Happy Snap Recap

Inbetween Novgorod and Kaliningrad I took time off from the net, so here are some pictures I never got around to posting.

Maybe Novgorod is more for history fans than funsters, but surely worth at least one of the regular excursions from St. Petersburg.


Sunday is the perfect day to visit the Kremlin. This babushka has probably just been to St Sophia’s church and is now on her way to Baskin Robbins.



The Seven Wonders Of Novgorod #3


Andrei Rozen’s portfolio set me mind-traveling from Kaliningrad back to Novgorod, where I spent last Autumn. This portrait of Andre Leon Talley, for Russian Vogue, is shot in Novgorod’s Vitoslavitsa museum, an outdoor exhibition of Russia’s wooden building heritage.

A repro theme park it isn’t. The buildings were brought plank and nail from villages throughout Russia and from several centuries. You’ll find churches, chapels, barns and houses – though there’s little difference between a barn and a house. Houses still accommodated ploughs and livestock while the serfs squatted on a kind of elevated shelf at one end.



Novgorod Theatre Presents . . . A Whodunnit

Some time ago I wrote a piece about Novgorod Theatre, a piece of Soviet era architecture you can only describe as mould-breaking. I’d learned it was a Russian collaboration with Scandinavian architects. Since the building is so alien to other 70’s Soviet forms, it seemed plausible at the time.

Meanwhile, Novgorod’s theatre also got the attention of photographer Andrei Rozen. His local driver believed the creator to be Russian rock star, Andrei Makarevich, actually a graphic artist turned musician. But Rozen, who by then had also stumbled by this blog, couldn’t confirm either story.

In Moscow, Andrei traced the building back to Giproteatr, a State design agency where Makarevich had indeed worked – but not as an architect, only as model maker. Through Makarevich, he discovered that the project was actually directed by Vladimir Somov. According to Makarevich, many radical artists worked for Giproteatr at the time, though were careful to pose as conformist, State employees in the office. Andrei relates:



The Blogging Environment. #1 in a series

Power Station View

I think it was Little Miss Moi who started this game of blog tag.

I move around a lot, but many posts are emanating from the 15th floor of an apartment block on the Petrogradskaya in Novgorod Veliky.

On a clear day, you can see the Power Station.

This rear apartment view highlights the Russian approach to ‘zoning’. In many Russian towns, tall apartment blocks on the main roads lead you to believe that you are in a residential area. In fact, the tall apartments just cover up all the industrial vomit behind.

I took many creative photos from this balcony, such as: ‘Sunset Over The Lada Repair Shop’. But probably, the art world isn’t ready for them just yet.


The Seven Wonders of Novgorod. #2


There probably isn’t a bigger symbol of post-Soviet decay than Novgorod Veliky’s theatre. Though weedy, flaky, rusty and crumbly, it’s definitely one of the better Soviet era buildings and hardly deserves the neglect.

This isn’t just any old lump of concrete. (That’s the Intourist hotel next door.) This is concrete clad in off-white marble tiles. Colour photos don’t really do it justice.

If the design looks a little disjointed, it’s because it’s the work of three architects: one did the main hall, another the superstructure, another the appendages. Each one tried to incorporate a citadel feel in keeping with the character of Novgorod’s Kremlin.

For the record, Novgorod Veliky was a trade Kremlin rather than a military fort. Given the number of businessmen who are blown away in Russia, the idea of fortified office space could well come back into fashion.

UPDATE: As you’ll note in the comments below, my information about the multiple architects turns out to be just local folklore. The scoop on the real designer is now here.



Ghost Toytown

When you see pictures of the Dead Zone around Chernobyl, the most poignant pictures are those of the abandoned school and deserted fun-fair.

Novgorod is a bit like that. Amongst its huge housing estates, there isn’t a park, courtyard or corner plot that doesn’t have a children’s playground. Except that there’s not a kid to be seen. It’s a city of empty sandboxes and broken swings.




Hitting The Malls

Unusually upbeat article on Russia from the Toronto Star

Critics may warn of the erosion of political rights in Russia – but consumers just want to hit the malls.
Customers jostle and push, stuffing their carts with everything from Swedish furniture to Calvin Klein underwear. The stores – IKEA, Zara, Marks & Spencer – would be familiar to any Western shopper, although in Russia they tend to be twice the size of their counterparts in Europe or North America.’

Really interesting. I thought I better get out this weekend, grab some credit cards and go downtown Novgorod.



How High’s The Water Mama? Two Feet High And Risin’

Beautiful Mila writes to me from Kaliningrad. ‘John, there is no snow, no sun, no mood. Only rain.’

Seems like Kaliningrad is not the only city of gray skies and puddles. Carpetblogger has already recorded that ‘Kiev Gray‘ should be a Pantone TM color chart color. Meanwhile the ‘Internet pulse‘, Veronika at Global Voices, is also linking to muddy, Moscow puddle pics.

Blimey. When bloggers start talking about the weather, something climatically strange must be happening.

But my camera says it’s just another typically shitty, Saturday shopping afternoon. Could as easily be Watford UK as here in Novgorod, below.

. . Now Playing. Johnny Cash: ‘Five Feet High And Risin’



Spicy Fried Carrot Oblongs


No traveller’s tale of Novgorod would be complete without a run-down of the regional delicacies.

I always find the best way of collecting recipes in Russia is to find some inept Olga (not difficult) and then have her cook something while you write up the method.

As you know, all Olgas like attention and you can get them really whistling as they work while you say ‘oh that’s interesting’ and do helpful little things like rescue their bleached strands, false fingernails, eyelashes and other stuff that always tends to fall in the sauce. (more…)


Art Heist In Novgorod

Don’t think for a moment that London has the monopoly on covert operations. Or that Moscow is the capital of unsolved crime.

A campaign of terror has recently been unleashed against Novgorod’s street art.

I discovered it while walking into town the other day and stopping by this sculpture near the market.


My first impression was of a piece of protest art. It looks for all the world like a statement about intensive farming – battery cows. You know, where the grass comes to them instead of the other way around. Not. (more…)

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