I am sure you've guessed by now that this and later
albums present the recently built complex at Strelna, officially known as
the State Palace of Congresses. It
consists of the restored and reconstructed Constantine Palace, its
surrounding garden (newly laid out), and the visitor and service
buildings, most newly built or moved. The whole complex is operated by the
Presidential Administration (the main customer of reconstruction
contracts). However it is easy to see the place as part of an
all-too-brief, groups-only tour (more details in the next album).
As you drive west from Saint-Petersburg
along the Peterhoff highway, you soon come up on the Constantine Palace
on your right.
Prior to reconstruction the Palace was easy to miss
from the highway - the view blocked by overgrown trees. Now you couldn't
miss it if you tried. :)
This used to be called the Upper Garden; the pond to the right - the
Grand Palace pond. The names have, probably, been kept still.
A high fence surrounds the complex (the
photo above was taken through the railings). The whole complex is very
In the 19th century there was a wooden fence here.
The new gates are on the left. I don't
know if there were gates here before, but I don't think so.
Even though the gates are not centered
vis-а-vis the Palace, this is almost unnoticeable in this photo (taken
through the railings of the gates).
But I am getting ahead of myself with all these views through the fence.
I really wanted to start with what is new in the vicinity of the complex
and devote later albums to the Palace and its surrounding park.
photo shows part of the security road block at the gates through which
all tours enter the park. In the distance you can see the Palace. We
won't go there now, but will pass it and take a right turn.
The overall size of the work undertaken here is impressive. It seems the
project was done with sense of grandeur. I had driven past the place
during the reconstruction and can attest that there wasn't even much
grass here - just bulldozers and excavators. The reconstruction ran day
and night from about November 2001 to May 2003.
In parallel with the
project, the section of the Peterhoff highway up to Strelna was widened
(the traffic is almost never congested past that point). Along the
highway some attempts were made to gentrify some areas.
Officially, of course, all this rebuilding was paid for by business
interests, not from the state budget. I doubt, though, anyone living in
Russia would wonder why businessmen had done a sudden about-face and
gave truck-loads of money for a good cause. :-)
Now all that surrounds the complex - the roads, the light posts, the
grass and the bushes, and the car park - are neatly kept up.
street is called the Birch Alley.
A bit farther ahead is the hotel complex Consular Village, behind its
very own separate fence (a few months ago there was a forest here).
Let's go towards it.
Here is the overall view.
We are walking from the left corner where
the Peterhoff highway runs. Behind us is the Gulf of Finland.
To the right is a hotel's wing (see below), to the left, in the back,
- service buildings with some curious-looking smoke stacks above them...
... as noted by a reader, the welded spirals are there mostly to reduce
vibration due to wind - the "ribs" interfere with air flow and increase
vibration frequency above resonance level.
And it looks more
interesting this way.
Here is the aforementioned hotel - the Baltic Star.
I have often read
that it was built in 2003. That is not the case.
This building used to belong to the Leningrad Arctic College, and has
now been remodeled in to a hotel (at the minimum the mansards were added
and the insides completely redone). As to when the building was put up
originally - I don't know.
This is not presidential or even oligarch level, of course. Still, I was
able to count four different size stars above the name.
We are now getting closer to the cottages.
They are called VIP-class
Cottages. There are 19 of them.
"...Each one is named after one of Russia's great cities..."
Despite the high quality and high class of the cottages, the photo
reminds one of an exemplary correctional facility. You can judge for
yourselves - a hive of identical buildings, each encircled with a high
fence. Not a tree, a pond, or a landscape in view. Nothing but
unobstructed lines-of-sight all around.
I should point out that the restoration of the Palace, with all these
newly built hotels, is further exacerbating the problem of the
overbuilding of the shores of the Gulf of Finland with all manner of
cottages for the businessmen and the government types. It is considered
now prestigious to reside not only near Peterhoff, but also "that much
closer to the tsar".
In a following album we will enter the park and move toward the