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

7 Days, 7 Views from Palace Bridge in St Petersburg

From Dvortsovy

I cross Dvortsovy aka Palace Bridge each day at least once to get to my new job. It’s like coming 12 years back in time, when I was studying at the State University. In fact, the university where I work now is just some meters away from the main building of my first alma mater. I didn’t take these photos 7 days in a row but each day I was crossing the bridge from the Bezymyanny, Unnamed, and I-have-never-thought-of-it-as-an-island island to Vasilyevsky island, I could enjoy a very different view – as well as different weather conditions. Just wanted to share with you this daily experience. What’s your favourite?

Wednesday September 13, 9.54 am

From Dvortsovy

Thursday September 14, 12.34 pm

From Dvortsovy

Friday September 15, 10.07 am

From Dvortsovy

Tuesday September 19, 5.15 pm

From Dvortsovy

Wednesday September 20, 10.04 am

From Dvortsovy

Thursday, September 21, 17.03 pm

From Dvortsovy

Friday, September 22, 1.10 pm

From Dvortsovy

Starring: Kunstkamera, arguably Russian first museum, the Neva river, arguably one of the most important factors in the foundation of the city, the Academy of Science,  arguably the first of its kind in Russia, and – sometimes – the St Petersburg sun, arguably the most rarely seen star in the sky 🙂

This short post goes to the interminable St Petersburg series.

G.

architecture · no recipe · St Petersburg

Tsarskoye Selo in Wait for Spring

Tsarskoye Selo

We went to Tsarskoye Selo right on the day when there was a blast in the St Petersburg metro. We were on the train when it happened so our escape from the city was very timely. Tsarskoye Selo is just a 30 minute train ride from the center of the city and yet it feels as if you really get into a different world and time.

Tsarskoye Selo

It’s curious that while being technically a part of St Petersburg Tsarskoye Selo is always some years behind – for me the town is stuck somewhere in the late 1990s – early 2000s. Although this doesn’t apply to the ex-royal residence and now a public park / museum, which is, well, out of time.

Tsarskoye Selo

In this time of the year – and on a work day – probably the most striking is the atmosphere in the park(s) of Tsarskoye Selo. There’s just literally no one there. The winter is not completely gone and the spring lingers to arrive, so there’s this feeling of in-between, of something suspended, waiting.

Tsarskoye Selo

The ponds are still covered with ice and the trees are graphic, resembling some black and white painting or shadow theater. Or simply ink spilled on paper.

Tsarskoye Selo

Just a few more weeks and the parks of Tsarskoye Selo will be teeming with tourists on any day of the week. But now you can still enjoy a solitary walk – or a solitary seat 🙂 And wait for the spring, open to all winds – and the view.

Tsarskoye Selo

But the birds are singing, they know the spring is very close.

Tsarskoye Selo

The color scheme of nature is brown – black – greyish white. More colors will arrive later. Can you imagine: all the colors, all the possible forms of life are there in the seemingly dead nature? Just wait and see.

Tsarskoye Selo

Here’s Tsarskoye Selo in spring, summer and autumn.

Adding this post to the St Petersburg collection.

G.

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

Autumn in Oreshek Fortress and Dacha

Oreshek in Autumn

While it’s snowing outside (first snow in St Petersburg today) I’m continuing the “Autumn in…” series with Oreshek Fortress and our dacha which are relatively close to each other. This time we went to Oreshek with a train which stops almost at the pier from where there’s a boat on which you can get to the island.

Oreshek in Autumn

It was a super windy day but there was sun which brightened the things up and made us stubbornly wind-resistant. The Neva looked very agitated – even more so than in May earlier this year:

Oreshek in Autumn

This is where the river Neva takes its start, flowing right from the Ladoga Lake. And it just crashes into the island with all its force. The island actually looks (and feels) like a ship forever moored right in the middle of the river.

Oreshek in Autumn

The rusty colours of autumn.

Oreshek in Autumn

…and the mossy colours of autumn:

Oreshek in Autumn

And at our dacha – the never-ending apple story that we’ve got ourselves up until ears this year. That day we’ve raked (a new word for me but definitely not at all a new activity!) a lot all the dead leaves and it felt good. Really good.

Dacha in Late Autumn

the dying colours of autumn:

Dacha in Late Autumn

the withered colours of autumn:

Dacha in Late Autumn

and a sudden pink delight:

Dacha in Late Autumn

delightful from all sides:

Dacha in Late Autumn

More “autumn in…” posts are coming soon.

Adding this post to the St Petersburg collection.

G.

architecture · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg · travel

Autumn in Tsarskoye Selo

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

I’ve been travelling in and about St Petersburg and its region these months and there’s quite a lot of photos in the autumnal mood. I will start the series “Autumn in…” from Tsarskoye Selo.

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

We came to Tsarksoye Selo (aka Pushkin) when the leaves were all over the place but also still on the trees. We didn’t go to the palace or to the place where Pushkin studies but wondered quite a bit through the park(s), also visiting that Art-Nouveau spot of the city which looks even more decadent with the fallen leaves.

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

There was very little sun that day. Actually, this autumn is not very generous on good weather at all. We had Indian summer for 1 day only which is not common even for such a notoriously grey and cold place as St Petersburg.

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

(Habitually) putting my winter hat on in the mornings doesn’t strike me anymore – we’ve been doing this since the beginning of October this year. Will be doing the same during the next 6-7 months.

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

Good God, spring is so far away, one could actually stop believing in its existence after more than half a year of winter in these parts! I start doubting there’s anything warm and comfortable on this planet somewhere in October.

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

However, I do enjoy the decadence of autumn, the clear air and the long shadows. And the subtle reflections on the smooth dark mirror-like  water.

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

Especially when there’s sun which creates the contrast and accentuates the lines. Without it the colours are a bit bleak like on this photo.

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

I love those colourful maple leaves, their rustling sound when you walk on the grass. Girls were making wreaths with the leaves, a somewhat forgotten skill from childhood.

 

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

If you’re in St Petersburg in autumn, don’t miss a walk in one of the parks in and around the city. Take a flask full of flavourful tea, some sandwiches and a warm scarf. And a good company!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post goes to St Petersburg series.

G.

architecture · no recipe · St Petersburg

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

Back in June I walked to and along one of the most ‘official’ streets of St Petersburg – Bolshaya Morskaya which literally means Big Naval or Big Maritime. It runs all the way from the Palace Square for more than a kilometer and it used to be so posh and oh so rich back in the old days.

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

We’ll start from the Neva embankment, at the strangest place in the city with the authentic stone pavement from leftover from the 18th century. The Neva embankment here is considered to be the face of St Petersburg, at least its official facade – or else front-door, paradny Petersburg.

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

The best viewpoint to admire the front-door St Petersburg is from the water. Or you can enjoy the view across the Neva river: stone embankments, famous skyline and boats. In summer the river gets pretty busy which adds to the overall brouhaha of the city.

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

And yet, you can take your time, stop for a while and observe.

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

The stone embankments of St Petersburg deserve a separate post, they are a real masterpiece. Although my fellow citizens (me included) prefer to avoid them on especially hot days. Reason? Well, other fellow citizens persistently use them as public WCs…

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

Same as the courtyards, unfortunately. But if you quickly make your photo and dash outside, there’s no harm. We’ve moved away from the river now, joining the Bolshaya Morskaya Street. My eyes immediately set upon these two Art Nouveau buildings standing side-by-side:

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

The story of this very spot (Bolshaya Morskaya 22) seems to go back to the very early days of the city when – allegedly – a Greek captain would settle here and thus establish a seaman community. They say he was even one of the first inhabitants of St Petersburg in general! This place later changed hands, styles and purpose. After serving as a house of St Petersburg head policemen, the central telephone station got its new facade in 1905:

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

It is still occupied by the main telecommunications company. Next to it is yet another well-known building (Bolshaya Morskaya 24) which also retains its original purpose throughout the years:

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

This is the Faberge house built in 1899-1900. Previously this place belonged to a bell master, then to a goldsmith and later to a jeweler but also to a bookseller who would have Alexander Pushkin among his clients.

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

However, its most celebrated owner was Karl Faberge who purchased this building and got it revamped in Art Nouveau for his shop, workshops and apartments. The different surface styles of the same red granite from Gangut make it stand out of the crowd: it’s massive, it’s polished, it’s expensive! And then you sneak into the courtyard…

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

As is usually the case with the Art Nouveau buildings, their backyards are sometimes even more architecturally curious than the front face. The staircase windows follow the movement of the steps while the entrance to the courtyard is adorned with tiles:

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

And once more – here’s the facade of Bolshaya Morskaya 35, which used to belong to the ‘Russia’ Insurance Company. Look at the elaborate majolica created after Nikolai Roerich’s drawings. The original frieze didn’t survive but was restored in 2009. You can hardly see it, it’s so high up but it’s wonderfully fairy-tale-ish!

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

And here’s what you’ll find behind its face:

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

Super-rusty style

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

Moving further along Bolshaya Morskaya, past St Isaac Cathedral, you get to the Nabokov fanily’s house (Bolshaya Morskaya 47):

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

His family lived here and Vladimir spent his childhood behind all these lavish decorations. Still have to visit his museum there – not that I’m any fan of his, but rather to see the interior.

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

Moving off Bolshaya Morskaya to the Moyka River Embankment (leaving one of my ex-work places looking like Hermitage behind), you’ll come across the New Holland island, one of the city’s artificial islands, which is under reconstruction now. Not sure what will eventually become of it but they say it will be some artsy space plus hotels and shops. This is what you do with an unused 18th century naval port 🙂

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

A ship-like building along the Moyka Embankment grabs your attention by these, well, dangerous balconies and the rhythmic waves of bay windows.

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

And it’s actually known in the city as the House with Bay Windows. It was built by one of the masters of the ‘brick-style‘ quite popular at the end of the 19th century, with the Gothic elements which make it into some sort of a brick castle.

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

Right next to it is the architect’s own mansion, again in the brick style which preceded the Art Nouveau in St Petersburg. It was actually constructed earlier than the previous building and still carries the emblem devised by the same architect who set up the St Petersburg architectural society (look under the balcony).

Bolshaya Morskaya, St Petersburg

And here I had to stop and walk back: we were to listen to some choral music in the St Isaac Cathedral later that day. More Art Nouveau stories coming for sure sometime soon.

This post goes to the St Petersburg series.

G.
architecture · no recipe · St Petersburg

Avtovo and Kirov Plant: Unseen St Petersburg

Avtovo and Kirov Plant

For a change I made this journey to the Kirovsky district of St Petersburg on a bike and that was the best decision as I could cover the ‘inhumane’ distances that are characteristic of this district. Just as an example, there’s the main street – prospekt Stachek (Strike Avenue, ex Peterhof road) – which runs for 8 km and counts three metro stations… Naturally, I didn’t aim to see it all (there is enough left for 1-2 journeys) also because it took me already some time to get there.

Avtovo and Kirov Plant

The district looks pretty much like Moscow – or rather a heavy-Stalinist-era one with various industrial and other non-residential areas here and there. Just as the Vyborgskaya Side, this district around the Avtovo and Kirov Plant metro stations is situated on the outskirts of the city, but to the south-west of the city center. The ringroad actually cuts through it while that 8-km main street finally turns into a highway leading to Peterhof. The district used to be the city’s outpost called Narvskaya zastava (Narva outpost).

Avtovo and Kirov Plant

As I moved forward along prospekt Stachek (actually towards its beginning, in the direction of the city center), I came across so many Stalinist buildings that I started ignoring them. They were built there apparently in order to make this street look pompous and ‘greet’ the incomers with a clear message: you are entering the Soviet empire’s second city, see how mighty and hard-as-rock we are. I’m not a big fan of the Stalinist era inhumane buildings, as they seem to belittle you with their immense walls and Roman-like decorations. But this ‘palace’ (above and on the first photo) with a tower and a huge arch just drew my attention and made me cross the street to see it in details. It was built by Kamensky and Ashparyan in 1952. Some years later such a waste of money, space and materials wouldn’t have been possible. Stalin died and Khrushchev was more than willing to get rid of all the decorum and built standard block of flats all over the country.

Avtovo and Kirov Plant

This is the entrance to the Avtovo metro station and it’s a tricky one: it doesn’t really impress you as much as what you can admire inside and it doesn’t give away its treasure…

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

Avtovo (the name comes from the Finnish village and also applies to the district) is one of the first metro stations to be built in Leningrad: it opened in November 1955 with the first train running from it to the Ploshchad Vosstania metro station. It was originally planned to be finished by 1942 but for the well-known reasons the construction was frozen until 1946.

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

This station is only 12 meters deep and there are no escalators. But there 46 columns which were to be decorated with glass. But the money ran out and only 16 of them got their weird Snow-Queen-palace-like appearance. They look like old glassware or some antiquity:

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations
The rest were ‘temporarily’ decorated with marble until the better times come. But Khrushchev came instead 🙂 And here they are, 60 years later, still in marble:
Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations
But anyway this metro station strikes you as a very impressive one. It’s dimly lit notwithstanding all the chandeliers, and the light is reflected by its columns and walls. It’s not your regular metro, after all! The interior decoration is themed on the Leningrad’s defense during the World War II. But if you don’t know it – or if you just do not ‘read’ all those war symbols, you wouldn’t even think of it. There’s also this mosaic called The Victory (the top inscription says ‘Peace to the World’):
Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

My next stop was the area around the Kirov Plant (Kirovsky zavod), ex Putilov(‘s) Plant which was established here in 1801. It used to make everything from guns and cast iron to torpedo boats and tanks. It still functions but it’s not as grand as it used to be. Putilov was the factory’s most famous owner in the 19th century. Once the Soviets came they renamed the factory into Red Putilovets and not being satisfied enough called it after the recently killed tovarishch Kirov (hence the name of the entire district too). The factory used to be famous also for being the place where 2 Russian revolutions initiated (1905 and February of 1917).

Avtovo and Kirov Plant

And no, this photo was not taken somewhere on the territory of the Kirov Plant, which is anyway closed to the general public like that of the Izhorsky Plant. As I was gradually moving towards the beginning of the prospekt Stachek I was also moving back in time, advancing (or degrading?) from the empire-style Stalinist palaces in its middle (and hence later developed) part to the first architectural creations of the early Soviet republic, the constructivism.

Avtovo and Kirov Plant

So here’s a sample of heavily modified Soviet avant-garde, the Palace of Culture named after Gaza, a venerated bolshevik from the Putilov Plant. Gegello and Krichevsky started building it in 1930-1935, i.e. already in the late avant-garde era when it was forcedly dying out, but never finished it in the way they planned it to be. No money – no palace of culture, guys! And then the war came and destroyed much of what was already built… So the workers had to wait for 1961-1967 to have their palace of culture finished by Poltoratsky and Bubarina.

Avtovo and Kirov Plant

The result is somewhat visible in this original part of the building: while the flower vase was definitely added later in the 1960s, the long ‘enveloping’ balconies and the round windows is what remains from the constructivist project. It seems to me that the columns were redesigned later but in their authentic (slimmer?) state they were pretty much characteristic of the Soviet avant-garde.

Avtovo and Kirov Plant

Did not have the chance to get inside but it looks like its interior is too largely 1960-zised. Upon breaking up of the Soviet Union like many Palaces of Culture this one has lost quite a chunk of its territory formerly packed with clubs, cinema etc to commercial organizations most of which have nothing to do with the culture, let’s say. Meanwhile, the symbols and other leftovers of the bygone era are dying away, like this 1935 60-meter frieze telling you about the revolutionary deeds of the Putilov Plant workers.

Avtovo and Kirov Plant
Just some meters away was the last stop on my bike tour that day, not surprisingly also called Kirovsky Zavod. A Greek temple? Nope. Entrance to the metro station for workers! Ironically (or rather sadly) several entrances to the metro stations both in St Petersburg and Moscow were built on the ground of the churches taken down by the Soviets in their anti-religious frenzy.

Avtovo and Kirov Plant

It’s situated just opposite the entrance to the Kirov Plant itself, so that the workers could have everything close by. Just as the Avtovo metro station, this one hides away much more than you would think looking at its Ancient Greek-style appearance.

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

The Kirov Plant station, one of the first in the city (1955), was to glorify the success of the Soviet industry. This one is much deeper than the Avtovo one and it does feel inside that you’re there underneath the city, in a sort of an underground industrial… temple. With the artificially bright and dead-cold lights coming from above and the repeating coat of arms composed of various tools, it feels like you’re in a production unit of an idealistic Soviet factory.

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

Inside – marble, marble, metal. The only surviving monument to Lenin underground 🙂 And the menacingly and at the same time weirdly looking ‘heraldic’ compositions with tools:

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

Feels really cold in their with all the marble and the metal.

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

This composition in particular looks like a monster in goggles:

Narvskaya, Avtovo, Kirov Plant metro stations

As I was on a bike I didn’t go inside the stations, instead I made a ‘tour’ down that metro line (coloured red on the St Petersburg metro map) and took photos accompanied by other tourists and looked at suspiciously by the locals who are too bored to notice the details. What I missed were the entrance halls of the stations which are also quite curious (the Avtovo one is round, right under the cupola). Will do it later.

This post goes to the St Petersburg series.

G.

no recipe · St Petersburg · travel

St Petersburg Environs in May

Orlinskoye Lake

This fragile spring-time stage of the nature before all the summer abundance comes in is so very fleeting. I enjoy it the most. When the summer comes it’s all very fine of course but there’s no contrast, everything seems to be even. That’s why I like setting sun in summer, it brings in the contrast and you start appreciating the day that’s gone.

Orlinskoye Lake

May in Russia is notorious for its holidays (May 1 for Labour Day and May 9 for Victory Day) and the start of the dacha season. This year we chose to go outside St Petersburg (following a tradition which is probably as old as the city itself) heading not to the dacha but to two environs instead. In the very beginning of May we went to the Orlinskoye Lake near Gatchina (St Petersburg region).

Orlinskoye Lake

We were happy to see the lake before the hoards of tourists and locals come and make shashlik to loud music (and leave heaps of rubbish all over the place). There was peace around the lake.

Orlinskoye Lake

We also met an amateur diver or rather a treasure-hunter who was trying to fish out some antiques on the shore and found a 1903 coin with his metal detector.

Orlinskoye Lake

The journey took us some hours to get there and especially back (as all the dacha and shashlik people were also trying to get back to the city before everybody else), but we managed to breathe in some pretty fresh air and enjoy the forest which used to be a park, actually.

Orlinskoye Lake

You see, the Stroganovs, one of the famous Russian dynasties, used to have their manor there – and so they planted the trees and had their own beach. Probably that’s why the treasure-hunting makes some sense there.

Orlinskoye Lake

But we were in for nature:

Orlinskoye Lake

Next week we also moved outside the city which was ready to host the Victory Day parade and other crowded events, and headed to Pavlovsk. There the nature was also actively awakening – and yet we managed to see it while it was still dormant in some parts:

Pavlovsk in May

The spring sunlight is so delicate, it seems:

Pavlovsk in May

…and then you turn towards the sun and there’s just a whole wall of light pouring on you:

Pavlovsk in May

This post goes to St Petersburg collection.

G.