Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
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On any other day, I would have passed by the spartan, crumbling building without a glance. On this day, however, Viking River Cruises had invited me to visit a Kommunalka, a communal living arrangement that is still practiced by a large percentage of residents in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Typical Kommunalka apartment building in the city center, St. Petersburg, Russia

Typical Kommunalka apartment building in the city center, St. Petersburg, Russia

Across the interior courtyard, a heavy metal door opened onto a gloomy corridor where we groped our way up granite steps chipped and worn from decades of use. At the top, a long, mustard-colored hallway was crammed with makeshift storage cupboards, footlockers, and discarded furniture. We walked single file to the end, which opened onto an L-shaped kitchen and two bathrooms that are shared by residents of the eight apartments on the second floor. Read More

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The Belozersky Monastery near the small village of Kirillov, Russia

Click on above photo to view it in large format: The Belozersky Monastery near the small village of Kirillov, Russia, is one of the few that was not destroyed under Communism

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Smolny Cathedral and Convent was built to house Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, after she was banned from succession to the throne

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Smolny Cathedral and Convent was built to house Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, after she was banned from succession to the throne. The Baroque cathedral was named Smolny – ‘tar’ in Russian – for the tar pits that once occupied the site where it now stands.

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Antonio Canova's sculpture, The Three Graces, in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, depicts the three daughters of Zeus, said to represent beauty, charm and joy

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Antonio Canova’s sculpture “The Three Graces” in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, depicts the three daughters of Zeus, who represent beauty, charm and joy

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Church of the Savior on the Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Church of the Savior on the Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia was built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated to his memory

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Typical street scene along Nevskiy Prospekt, the main retail thoroughfare in St. Petersburg, Russia

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Typical street scene along Nevskiy Prospekt, the main retail thoroughfare in St. Petersburg, Russia