black Currant Rhubarb Cake

Adding this post to the On USSR / Russia collection.

P.S. I took these photos last year in August when I had my one and only ice-cream of that summer. This summer I had it a bit earlier in July but this year again it’s not that type of summer in St Petersburg when you would want an ice-cream every day. Global warming is definitely happening somewhere else.

G.

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

Public Dental Clinic in Art Nouveau Mansion

Chaev's Mansion

Imaging fixing your teeth in an Art-Nouveau mansion without paying a single kopeck / cent, etc? That’s what might happen to you if you live permanently in the Petrogradsky district of St Petersburg and need a dentist. Yes, some crucial things are still free of charge in Russia, we inherited it from the USSR.

Chaev's Mansion

The mansion that the public (and hence free) dental clinic occupies since 1935 was originally built by Vladimir Apyshkov (who would later create the impressive Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge over Neva) for a wealthy engineer in 1906-07.  It was consequently purchased by other people and enhanced with two wings, one of which was designed by Fedor Lidval. However, the mansion is still known as Chaev’s mansion, after its first owner.

Chaev's Mansion

This is a rather cold type of Art-Nouveau, that is sometimes referred to as ‘hygienic style’, meaning a polished appearance almost devoid of any decorations, with the buildings usually faced with smooth bricks and tiles. In this case the choice of the ‘hygienic’ moderne (Art-Nouveau in Russian) for Chaev’s mansion almost predicted its future use!

Chaev's Mansion

This mansion’s style is edging on the neoclassical one as well. Just look at these figures (above) or this railing on one of the mansion’s staircases:

Chaev's Mansion

And as usual – everything in Art Nouveau is in details:

Chaev's Mansion

The mansion reminds me of another – more well-known – mansion of the Petrogradsky Island which belonged to the famous Russian ballerina and emperor’s sweetheart (they say) Kschessinskaya (now occupied by the Museum of the Political History of Russia). It was built in 1906 and had definitely – and immediately – an influence on other mansions designed during that period.

Chaev's Mansion

Chaev’s mansion is planned in a curious way: you enter through a tower-like cylinder…

Chaev's Mansion

and proceed into a round hall with a mirror ceiling (which originally was a glass ceiling to allow for natural light to flow in):

Chaev's Mansion

And then there’s yet another circle waiting ahead – the winter garden, like in Kschessinskaya’s mansion:

Chaev's Mansion

Very generous windows!

Chaev's Mansion

These three elements are interspersed, creating not only quite unusual space but also a weird sensation (must be even more weird when your teeth are aching!). They say that the glass ceiling was actually the third floor’s, well, floor, where the servants would live. Their dining table used to run all around that glass ceiling / floor not to block the light. Also, the kitchen and the laundry were placed on the top floor to avoid the unwanted aromas in the master’s room below.

Chaev's Mansion

It’s not that easy to imagine how it used to be in this mansion 100 years ago. Some of the interiors have been reconstructed but it’s obvious that all the oak panels, paintings and Louis XVI furniture are long gone.

Chaev's Mansion

And when you hear those dentist’s sounds (brrr!) you are for sure reminded that all these people sitting around waiting (wearing the inevitable bakhily – plastic overshoes, see the women’s feet in the picture below) are not Chaev’s guests!

Chaev's Mansion

A long-living leftover from the original mansion?

Chaev's Mansion

They say that the pool room is now occupied by the ‘dental cabinet #3’ whereas the head doctor sits in the former boudoir. The orthopedists are in the bedroom and the dental laboratory is in… the bathroom 🙂 By the way, this dental clinic was one of the only that worked all through the Siege of Leningrad.

Chaev's Mansion

 An interpretation of Otto Wagner‘s omega?

Chaev's Mansion

By the way, Chaev mansion is on … Roentgen Street (used to be Litseyskaya Street), close to the First Medical University campus. Which needs to be investigated into as well sometime soon!

This post goes to my never-ending St Petersburg series.

G.

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.

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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).

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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?

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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 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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:

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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…

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.