Gorodetsky’s Masterpieces

I have become fascinated with architecture here lately.  My love for architecture grew particularly after I studied in St. Petersburg, Russia, and then revisited my beloved Kiev in Ukraine. On one of the beautiful nights that I spent in Kiev with my family I was introduced to an unusual building.

Called the “House of Chimeras” and completed in 1903, this building is unusual because it is adorned with all sorts of creatures: chimeras, mermaids, toads, animals’ heads, and a realistic-looking snake, slithering down a corner of this 9-story building. What’s even more off-putting is that this wonder stands right across from the Presidential office building.

After doing some research, I found out that it was built by Vladislav Gorodetsky, a man with a taste for intricate details. Some of his other creations are the St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Karaite Kenesa, and the National Art Museum of Ukraine. Enjoy these intricate and out-of-the-ordinary creations!

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House of Chimeras currently serves as a place for diplomacy meetings for the Ukrainian President. Photo credit to Jennifer Boyer.

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More full-scale (photoshopped?) version of the building. Photo credit to Slava.

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Close-up. Photo credit to Jennifer Boyer.

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St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral. Fun fact: it used to serve as a KGB meeting place for some time after 1938. Photo credit to Jennifer Boyer.

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A salamander, perched under the St. Nicholas R-C Church. Photo credit to user zalgalina.

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St. Nicholas! Photo credit to user zalgalina.

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Gorodetsky, the man responsible for the House of Chimeras and others. Photo credit to user zalgalina.

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Old photograph of the Karaite Kenesa. About 800 Karaites (original peoples of Judaism) currently live in Ukraine. Photo credit to user zalgalina.

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Modern interior view of the building. Photo credit user to zalgalina.

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And finally, the National Art Museum of Ukraine. Photo credit to user zalgalina.

 

 

 

The Haunting Allure of Europe’s Abandoned Places

The powerful stories of many European buildings can be seen in the cracks and dust left behind in these abandoned wonders scattered across the continent. After centuries of strength and poise, these buildings can still be found intact and full of empty, fascinating mystery. Although most of the following buildings are rarely on the list of ‘must-sees’ for world travelers, they might actually be worth the trip to indulge in some good, old-fashion history.

I found it especially interesting to know that I’m not alone when it comes to curiosity about abandoned places. In fact, many bloggers dedicate entire blogs to abandoned buildings and sites around the world. I’ve linked to several of them, as well as broader blogs that touch on the topic every once in a while. Bloggers from all over the world seem to have an interest in these historical findings and the stories that got these sites to their present state. Here’s a look at some of the many run-down sites and buildings that once stood extraordinarily tall.

 Beelitz Heilstatten:

This complex started as a military hospital during WWII and was continually used by Russians until its abandonment in the 1990s. For more photos and info, click here.

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Photo by Sara at FindingBerlin.com

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Photo by Sara at FindingBerlin.com

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Photo by Sara at FindingBerlin.com

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Photo by Sara at FindingBerlin.com


Castle of Mesen:

Dating way back to the 1500s, this small town Castle was rebuilt and remodeled until the middle of the 20th century. For more photos and info on the Castle of Mesen, click here.

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Photo by Niek Beck

photo at abandoned-places.com

photo at abandoned-places.com

Photo at abandoned-places.com

photo at abandoned-places.com

9The Medieval Village of Craco, Italy:

Over time, this village lost residents due to the plague, French occupation and civil unrest. It’s final abandonment took place in the early 1990s when locals fled to America to escape the poor agricultural conditions. For more photos and info on Craco, Italy, visit this blog.

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

 

Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture:

This Paris railway came long before the Paris Metro. The main source for Paris transportation in the 19th century fell to it’s decline in the mid 1900s. For more photos and info on this railway, visit this blog.

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

photo from desertedplaces.blogspot.com

 

Hafodunos Hall:

This deserted mansion in Wales was built in the 1860s for the wealthy, Sandbach family. Since the house sold in the 1930s, it has been used as a girls’ school and then an old peoples home until it was shut down in 1993. To learn more about Hafodunos Hall, visit this blog.

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogspot.com

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogspot.com

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogspot.com

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogs

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogspot.com

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogspot.com

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogspot.com

Photo from Alexander at desertedplaces.blogspot.com

 

These are just a few of the many buildings and towns across the European continent that once prevailed and are now deemed useless. I find it incredible how intact many buildings still are. I can’t imagine letting a spectacular castle waste away to nothing. It will be interesting to see if any abandoned wonders one day make a comeback and are remodeled to flourish on their old grounds that remain filled with memories and stories of time passed.

To read about abandonment of full European towns, check out this blog.

Venice of the North

Fotor0424154820Saint Petersburg is located along the Gulf of Finland and is considered to be Russia’s most vibrant city. If you love food, culture, high art, and lavish architecture, then this beautiful city is for you.

Last summer I had an opportunity to study abroad in this relaxing city for over a month, and I must say it was love at first sight. The best time to see this whimsical city in action is during the White Nights (May-July.) During this season the daylight is celebrated nearly round- the -clock because the sun sets for only a few hours. The White Nights Festival has many ballet performances, operas, and The Scarlet Sails Celebration (Алые паруса.)

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The Red Room is a masterpiece by French artist Henri Matisse. This artwork is located at the Hermitage.

If you decide to visit, you must bring out your inner art critic and spend some time in the Hermitage and the Russian Museum.  This is your chance to see the world renowned art works by Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh and etc. The Hermitage gets extremely busy, so get there early so you do not have to wait in line for hours.

Quick Fact: Experts say that if you were to spend a minute looking on each art piece at the Hermitage, it would take nearly 11 years to do so.

Walking Down the Nevsky Prospect:

Nevsky Prospect is the main street of the city; many shops, cafes, restaurants and tourist sites are located here. If you only have a day to spend in the city, this is where you should spend your time. On this outrageously long street, there is the Kazan Cathedral, Church of Spilled Blood, Hermitage (Catherine’s Palace,) and more. If you are a literature buff, perhaps you should enjoy a meal at the Literaturnoe Kafe (Literature Café.) This is where Alexander Pushkin enjoyed his many meals and his last one before he died in a dual in 1837. As you take a stroll, you will come across pleasant street artists, beautiful canals and cool bridges. The vibe of this place is very diverse and laid back.

Side Note: If you are wanting more detailed information of the city life and what it has to offer, check out Life in Russia blog!

Food:

I love food and I was so excited to taste everything, so of course most of my money went towards delicious meals. If you are

Traditional Russian Donuts

Traditional Russian Donuts in Cafe Pyshechnaya.

looking to try out authentic Russian food for cheap, then Stolovaya (Cafeteria) is your place. This is where the locals go to enjoy many of their meals. There is more than one of these, so it should be easy to spot them. Bakeries are everywhere. My personal favorite is БУШЕ (Bushe.) This bakery is heaven. My  favorite is the smoked salmon sandwich with cream cheese. Yum! The bakery only has 30 minutes Wi-Fi limit; if you are trying to get some work done on your laptop, this place is not for you. On the bright side if you get your treat to go, then your price will be cheaper. Another bakery that you must try is the Cafe Pyshechnaya. This is the oldest cafe/cafeteria and serves the best pishki (Russian donuts.) This place is extremely busy and seating is very limited. Also, the Russian women servers are extremely intimidating and they expect you to know your order right away.  Be prepared! The Guardian writes a review on this cafe and they consider it to be top 10 hidden gems in St Petersburg.

Countryside Trips:

Taking some time off from the city is always nice and there a lot of palaces and parks that offer a relaxing afternoon. Here are some attractions that will revive you.

St Petersburg has much to offer and it does take significant amount of time to explore all the streets, museums, monuments, cathedrals and etc. The vibe of this city is addicting and if you are like me, you will want to come back as soon as possible.

Unter den Linden: Memory Lane or Path to the Future?

News flash: Berlin is old.

The famous TV Tower and World Clock of Alexanderplatz.

The famous TV Tower and World Clock of Alexanderplatz.

Though far from being the oldest city in Europe (or in Germany, for that matter), this capital still has nearly eight hundred years under its belt. And after standing as one of Germany’s most important cities through all of those centuries, it’s no surprise that some of that history is still clearly visible for those who know how to look.

Some of it is spelled out through architecture. There are the museums on the aptly named Museum Island, home to Berlin’s ancestor city of Cölln (not to be confused with Köln, aka Cologne); the oft redesigned city center, Alexanderplatz; and of course, one of Germany’s most famous landmarks, the Brandenburg Gate — which is itself the entry to an equally historic street, Unter den Linden.

The Berlin Wall was unable to escape Berlin’s obsession with street plaques.

There are also the intentional nods to Berlin’s history, whether it’s the numerous Holocaust memorials, the brick path tracing the location of the Berlin Wall, or the survival of the iconic East Berlin Ampelmann in all of his various forms.

Finally, there are the specific reminders from World War II. Even today, seventy years after the fact, many of the cities older buildings are riddled with bullet holes, or bear larger scars from grenades and bomb strikes. Some of the lesser damage remains untouched as a rough, bullet-riddled facade. In other places, bright new brick, half-finished detailing, and poorly disguised plaster patch-ups stand as stark reminders. And in yet others, Berliners have apparently decided their city is best repaired with Legos.

But even when surrounded by so much of it, are today’s Berliners actually that focused on history?

With it’s status as “the most hipster city in Europe,” plus its vivid nightlife and a strong Jugendkultur (youth culture), the answer appears to be no. In fact, as is the case across the country, most Germans are more interested in the reality of today than they are with the bullet holes of yesterday. It’s a subject that doesn’t appear often in the media — and that lack of media representation is telling enough by itself.

When Berlin’s architectural history does appear on the newsreel, it seems to be more focused on opposition to modern reconstruction of war damage. Reports from Der Spiegel, for example, admittedly describe a populace who are concerned with losing the history, but simply because reconstruction is expensive, disruptive, and in many cases, not really all that necessary anyway.

Even the city of Berlin itself describes itself as an entity which is mostly viewed as having combined the old with the new, with very little time for reminiscing on history. With today’s political and economic environment, Berlin in particular has bigger things for its media culture to focus on. Instead, the city has become a European landmark whose citizens walk among reminders of their past, while keeping their eyes firmly fixed on their future.

So even with all of that history quite literally standing around, there’s really only one type of media that pays any attention to it — and most of those travel blogs aren’t being written by Germans.