architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Ryazan and a Bit of Moscow

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

The door was open:

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

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

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

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

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

I really like all those architectural details:

Ryazan

Enhanced with the snow:

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

The mound looks really cool:

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

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

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

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

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

Ryazan

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

Moscow

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

Moscow

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

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

Moscow

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

Moscow

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

Moscow

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

Moscow

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

Moscow

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

Moscow

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

Adding this post to the Travel collection.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Winter Dreams of Vladimir and Suzdal

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

But the restaurant’s door was half-open:

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

Cold.

Suzdal - Vladimir

Snowy.

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

…it’s so cozy inside! and warm 🙂

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

this one is very festive:

Suzdal - Vladimir

and this one looks beautiful:

Suzdal - Vladimir

and this one looks fancy too:

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

Or this Art-Nouveau school (now university):

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

A street close to the museum with the road post:

Suzdal - Vladimir

Further along that street:

Suzdal - Vladimir

Another view over the city:

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

The horizon got lost in the snow:

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Suzdal - Vladimir

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

Mstera Bread

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

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

This post goes to the Travel series.

G.

architecture · no recipe · St Petersburg · travel

Autumn in Vyborg, a Rusty but Sunny Day

Sunny Vyborg

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

Sunny Vyborg

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

Sunny Vyborg

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

Sunny Vyborg

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

Sunny Vyborg

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

Sunny Vyborg

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

Sunny Vyborg

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

Sunny Vyborg

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

Sunny Vyborg

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

Sunny Vyborg

Autumn seems so warm and cozy in these photos.

Sunny Vyborg

Lines:

Sunny Vyborg

Note the shoemaker’s vane:

Sunny Vyborg

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

Sunny Vyborg

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

Sunny Vyborg

More information on Vyborg in my previous post.

This post goes to St Petersburg series.

G.

architecture · no recipe · travel

Back to Autumn in Berlin

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I didn’t go to Berlin just to catch the golden autumn while it was snowing in St Petersburg. Although it really felt like I was traveling back in time and getting that bit of autumn which got lost under the unexpectedly early snow. We actually planned the trip to see Zemfira live once again this year so here’s how this weekend away came about. I seem to enjoy such trips built around a concert, they transform the experience into a real adventure sometimes like that journey to the south of France back in September 2015.

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It was so good to take myself out of the routine, including that personal routine which resembles something like a box that you put yourself in and then don’t even notice unless you start travelling.

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First day was a little bit slow to begin (we had an early flight but then lost quite a bit of time standing in various lines) but turned out to be quite a long day in the end. We visited Potsdam, ate our lentil soup witо coconut milk (good!) and were just on time for the beginning of the concert same evening.

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It was my second time in Potsdam so I didn’t mind missing the main sights and having a longer walk in the Russian Village through alleys of multicoloured trees and looking at the city from the Belvedere tower instead:

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They say it gets really crowded in summer but that day we were virtually the only visitors in Belvedere to enjoy the wind and the somewhat solemn and silent landscape. It costs you 4.50 euros to get inside but it actually turned out to be worth it.

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They also say that this ambitiously looking palace (which was supposed to be but a first part of an entire project) was falling into ruins but finally taken over by the locals and turned into a must place for summer day hanging outs. It seems like Berlin has quite a lot of such initiatives carried out by local people who get hold of disused space and turn it into public places open for all.

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We got back to Berlin when it was already dark and as we were getting closer to the venue we heard more and more Russian speech. My Italian friend called to tell me she was probably the only non-Russian-speaking person there and when we finally got inside too we realised it was as if we never left Russia at all. The concert was different from the one I attended in St Petersburg this March, it was smaller in scale though definitely not shorter. It was more like a concert in a club with a very enthusiastic crowd.

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On the next day we continued our walking and music-related (and inspired) journey marching across Berlin and visiting both residential districts and touristy places.

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Starting from our nice hostel (with a funny name The Cat’s Pajamas) situated on the border of Kreuzberg and Neukölln…

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…we crossed the river Spree (it was so windy on the bridge and yet almost every arch had a homeless dweller in a sleeping bag)…

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…and arrived in Friedrichshain where we first of all stumbled upon an indie-looking place full of graffiti and bikes which did not appear particularly… clean. We walked out of it into the more family-friendly looking streets…

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…where we had some quality foodie time at the local market with amazingly looking vegetables and cheese from all over Europe. As you can imagine, I really liked walking in the residential areas of Berlin.

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Then we hurried up to the indie cinema hall where they were still screening that new documentary about the Beatles’ touring years but first got a little bit confused when we read “this is not cinema” across the wall of the – presumed – cinema hall building:

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We liked the film and got almost as excited as all those crazy kids shouting their lungs out at the Beatles’ concerts. There was also several photos and some footage that I had not seen before. We left the calm districts of Berlin after that to get to the touristy center, stopping on our way for yet another bowl of lentil and spinach soup (which was really good!).

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And then we saw the wall

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and Alexanderplatz:

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and a lovely sunset over the ultramodern parts of Berlin while walking away from the crowds:

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On our last day there was sun and there was quite a bit of walking before we headed off to the airport. We visited several parks gorgeously decadent under their – mostly – yellow veils and got to the Tempelhof field which used to be Berlin’s airport and now is something like a space run by people who won it back and did not let it be occupied by new commercial and residential estates. It has this communal garden with a beehive right there in the middle of the field where we wondered looking at how things can be recycled in a fun way (although I guess in several years all this stuff will look a bit miserable as it already starts to disintegrate).

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The rest of the field is taken over by joggers, cyclists, running dogs (!), refugee camp activities, etc etc. The ex-airport building (soooo long!) is occupied by the German police and military, as I found out. Gosh was it windy out there but also so sunny!

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The third day really helped me catch that spirit of Berlin which makes it so special. When in Berlin, drop the entire business of trying to fit it into the usual frame of European cities. It will disappoint you this way. But if you just relax and stop demanding and expecting too much it will not disappoint you. Especially if you enhance your experience with local markets, curious cafes and parks, and all that with a very good company, you do start to like Berlin.

Adding this post to the Travel series.

G.

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

Repino on Gulf of Finland

Repino

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

Repino

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

Repino

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

Repino

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

Repino

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

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

Repino

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

Repino

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

Repino

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

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

Repino

Oh, goodbye summer.

 

This post goes to the St Petersburg and Travel series.

G.

no recipe · travel

Nîmes and the End of Provence Trip

Nîmes, France

We’re in Nîmes, the last destination of my Provence trip in September. I was not expecting much of this city and to tell you the truth I was already quite tired and saturated with all the impressions and images and all. The short trip was drawing to its end and actually I was quite ready to come back.

Nîmes, France

I went to Nîmes in my last day in France, thinking I would spend some time there before going to the Marseille airport in the evening to catch my early-early morning flight (I can now speak from my experience that the airport is safe to spend a night there, almost no people except for all the service people who were taking turns to disturb me from sleeping=).

Nîmes, France

And I did spend most of the day there and bought lots of (food) stuff you can never find in Russia – before finding out that there was some technical problem on the line and that lots of trains were super late. Which added a good pinch of nervousness to my hyper-balanced trip. And this is where my bag overloaded with the delicacies decided it was high time to get all ruined… so in the end I squeezed all my things into my rucksack and the rest of my hand luggage was literally HAND luggage 🙂

Nîmes, France

But when I was walking in the streets of Nîmes I was of course not aware of these upcoming events. It was a rather hot day in a big stone-stone-stone city with much more litter and dirt than the tiny Tarascon or Beaucaire. Moreover, I had a heavy rucksack filled with several jars of amazing confiture made by my dear host family at l’Oustau de Fanny et Marius (we have just finished one jar with a fruit I have never seen or tasted before – medlar. My favorite was the lemon confiture!). And in the morning I also bought David Gilmour’s new LP – just to add up some more weight to my shoulders 🙂

Nîmes, France

So I was getting tired quite  easily and didn’t have a chance to see much of the city. From what I did see, I can say that there were much less corners of Nîmes that I liked than those I passed by without noticing. The city definitely lacks a nice refreshing river!

Nîmes, France

Now that I think of it, I guess Nîmes is just boring. And bleak. I think I took more photos of all its decorated doorways than of its antique amphitheatre (which after Orange did not impress me much; see the first photo of the post). Oh well, I guess I was just too full with those stone cities!

Nîmes, France

Opposite the Maison Carrée, which turns out to be the best preserved Roman temple on the ex-Roman empire territory (but looking somehow too new to impress you with its age – it has been recently renovated), was this luscious green: 

Nîmes, France

But most of the Nîmes’ green was in this park which did not however escape from the same stone so characteristic of the cities in the South of France:

Nîmes, France

On top of the hill was yet another vestige of the old times, a half-ruined tower where I had my eat-it-all lunch. There was a view over the city too but the only thing I could think was actually going back-back-back. Tired.

Nîmes, France

Nîmes at noon:

 

Nîmes checklist

  • bookstore & postcards – bought some
  • museum – nope
  • local food – nope
  • market – no
  • old town – can’t say I liked it much though the park was nice

Once I figured out how to get to Marseille airport with all the trains being super late (or at least expected to be) and my bag in the trash bin, I said goodbye to the warm air coming from the sea and got my short sleep before the 2 flights. I flew back via Amsterdam – haven’t been to the Schiphol airport for ages! ‘Mind the step’ from all sides, free cookies and spice cakes, loads of people and endless terminals and gates. St Petersburg welcomed me with the autumnal air and a ruined rucksack (both from the airport luggage service and the precious honey which burst and spilled all over the contents). I was tired but felt inspired for a new trip which could be as ‘my cup of tea’ as this one was.

Adding this to my Travel series. See my other Provence-related posts: Marseille, Piolenc, Orange, Arles, Comps, Tarascon and Beaucaire, and a recipe with Coulommiers cheese.

G.

no recipe · travel

Heritage Days in Avignon

Avignon, France

My second to last day in France I spent in Avignon, and since it was the weekend of Heritage Days (Jours de la Patrimoine), I also enjoyed free entrance and a free walking tour in the city. By the way, I took the bike on the train to Avignon which was very handy as I didn’t have to take a bus to get from my chambre d’hotes in Comps to the nearest train station in Tarascon.

Avignon, France

I won’t say that I liked Avignon much, after visiting small places like Tarascon and Beaucaire, this city was a bit too much of shops and tourists. However there were some spots in the city which I did like. And the river always makes a city much more attractive I suppose.

Avignon, France

You somehow expect lots of stones AND roses in a city like Avignon, don’t you?

Avignon, France

When I arrived in Avignon I headed towards the Palais des Papes, first things first. There was not still a huge crowd which later got bigger and bigger – the entrance was for free! The palace or rather fortress is huge and somewhat stuffy at the same time. In some of the halls you almost feel all those years, things, deeds and ideas weighing down on you. Like this intricate ceiling:

Avignon, France

or the palace wall built upon – or rather growing from the cliff:

Avignon, France

I liked the stain-glass windows though – these were amazing in the Palais des Papes!

Avignon, France

a checker-board window

Avignon, France

you could virtually take photos of every single window there:

Avignon, France

well, doors were also alright, like this sturdy one with a “Private” sign on it:

Avignon, France

When I get to a new city I try to see it from various angles. One of the best options is to climb something and look at it from above. Thus you somehow ‘feel’ the place better, can tell its size and scope. The top of the palace tower was curious not only for its view on the river and the rest of the city spreading along the other side, but also for these medieval decorations of the roof and the pinnacles:

Avignon, France

There were also dogs and monsters, all either climbing up or looking down at you. The other thing I liked in Avignon was – as usual – wandering in its streets particularly those not much frequented by the crowds. There were some interesting details to observe:

Avignon, France

And there was also a certain style and colour scheme which helped create an overall impression of this rather heavy (both in terms of its history and its architecture) place:

Avignon, France

liked this one a lot:

Avignon, France

for me there was a bit too much stone in the city which makes you want to escape from it:

Avignon, France

…lavender reminded me I was still in Provence!

Avignon, France

Before joining the free walking tour in the city, I heard this on the square while eating a super tasty wholewheat walnut bread and (oh!) cheese:

Avignon, France

The walking tour was a rather short one. It was super windy and at the same time rather hot which made us appreciate the closeness of the Rhône river. This is what is left from the famous (thanks to the eponymous song) Pont d’Avignon or the Saint-Bénezet bridge. As it was also open to public, I walked right to the end of it and, well, came back (just as everyone else does) 🙂 It’s a weird attraction but at the same time it’s nice to be in the middle of the river and stay dry!

Avignon, France

I also enjoyed the garden which can be seen in the photo above – there’s a view over the city and the river plus there’s this exclusive vineyard with the only wine produced right in the middle of the city in France (if I’m not mistaken). Well, I didn’t try the wine but I did try a local (or so it seems) sweet treat – with a glazed almond top and a soft shortbread base. It was very sweet but also very tasty… I tried it after I go to the other side of Rhône overlooking the Palace and the city walls.

Avignon, France

I felt much better once I got out of the city walls actually. There’s something about Avignon which is stifling, or at least it is how it appeared to me. From the other side of the river Avignon also looks incredibly toy-like with its walls as if reproducing some lego castle. Or was it the other way round? 🙂

Avignon, France

Avignon checklist:

  • bookstore & postcards – nope, got mine in Arles and later in Nîmes too.
  • museum – yes, Palais des Papes was enough for the museum part that day. Also visited the city administration building. Unlike Tarascon, the local theatre was locked.
  • local food – tried that sweet thingy with almonds, mmm!
  • market – no, though for the sake of the Heritage Days there were all those handicrafts and paintings on sale
  • old town – apart from being somewhat stifling and way too ‘heavy’ there are certain things that I liked

And here’s my preferred means of transport – with the view over the city and the ‘unfinished’ Avignon bridge – which is actually just ruined and not unfinished 🙂

Avignon, France

Adding this to my Travel series. See my other Provence-related posts: Marseille, Piolenc, Orange, Arles, Comps, Tarascon and Beaucaire, and a recipe with Coulommiers cheese.

G.