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.
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
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.