Assumption or Dormition Cathedral in Tula’s Kremlin (Uspenskii Sobor)

Restoration works are underway in Tula’s Kremlin.  Scaffoldings have been removed from the Assumption or Dormition Cathedral (Uspenskii sobor).  The cathedral, one of the jewels of the Kremlin, has been erected between 1762 and 1766.  Its domes got a much-needed new coating of gold and the central dome has been rebuilt completely.

Uspenskii kreml 1

More amazing: for years the cathedral showed bare bricks of its walls. Here is a picture from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Uspenskiy_Cathedral_of_the_Tula_Kremlin_7.JPG?uselang=ru

Uspenskiy_Cathedral_of_the_Tula_Kremlin_7

Now it has been painted light blue-grey.

Uspenskii 1

From a Kampel’s photograph dating from the beginning of 20th century that I found on http://tulablog.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/tula-suvorin-06.jpg it is somewhat difficult to see the cathedral’s (seen here on the right) color.

old cathedral

But historians and restores alike assure that light blue-grey, which to my eye looks really celestial, is the cathedral’s original color.  Get dark autumnal sky for the background – and you feel like the cathedral is floating, the baroque elements on its walls are noticeable for the first time.

Uspenskii baroque

If the cathedral survived the years of neglect than its bell tower, built in the late 18th century, was destroyed by fire in 1936.  Originally, the tower had 22 bells, including 8 clock bells.  The bell tower is now being restored.

Uspenskii and tower

The bells for the tower have been cast in Tutaevo, a town in Yaroslavl region, traditionally known for its bell-casting factory and brought to Tula recently.  The biggest bell weighs 12,5 tones and it has already been installed.  Others are awaiting the completion of the tower’s next level.

Bells

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From the Forest in the City to the Real Park

Tula’s Central park is undergoing improvements.  The Governor of Tula Region said in an interview recently that the park will be turned into a real park from an overgrown forest it is now. (http://www.gruzdev.ru/presscenter/press/2013/07/10/press_5863.html) Interestingly, on its website the park prides itself on being the forest in the city.  It has been founded in 1893 by Dr. Belousov and today covers more than 143 hectares of land, of which 97 hectares are woods, three ponds take 11 hectares with the rest 35 hectares are zoned for recreation.  In any case, landscaping, repairs of fountain, yet again the sidewalks as well as other improvements have been going since summer.

Sites in the park that have been repaired or somehow improved are:

The central fountain.  Last Spring it hardly ever worked and even non-specialists could tell that its deteriorated features needed renovations.  By the end of Summer the fountain got a new pool as well as its internal systems have been improved dramatically so now the fountain has various, better lighting and jets modes.
 
Here are some pictures of the new fountain from the Park’s site. (http://www.tulagardens.ru/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=56)

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Yet again the sidewalks, now in the park, are undergoing construction.  New sidewalks are being built in places where there used to be just walking paths.

doroga rask 1 new

dorogi rask 2 new

sidewalks park new

Also, it seems that bicycle lanes will also be created.

bycycle path new

A new small stadium has been built.  It looks good and I’m sure it is enjoyed by many people.  The park’s website states that in order to gain access to this ground you have to first submit a request but people playing there told me that it was open for the general public’s use without any such formalities.

stadium new

Here is the old place for playing volleyball.  You can see the difference.

old stad new

A newly developed site is called “Ground for Workout”.

workout new
It is a gift of Tula’s Governor Vladimir Gruzdev.  The description on the photo above gives a rather free translation of the word “workout” (“workout is exercising (is a workout) outdoors with the use of one’s own body weight”) but the place itself is an excellent present for those who like open-air exercise.  

Just recently I went to the park for a walk and was really surprised to see a brand new dog run complete with bars for dogs to exercise and even benches for people to sit on.  For those people unfamiliar with dog situation in Russia in general and in Tula in particular I have to say that this is the only dog run I have ever seen in Tula.  Yes, I remember seeing them in some of the old Soviet movies.  Yes, I saw some exercising pens for service (mostly police) dogs in Tula.  But a civilized, fenced dog run in the park I have not seen before.

dog run

Here is the sign with the rules.

dog run tablichka new
In order to appreciate this news you have to know that in Tula there are hundreds of stray dogs – and cats – that populate the streets and remain a big problem for the administration as well as animal protection groups alike.  According to a recent estimate by Tula State Pedagogical University’s Biotechnology department that I’ve read in Sloboda, a Tula’s newspaper, there are more than 30 thousand stray animals in Tula.  You read about biting and mauling often enough you start picking your child up automatically when you see strays approaching you in the street or pull him closer when you see a big dog walking with its owner.

In Russia there also exists a general disrespect of dog owners to the rest of the public’s sanitary and – often – safety concerns.  Living in Tula I can easily enumerate those few times when I saw somebody to clean after their dog.  Dog waste is a big concern in small parks and even on children’s playgrounds.   A fact that surprised me recently – in the US, according to a survey by the Center for Watershed Protection done in 1999 41% of dog owners rarely or never pick up after their dog either!  http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/science/2002-06-07-dog-usat.htm Leaving in New York I never thought that the problem was actually that bad!

I know that violence, dog cruelty or dog waste problems exist everywhere in the world.  But here the culture of curbing your dog, the culture of animal shelters and animal adoption are still rather nascent.  This is the reason that a dog run in the park, by the very concept of it, felt so strange to me.    

Dog owners that I talk to often complain that it is impossible to walk your dog anywhere.  So they need to go somewhere and cannot do anything if the only green area near their house is a playground.  In the park, actually just across the new dog run, there hangs a “No Dog Walking” sign.

vygul sobak new

Exercising your dog is not the same as cleaning after it.  But I like the idea of having a dog run in the park, although it still does not prevent any of us from encountering dog waste.  However it may be just the beginning.  So hopefully one day there will be more dog shelters in Tula, there will be easily accessible plastic bags in parks like those you can get in Carl Schurz park in New York City, and there will be more mutual respect for all of us, people and dogs. 

Welcoming the Olympic Flame

October 14th was the day for the Tula’s region to welcome the Olympic torch relay.  The Olympic flame traveled to Yasnaya Poliana and Novomoskovsk first, finally coming to Tula.  The relay’s route in Tula itself has been divided into three separated stages following each other in three city’s districts, a wise move by the organizers, actually.  People who went to see the relay for the 1980s Olympics remembered huge crowds gathering around Tula’s central street, the Prospekt Lenina, the only route for the relay back then.  This time the route for the Olympic flame was winding through multiple streets in each of the three areas thus giving those who wanted to see it an opportunity to do so without being smashed in the process.

The day of the relay was made into an “unofficial holiday”, giving employers the right to decide for themselves whether to work or not.  So like with any other holiday state and municipal organizations like schools have been closed for the day, with stores remaining open.

Private transport has been suspended along the relay’s route (with certain intersecting streets open for the convenience of the drivers), public transportation running on the regular schedule with, what looked like, more buses, trolleybuses and cabs.  The morning, which happened to be very sunny and warm, was strangely, unusually quite.  People walked and used bicycles; it all felt like a state holiday from my childhood.

morning 3

morning 2

Banners advertising the Olympic Relay could be seen everywhere.

banner 2

banner 1

banner 3

The streets were cleaned every hour, at least.

cleaner

Alcohol sales have been halted for the whole day. It was interesting to see notices posted on doors of two different supermarkets. The notices say that the order came from the region’s administration.

note 1

note 2
The forcible nature of this preventive measure makes me both unhappy and somewhat ashamed: do we have to ban alcohol in order to keep the people from trouble?  But with many grocery stores along the torch’s route and people congregating on the city’s central plaza for the concert and fireworks later in the evening I can see the logic behind the administration’s decision.  I mean, alcohol is banned from the Times Square New Year’s celebration, too.

The timing of the Relay has been posted in newspapers and on the web, the updates from the Relay's progress through the city could be seen on TV and, off course, on twitter.  So our wait for the Olympic Flame was a pleasant one.

The Relay is headed by traffic police cars.
relay 1

 Cars with official designs for the Sochi Olympics.

cars

Buses of Ingosstrakh Insurance Company and…

ingosstrakh bus

 … Coca Cola , both official partners of Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

coca cola bus

Finally, the bus carrying the Relay's participants.

bus

Here comes a torchbearer.  The only thing that I would want to add to this otherwise very well organized event is the announcement of torchbearers names and merits.  One could read about them in papers but it would be nice for both, the torchbearer and the public, I think, to hear it during the relay itself.

security

torch 1

torch 2

Here is the change of torchbearers.

light change

Well, one could say that it was a very good day — no traffic, no work, cleaned streets, no alcohol!  But seriously speaking, I liked this day not only for the calmness of streets (which, I am sure would feel strange if lasted longer) or the nice weather.  I was happy to see that it was well organized and that if you wanted to see the relay you could easily do so and be proud for your country and for your city. 

Beauty and Comfort of New Sidewalks

The beginning of Fall in Tula was marked by rain, cold and … massive repairs of sidewalks.  The city was changing old asphalt for new sidewalk tiles and doing it swiftly and with a lot of determination.  Numerous crews worked on various streets removing the old pavement completely, literally to the ground.  The city’s view expressed by various officials in the press was that putting new tile would improve comfort and safety (in rain and snow) of walking and even refine the city aesthetically.  An excellent idea, indeed, it would probably be even better if done gradually.  But in the center of the city the pavement has been removed on both sides of streets simultaneously making the process of walking if not impossible than certainly not comfortable for several weeks.

Hearing some people (especially women who wear high hills everyday) complain about impassible sidewalks made me side with the city’s administration.  I mean, we want comfort and safety but we can’t change our preferences in shoes for several weeks!  One can wear rubber boots, or better not walk altogether but drive, or, alternatively, use the road part of the street for walking (exactly what some were doing!)  But seriously, I think the city has done a good job and crews, working on both sides of the street, were able to finish their work earlier.  I have to admit, that this realization comes after the completion of the work, though.  

Here is a street with asphalt removed.

before

Same street, now with new tiles.

Tiled sidewalks do look much better now.  They do improve appearance of streets.  What is more important, they now have ramps.  Some of new pavements still have some minor defects but those could be, and hopefully will be, quickly eliminated.  Especially, since the tiles are produced at the Braer factory, a building materials manufacturer that has been opened in Tula region recently.

Gone with the asphalt were various dissimilar kiosks that used to sell cigarettes, soda, bread and other small goods, and old bus stops.

In their place – new bus stops.  Transparent and adorned with Tula's coat of arms decals.