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 · St Petersburg

Avant-Garde Architecture at Narvskaya Zastava

Narvskaya Zastava

I started this post back in June 2016 when I was discovering new places along the red line of the St Petersburg underground. I took photos inside Narvskaya metro station having in mind an idea for a new walk – and later a blog post – around that area called Narvskaya Zastava (i.e. a frontier post leading to Narva). Which only happened in March 2017 when we went on the Avant-Garde Architecture excursion with the St Petersburg through Engineer’s Eyes project (the same one we went to re-discover the gorgeous Vitebsky railway station with). Unfortunately, the excursion did not turn out to be a huge success – neither in terms of the participation (we were just 7) nor with the actual participants. However, it made me see those crucial avant-garde place that I had been meaning to visit.

Narvskaya Zastava

The excursion started from the Narvskaya metro station, one of the first stations in the city opened in the south of the city in 1955. It was not built in the constructivist or any avant-garde style at all (although the very first Moscow stations were) but I think it’s worth stopping here for a while – especially in the light of the recent events in St Petersburg metro. Narvskaya’s ground pavilion looks pretty classical and routinely Pantheon-like, a leftover from the Stalinist architecture which after his death was doomed to die too. Very soon Nikita Khrushchev would take over the architectural line (as well as the power) and bend it in a very different direction, creating cheap faceless block of flats that people were only happy to move in. They are since called khrushchevki.

Narvskaya Zastava

I bet those doors in the background are there from the very beginning. I don’t normally like those bronze decorative things but here they look right. When you enter the station and go down, there are these marble bas-reliefs with sturdy never smiling (even the children!) Soviet people of various professions. All so solemn and out-of-this-world. As this entire district surrounding the station was largely a workers’ one, the station’s theme is all about labour and its glorification.

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

I like these semi-circles of lamps, they look kind of art-deco-ish.

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

It is true that the first users of the Leningrad metro were rather its visitors (and admirers). After all they were meant to be such – as these museums under ground, these temples of culture were supposed to cultivate and instruct those who would take the metro to work – and, well, work work work 🙂 Not much time for museum-going, you know.

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

Now, more than 60 years later, people still wonder at these temple-like first stations of the Leningrad subway. We don’t have that an abundance of Stalinist stations compared to Moscow, but still you can spend quite a lot of time discovering those original stations. And not only them of course!

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

It’s a pity we use metro rather as… users now, we don’t have time for the details and rarely do we stop to admire them. The symbols keep loosing their meaning and I guess not all of the today’s passengers would tell you what this 1955 stand for. A similar grate but in silver can be found inside the Vosstaniya metro station.

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

We didn’t really need a bus for this excursion really – it can be made on foot with no problems, most of the objects being pretty close to each other. Our first stop was at this school built to cater for the needs of a fast-growing workers’ district in 1927 – hence its name celebrating the 10 years after the October Revolution (Desyatiletiya Oktyabrya). They say it was built in a shape of hammer and sickle but there’s no official proof to that.

Narvskaya Zastava

The school is still functioning! It has this rounded wall with classes and an observatory tower (not used anymore due to light pollution) and there’s this weird interpretation of the hammer and sickle symbol pictured on the first photo of the post. The same architect, Alexander Nikolsky, created also a super progressive banya for 4000 customers a day located in the same district – the banya functioned until pretty recently but is now in such a state that I didn’t even try taking a photo.

Narvskaya Zastava

This is yet another constructivist public building in the district – a 1928-33 profilaktory (a health institution for preventing illnesses), now a hospital. With all the strive of that period for better and more effective, this profilaktory was designed to have continuous windows for more light (which never happened) and separate entrances for different groups of patients, etc etc. The years have had their toll on the building and now it has lost its avant-garde looks.

Narvskaya Zastava

Our next stop was at one of the local workers’ residential areas / townships or zhilmassiv. Like the one near Yelizarovskaya metro station (built in the same years, 1925-28) it has its own style and a signature detail: a semi-arch ‘growing’ from the wall. Nikolsky also participated in this project called Serafimovsky Gorodok as well as Gegello and Simonov. There are 7 houses and a laundry, creating a lot of space in the middle for a playground. That was one of the first projects of building an entire district in the city.

Narvskaya Zastava

Same architects were simultaneously building another workers’ township just a few blocks away, on Traktornaya Street – for the workers of the nearby Putilovsky, later Kirov Plant. Same signature semi-arch:

Narvskaya Zastava

And the rounded stairwells with a triangular canopy:

Narvskaya Zastava

This project is different in that it creates an entire street of 16 houses and not a square district with a playground in the middle. These neat houses came without bathrooms but with a niche for a perspective bath tub because at that moment the Soviet industry was incapable of making tubs 🙂 It’s a pity that with the active construction all across the district and the cars parked all over the place, this street doesn’t create the same effect anymore – it used to be some kind of a local landmark, with that school mentioned above at one of it’s ends and an arch at the other.

Narvskaya Zastava

Another must-stop of the district is the House of Soviets with a tall tower and quite a different aesthetics as it was built already in the early 1930s by architect Noy Trotsky (not to be confused with Lev Trotsky), known for his project of another House of Soviets in the Moskovsky district. They say that the building was faced with ground tombstones of a eradicated cemetery…

Narvskaya Zastava

I didn’t take any photos of yet another landmark of the Narvskaya metro station district which is situated right in front of the station pavilion – the local fabrika-kukhnya, a factory kitchen catering for the busy workers and their families. It is now so defaced and turned into such a mess of various signs that you can hardly recognize the original project by Barutchev, Gilter and Meerzon.  The same trio of architects also created fabrika-kukhnya on Vasilyevsky Island and in the Vyborgsky district. At first I thought these ‘stepping’ windows corresponded to the staircases but actually these are amphitheaters for lectures.

Narvskaya Zastava

And this is yet another constructivist project hidden behind the buildings on the Stachek square. Created by Gegello and Krichevsky in 1930-33, it housed some technical education institution and now it’s a store selling furniture… The ‘head’ of this building looks pretty familiar – it resembles Erich Mendelsohn’s Krasnoye Znamya factory’s power station on Petrogradsky Island.

Narvskaya Zastava

Our ultimate stop was in the local Dvorets Kultury imeni Gorkogo, Palace of Culture named after Maxim Gorky, a must that would adorn every large city of the Soviet Union, otherwise called Dom Kultury, house of Culture, if talking about a smaller town (I’ve definitely written about palaces and houses of culture in one of my posts about Kolpino). We actually had a chance not only to enter the building but also visit some of its parts hidden to the general public. Although this originally avant-garde creation of 1925-27 (architects Gegello and Krichevsky) has been heavily uglified by various add-ons throughout the years (this is how it looks now), it’s one of the city’s best preserved authentic palaces of culture.

Narvskaya Zastava

We had a chance to stand on the stage looking into the rows of chairs. These red chairs are here from the 1920s, can you believe that? The ribbon-like boxes look cool. Although I do not really like the color scheme 🙂 I only once was in this concert hall as a spectator – and that was when I knew nothing about the building, which is – as many constructivist creations are – almost like a machine or an organism with many functional sections and layers.

Narvskaya Zastava

This curvy corridor / gallery uniting two parts of the building is now closed and taken over by the flower pots. It runs on top of the concert hall with its windows looking out to the Stachek square.

Narvskaya Zastava

Some remains of the past in the library – it also has wooden bookcases with a 1930-something metal stamps on them. The library looks really sad with its old books and as we could gather – almost no readers at all. And here’s the staircase with the original wooden railing:

Narvskaya Zastava

It’s clear that in the today’s world it’s too hard for such an organization to survive without renting out its premises to various shops and clubs, so the building looks pretty patchy both inside and outside. It leaves an impression of slowly but steadily dying organism. Almost 90 years later it still carries out its function as a local center of culture and sports but it’s been attacked by the parasites for too long.

Adding this post to the St Petersburg series.

G.

no recipe · St Petersburg

Working Class Hero: Down-to-Earth Vyborgskaya Side

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

I started my architectural walk to the Vyborgskaya Side from the other side of the Neva river, crossing the Liteyny Bridge under the extremely intense sun. My camera wouldn’t even cope with the light and what I got was this overexposed bluish picture of the embankment:

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

I’ve seen just a tiny bit of what was there on the two long streets, interspersed with the major industrial sights and the townships for the workers, which is actually similar to both the the area around Porcelain factory and that around Kirov plant which I’m planning to visit soon. All three districts still preserve a certain atmosphere of a workers’ village. In particular, in contrast to the pompous and somewhat elite center of the city (which as you might know occupies in fact several islands), the Vyborgskaya Side (or the right side of the river Neva) has always been the place for the industrial sights and settlements of work migrants (both from other parts of Russia and from Finland).

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

The Vyborgskaya Side got its name from Vyborg, the city to the north of St Petersburg, a much older and much more history-laden one, which borders with Karelia. And this – though quite relative – proximity of the Vyborgskaya side to the Nordic countries has obviously impacted this particular sample of the Art Nouveau style architecture:

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

This is an entire district formed by 3 residential houses built for the Finland Railway employees by Mirits and Gerasimov in 1907-08. Every staircase window in this house is actually a balcony – wish I could go inside and onto the balcony but I was too shy to follow the crowd… Which is a mistake: you should always follow the crowd where otherwise you wouldn’t be able to get.

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

These tiny loophole-like windows are cute. Is it a toilet, I wonder? 🙂

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

And this huge mosaic wall was added in the 1960s. No surprise that it was themed on the Outerspace and Humanity:

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

After walking around this district adjacent to the Finland railway station, I followed the long Bolshoy Sampsoniyevsky Prospekt (with a tiny Sampsoniyevsky Cathedral) running parallel to the no less long Lesnoy Prospekt, moving in between them to see more sights on my list (map).

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

My next stop was at a district built for the workers of the Ludwig Nobel plant in St Petersburg. The worker’s village comprises of a number of houses of various shapes, some of which are more red-brick style rather than Art Nouveau. It was built by Roman Meltser in 1906 while the more imposing and apparently more famous house for the (higher status) employees of the same plant was designed in 1910-1911 by the distinguished Feodor Lidval who I really admire.

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

This one obviously was inspired by the Scandinavian neo-romanticism. Well, Lidval’s family was originally from Sweden.

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

I could have spent a day under that arcade which looks almost like a palazzo somewhere in Venice – but when you actually cross the street (Lesnoy prospekt) and take a better look at the building as a whole you realize it’s more like a castle (the awful top attic was apparently added later).

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

the contrast between the airy arcade and the massive grey stonework creates a certain effect that no doubt catches your eye. The sun was shining right in my eyes so I couldn’t see all the details well but here’s one that was particularly awesome:

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

Unawares I walked past several buildings without either paying any attention to them or taking them for what they were not. I mistook a 1995 retrospectivist building (in a rather decadent state) for a poorly renovated modernist building, while a heavily renovated constructivist building turned into a business center seemed to me a regular contemporary un-creative creation. But this one I spotted from afar and unmistakably identified as avant-garde:

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

Regardless of all the later additions and changes that it suffered, the Vyborgskaya fabrika-kukhnya (automated kitchen) still pretty much preserves its authentic looks. It was built in 1929 by Barutchev, Gilter, Meerzon and Rubanchik.

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

I always wanted to see how it operated back in those days when busy workers could go get a full-fledged lunch or dinner accompanied by their fellow workers. The kitchen also catered for the nearby plants and factories until about 1970s. Everything automated, simplified, improved for the sake of the workers and their bright future! Here is a link where you can learn how it all worked inside.

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

And by the way this avant-garde thing was built right across the street from the baroque Sampsoniyevsky Cathedral. They say it was not by chance, this neighbouring: instead of spiritual nourishment here was  much more tangible and nourishing food :). And there was a park where the workers could have some rest (it was also popular with the locals). There’s no sign of a park now and the revamped avant-garde looks quite lost, standing there on the corner.

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

Just liked this savage architecture. This is actually a Soviet door installed into the wall of the Moscow regiment barracks (1830s). Moving along the avenue I finally came to the Children’s Hospital where it turns out I had been before visiting my friend (but at that time I did not know this part of the city at all).

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

Some Art Nouveau in the middle of the noisy dusty avenue is a good change.

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

This Children’s Hospital (and now a hospital + pediatrics institute) was built by Maximillian Kitner upon the highest order of the royal family in the 1902-05. Its multiple units are quite simple but still show the traces of the modernist experiments with the shape and utility. Compared to the ugly late Soviet unit built right where there was another part of the church looks completely out of place and, well, ugly.

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

No this is already another building which caught my eye while I was moving back along Lesnoy Prospekt to see the townships. This is the obshchezhitie (dormitory) of the Military Institute of Physical Education, now occupying the territory of that Moscow regiment. Looks menacing!

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

Some meters behind it is the Baburinsky township (named after Baburin lane which lost its name some time later) built in 1928 for the workers of the Vyborgskaya Side. The avant-garde idea was supported by the strain to get inexpensive houses from the scarce materials, hence a very laconic style. The main architect of this township was Grigory Simonov.

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

The constructivism continued the modernist search for shapes and utility. Another workers’ township – Bateninsky township (named after Batenin lane, later renamed), located in a nearby area (you have to cross the railroad going from the Finland Railway Station), was built several years later (1930-33) by almost the same team of architects.

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

It shows traces of a more sophisticated style though still looks quite laconic:

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

Moving further along Lesnoy you will get to yet another township, built in 1927-34 by N. Rybin for the numerous textile plant workers. It was even called ‘Town of Textile Workers’. I liked the soft-angle balconies embracing the corners:

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

And yes, there’s a church inside an atheist constrictivist building these days:

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

Moving even further, I finally got to the Polytechnic University campus (or rather dormitories). Built in 1929-32 it covers quite a vast area and has numerous units, creating a true “students’ town”. Some years ago they said they were going to abandon this campus and move all the students into new buildings but here it is, almost 90 years old and still serving the generations of students succeeding each other.

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

Of course the avantgardist looks are now not that distinct but you can still spot the windows ‘lying’ on their side and the attempts at placing the units at an angle to each other so that they all get enough of the rare St Petersburg sun. A similar students’ town was also built further up north, where my Grandad used to live when he came to study in Leningrad.

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

And the last building on my route was this constructivist school built in 1932 by Vladimir Munts. Students living in their dorms will get married, have children and send their kids to school. All very well planned!

Walking on Vyborgskaya Side

This is how the country cared for its most strategically useful citizens, the workers. Put them all in one place, provide them with the basic stuff and see how they work for you. They won’t even need to take public transport to get to their work – they will live and work in one place, how smart. This was much harsher and decor-less reality than that of the almost romantic dreams of the Soviet “garden city“…

This post goes to the St Petersburg series.

G.

cookies · on USSR / Russia · sweet · traditional Russian recipe

Taste from Childhood: Nutshells with Condensed Milk

Fake Nuts Filled with Condensed Milk

From all the recipes I’ve tried over this long winter break that we officially have in Russia (the cold has made me stay at home most of the time) I’ve picked this Soviet recipe as the first post in the newly arrived 2016, another childhood sweet treat like Zemelakh cookies. Back in 2013 I made a post featuring a selection of Soviet kitchen utensils that are mostly out of circulation now. Among these were the aluminum molds to make walnut-like cookies filled with condensed milk. They look like this:

nut molds

My friend came along with her batch of walnut molds and two cans of sweetened condensed milk. Though three years older than our set of molds, her recipe is exactly the same (in the best Soviet traditions) and it comes on a gloriously Soviet-design packaging. If you take a look at the back of this recipe made by a Voronezh industrial machine plant (!), you will find out that it was printed on a recycled leftover packaging from a canning plant in Orel! 🙂

Fake Nuts Filled with Condensed Milk

To make the walnut-like cookies even taste like walnuts, you can fill them according to the recipe (3 egg whites beaten with a cup of sugar until thick and then mixed with 1.5 cups of ground walnuts). Our choice that evening was caramelised sweetened condensed milk. And yes, you will need an entire evening to make all the cookies from the required 3 cups of flour with the limited amount of molds! 🙂

Fake Nuts Filled with Condensed Milk

1 year ago – Winter Fairy Tale and Semolina Bread

2 years ago – Chocolate, Cocoa, Coffee and Cakes

3 years ago – Join the Soviet New Year Table

4 years ago – Sourdough Breads

Nutshells Filled with Caramelised Sweetened Condensed Milk or Орешки со сгущенкой (Oreshki so sgushchenkoj) translated and adapted from a 1982 packaging of the nut molds will make a mountain of small nut-like cookies willed with the sweety-sweet condensed milk (teeth, beware!). If you don’t have the molds, try using madelaine cookie molds instead.

Ingredients

for the dough:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 200 g margarine – we used about 150 g butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar – you really don’t need even that much as the filling is super sweet
  • 3 egg yolks – save the whites for some souffle, I made banana souffle
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt – we added just a pinch + some vanilla extract

for the filling:

  • about 3 cans of caramelised condensed milk or any other thick substance you prefer
  • or the original suggestion: 3 egg whites beaten with a cup of sugar until thick and mixed with 1.5 cups of ground walnuts

Procedure

We reversed the original procedure a bit, first beating the egg yolks with sugar until pale, then adding the softened butter and a pinch of salt and vanilla. Then we mixed in a third of the flour, then added a tiny bit of vinegar to the soda and poured the bubbly soda into the mixture. The 3 cups of flour were quite a lot for the decreased amount of butter that we used, so the dough ended up quite hard and not very easy to roll out. But if you dare using the whole 200 g of butter you will probably avoid this dryness.

Leave the dough covered in the fridge (original suggestion – somewhere cold) for 15-20 minutes and then roll it out into a thin sheet (we did it in portions). Cut the dough with the same molds and press the dough into the molds (we didn’t grease them as the butter in the dough will mdo the job). Here you will understand if you rolled the dough too thick or too thin – you should be able to cover the entire mold from the inside with the dough. The recipe suggests cutting the overhanging dough with ‘a sharp knife’ but you can also do it with your fingers (the overhanging dough will only appear if you cut the dough using a round cutter).

Place the molds on a baking sheet ‘like saucers’ (the dough side up) and bake (we guessed 175’C would be fine) for about 15-20 minutes until the dough starts browning. Be careful not to overbake! Leave the molds to cool a bit and then take the shells out. Fill both shells and bring them together. Enjoy!

Fake Nuts Filled with Condensed Milk

Remarks: The caramelised condensed milk filling is super sweet as you can imagine. So if you want a lighter version I would suggest using some  nut butter or super-thick jam – or the original walnut filling. And if you do run out of filling (like we did with the whole two cans of condensed milk) and you realise it soon enough before you make another batch of nut shells, try using the dough for some individual tartlets filled with whatever you like (I had some thick cranberry jam). Well, at least even a small tartlet will use up more dough than a nutshell will!

Fake Nuts Filled with Condensed Milk

Result: ‘A taste from childhood‘ was the verdict of my friend’s parents (the recipe makes such a mass of these nuts that you can feed three families with no problems :). These nuts are super-sweet and addictive. Best consumed with lots of tea to wash down all the thick condensed milk filling. There are various ways to enjoy these cookies – some people (kids) like licking out all the filling first and then eating the chewy shells, some prefer biting and some will just swallow the entire piece 🙂

Fake Nuts Filled with Condensed Milk

The caramelised and regular condensed milk is definitely a taste from childhood. The caramelised version is particularly often used in many industrially made foods like syrok (a fatty cream cheese treat in chocolate glaze), layer cakes, cookies and biscuit rolls. A housewife in USSR would boil a whole can of sweetened condensed milk and produce the caramelised version at home, as only the un-boiled version existed (with such editions as sweetened condensed milk with chicory or sweetened condensed milk with cocoa / coffee). Some of these home experiences ended up on the kitchen door, floor and all over the place too 🙂

Fake Nuts Filled with Condensed Milk

As yo can see in this photo we had quite a lot of shells left unfilled – I didn’t witness what happened to them later but I guess they just served as a ‘base’ for the jam or something. I was actually glad we ran out of filling cause the procedure is quite tiresome with such a mass of dough! A recipe for a tireless Soviet housewife who knows how to make a treat out of the scarce ingredients 🙂

This recipe goes to my Soviet/Russian and Sweet recipe collections.

G.

on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Architectural Walks in Kolpino Part 6 – Prospekt Lenina

Kolpino, St Petersburg

This is the 6th post in the Kolpino architectural series (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5), dedicated to the formerly main street in the town, prospekt Lenina. At first I was planning to make a 7th post on Kolpino but then I merged the last two into one. So we’re going to see the Lenina, Pavlovskaya street and the district in between them, constituting quite an old-school part of Kolpino. The one where I’ve spent most of my life, actually!

Kolpino, St Petersburg

As in many cities which underwent the massive Soviet renaming campaign, the main street in Kolpino is called after Lenin. It has had a more or less fixed appearance for so many years and then recently the prewar two-storey buildings started to be gradually taken down. This post features some of them – they were still there when I was taking photos back in 2014.

Kolpino, St Petersburg

We’ll start with the Stalin-era residential buildings along Lenina – most of the built or finished / rebuilt after the war, in the early 1950s. After being revamped recently they look quite nice from the outside, all in different colors. But the gates are in a very sad condition – they look more like a ruin, actually (see first photo). The iron decorations have not survived the years well either:

Kolpino, St Petersburg

Moving farther along the road and also further in time we will find a more solid grate:

Kolpino, St Petersburg

This part of the district has always seemed to me so monumental and so cool… These late-Stalinist style residential buildings appeared in 1955-56 and are still quite flamboyant in their excessive decorative details, classical and Soviet-invented symbolic combined.

Kolpino, St Petersburg

And although there was (and still is) the most abhorred place for children, haunted with all the tortures a kids’ dentist could bring, yet I was (and still am)  attracted by its secluded courtyards and solid elements. Even now when I walk through these inner courts I feel this special spirit of the place.

Kolpino, St Petersburg

You can easily imagine an ideal family with a Father high-rank-engineer and a cultivated housewife Mother living in these decorous houses with their adorable children. An ideal life in the ideal country (Stalin-era movies filmed in Moscow spring first in memory). Loyalty and dedication guarantees you a stable life, all commodities included.

Kolpino, St Petersburg

This detail is adorable:

Kolpino, St Petersburg

And who would believe all this exquisite lavishness was built just ten years after the war ended?

Kolpino, St Petersburg

But hwy, wait just some 7 years more (1962) and here’s how the ideal Soviet home will look like in Khrushchev time, with all the excessive decorativeness banned 100%, the infamous khrushchevka:

Khruschevka

But as we have just taken a turn into a street leading to Pavlovskaya (named so after Pavlovsk where it theoretically leads), we’re moving into the territory of the pre-war Kolpino, currently being destroyed and turned into a Swedish-style residential area.

Kolpino, St Petersburg

These minimalist in their facilities two-storey houses (no baths) dating back to 1940 have always been called the barracks and associated with a very old-school or babushka-like appearance that this particular street has. Weird details, smelly and aaaalways damp staircases, as long as I can remember these houses looked like something from the Peter the Great’s era!

Kolpino, St Petersburg

A door has grown shorter as it sank into the ground, now conveniently adapted to an average babushka’s height:

Kolpino, St Petersburg

And now we’re taking a leap into the brutal 80s with the Soviet modernism style which can be called urban brutalism or something. This is a Brezhnev era cinema hall built in 1984. The irony of architectural choice: the punkish brutal red-brick style chosen for the cinema hall commemorating the soldiers who courageously defended the city against the Nazi during the Siege of Leningrad. Its name Podvig, the Feat, was voted for by the citizens.

Kolpino, St Petersburg

You can’t see it on my photos but there’s actually a whole in the middle of the building with a staircase leading to the entrance (which I climb during my morning run, impersonating Rocky). And yes, until very recently they hand-painted the film posters there:

Kolpino, St Petersburg

They say the foundation for the cinema hall appeared already in 1977 but then the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games put the construction on hold. Ironically, the architect used to be St Petersburg chief architect and is the head of the company responsible for all the Olympic Games construction.

Wall Painting 'War' at Podvig cinema hall in Kolpino

Once again on this blog, the wall paintings inside the cinema hall, war & victory-themed. It’s weird but during all the years that I was a quite loyal customer of this cinema hall, I paid a very limited attention to these pieces of art.

Wall Painting 'Salute' at Podvig cinema hall in Kolpino

Hm, just remembered, the walls inside were decorated with seashells (!) which we would try to ‘scoop’ out. Oh those after-school cinema shows with Titanic, Notting Hill and whatnot which sometimes almost failed to happen for the lack of cinema-goers! I remember we had to fish out an extra – eventually even two, the third and fourth – person so that they would show us some movie with George Clooney 🙂

Thank you for reading my blog!

Adding this to my St Petersburg series.

G.

on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Architectural Walks in Kolpino Part 5 – Around Railway Station

Privokzalnaya Square, Kolpino, St Petersburg

My home town Kolpino has celebrated its 293 years in 2015. They are not many, the architectural sights of Kolpino, but thanks to the town’s compact size they are also easy to reach and to be admired 🙂 This is the fifth post in the Kolpino architectural series (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4), dedicated to some of the buildings near the railway station.

Kolpino, St Petersburg

In my last post on the Privokzalnaya Square in Kolpino I talked about the new plans of redesigning Kolpino after the war. In brief, the town should have been restructured in a very straightforward – classical – way with all those Stalinist neo-classical buildings. And this district is indeed quite rich in various takes at what we call the Stalinist neo-classical style. The Privokzalnaya Square was supposed to set a perspective for the ‘new’ Kolpino, resurrecting after the damages of the Second World War (Kolpino was right on the front, defending Leningrad from being conquered).

Kolpino, St Petersburg

This is one of my favourite residential buildings in the entire city – it is not situated somewhere where it imposingly stands out and yet you somehow feel there’s something … intelligent to this house with arches and columns and rounded staircase shaft at the back. I also like it because it has a library on the first floor, hidden beneath the bushes with its windows cozily lit.

Kolpino, St Petersburg

This small building next to the banya reminds me of my walks in Ano Poli of Thessaloniki, Greece, where the nature also gradually takes over, claiming back its own.

Kolpino, St Petersburg

A typical Soviet paradnaya painted in the typical green on the bottom and white on top, with a typical central heating element and tiled floor. Add to this various smells and objects. Not the most pleasing sight but at the same time so very typical most Russians wouldn’t even notice its state!

Kolpino, St Petersburg

An atypical staircase leading to the entrance: the door is also quite tall to be categorized as typical.

Kolpino, St Petersburg

This building remains a sort of a mystery to me – its back wall is blind and the front is all covered with these plants so that you cannot make head or tail out of it really. And the entrance is blocked, looks like it’s a private house or something, with a garden (atypical for a city!).

Kolpino, St Petersburg

A relic from the past – a wooden house, on sale since 2006. No chances for this ol’ guy, unfortunately… They say it used to be an orphanage before the revolution and then apparently served as a residential house for loooong years.

Kolpino, St Petersburg

A real relic, as if you suddenly travel to a provincial town or a rich village…

Kolpino, St Petersburg

Trees growing out of the roof and walls but the wood is still sturdy (oh those decadent details!)

  Kolpino, St Petersburg

Cobweb instead of letters:

Kolpino, St Petersburg

…and back to the post-war residential buildings – after some renovation and especially on a fine summer day these houses look almost pastoral:

Kolpino, St Petersburg

the balconies look suspiciously not classical:

Kolpino, St Petersburg

I wonder when this lamp was lost – apparently since then no one really cared for it anyway:

Kolpino, St Petersburg

ha, this is typical – of any period in time and history 🙂

Kolpino, St Petersburg

When Khrushchev took over as the First Secretary of the Central Committee, he started the campaign against the excessive ornamentalism in the architecture. He would fight against these bas-reliefs, too:

Kolpino, St Petersburg

Although I do like those details – as well as the houses themselves (the one below is from 1950-1951) which look pretty un-Soviet, almost individualistic and private (we won’t mention that most of the big flats got soon transformed into kommunalka (communal flats) and people had to live in tiny rooms sharing space with many others).

Kolpino, St Petersburg

One of the two identical 1952 residential buildings forming a kind of ensemble close to the Kolpino railway station – see all those medallions with faces and stars at the top:

Kolpino, St Petersburg

The ballerinas on this frieze look perfectly Stalin-era-like – the real Russian women with a strong body and those Roman / Ancient Greek looks. This is an ex-cinema hall and now a restaurant. They say it was built long ago and that even Mayakovsky used to read his poems there but due to all the damages during the war, it was rebuilt in 1958 in the late Stalinist style.

Kolpino, St Petersburg

A perfect staircase for a kindergarten. I bet it’s in a better state a year and a half later but in August 2014 it was really impressively decadent!

Kolpino, St Petersburg

No, this is not a toy house for the children to play in. This is one of those things that people born in the fridge-age ignore the purpose completely – it’s a proto-fridge 🙂 one of those icehouses (called lednik) where the food was kept in relative safety. They got massively eradicated in the city but some of them, those which were lucky to find a different use rather quickly, were kept.

Kolpino, St Petersburg

And here’s the kindergarten itself, with the inevitable columns and portico in a late Stalinist fashion, already looking much less decorated than what it could appear like were it built several years earlier:

Kolpino, St Petersburg

And right there in the midst of such a Stalinist realm there’s this 1934 constructivist communal kitchen – still functioning as a food production site, though now making Russian ravioli called pelmeni. I have always treated this building as a ‘modern’ one, filing it under ‘those ugly Soviet boxes’. When I learnt it was actually one of the few remnants of the constructivist boom, I started looking at it quite differently.

Kolpino, St Petersburg

Back in March 2015 when I was preparing this post (well…), I wrote this: I’m actually reading a book on Avantgarde architecture in Leningrad (1920s-1930s) and I find constructivist buildings attractive and repulsive at the same time: they intrigue you by their shape and their strict functionality (a constructivist architect would never sacrifice functionality for the sake of appearance or style) and they can be quite ugly and soulless especially when all in ruins. I think I like this style for its meaningfulness, I mean, it was built to function, to be useful and used, not just to look nice. Most of the Avantgarde buildings were just projected on paper and never ever built – though some of them were truly impressive, covering all the spheres of the civil engineering, from creating an island of baths (or banya) to constructing entire districts for workers with all the infrastructure. The legacy of avantgarde and constructivism in particular is kind of hard to find, although it remains quite abundant. Some of the buildings were demolished or completely redesigned with additional floors or rich neo-classical decorations and some still function but are almost indistinguishable under the kitschy patchwork of signs and advertisements.

Adding this to my St Petersburg series.

G.

sweet · traditional Russian recipe

Zemelakh Cookies, Straight from Childhood

Zemelakh - forum.say7.info

I would like to share with you some of my – food – memories from childhood. You know, there are these tastes and flavours and smells that immediately take you several years back. Here is a recipe which at least makes an attempt at recreating that taste of (or from) childhood – Zemelakh cookies. It turns out that this is a Jewish recipe (couldn’t find the translation of this word though) but these cookies were and still are largely referred to as ‘vostochnye sladosti‘, oriental delight, and sold in an eponymous shop on Nevsky. But as we’re talking Soviet cuisine here, let’s assume that this recipe has already mutated into the Soviet / Russian food heritage.

Zemelakh - forum.say7.info

A year ago – Architectural Walks in Kolpino Part 3 – Early 20th Century Red Bricks

Two years ago – Cookie Time: Cheese Biscuits and Pistachio Biscotti

Three years ago – Those Were the Days or 90s in Russia Continued

Four years ago – Puerto Rican Flan

Zemelakh or Sugar and Cinnamon Coated Shortbread Cookies translated and adapted from forum.say7.info will make sweet cookies, soft inside and crunchy from the outside. This recipe has been travelling all over the Runet (Russian web), so cannot say where the original comes from exactly. See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients

  • 125 g butter, chilled
  • 125 g sugar + some for the coating (larger grain sugar will be perfect for coating)
  • 250 g flour, sifted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs milk
  • pinch of salt
  • cinnamon

Procedure

Beat chilled but not frozen butter with the egg, add a pinch of salt. Add sugar and beat well until the grains are no longer visible. It should get fluffy and homogeneous. Pour in the milk and beat well again. Beat in the flour in several parts. The cookie dough should be pretty thick (mine for some reason wasn’t…). Make a ball and place it covered in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200 ‘C. Cover your cutting board with baking paper and roll the dough out on it to a rectangle no thinner than 1 cm (I guess I should have rolled it out thicker than 1 cm – for better, softer results). Cut the dough in diamonds (that was tricky!), sprinkle them – first with sugar, then generously with cinnamon and then a bit with sugar again. Transfer the cookies along with the paper to a baking sheet. Bake at 200 ‘C for 10-15 minutes, not longer or they will be too dry! The cookies will be very soft when just taken out of the oven but you can check with a toothpick. If some of them got stuck to each other in the process, run the knife in between. Leave the cookies to cool before transferring to a serving dish.

Zemelakh - forum.say7.info

Remarks: Feel free to double the recipe! And try not to roll the dough out too thin – the fatter these cookies are (within certain limits of course), the more authentic the cookies will taste. Also be careful not to overbake them!

Result: The recipe is pretty easy though I cannot say that what you get as a result is the authentic Zemelakh. I remember that they were more …sandy. But as long as your cookies are sugar-cinnamon coated-crusted and buttery inside, you’re on the right path 🙂

Zemelakh - forum.say7.info

Adding this recipe to Sweet, by Country and Russian/Soviet collections.

G.