Tula’s Central Maternity Hospital: Messages of Happiness and Joy

The area near Tula’s Kremlin, in the very center of the city, changed dramatically over the years.  However, here you can still find structures dating from the 19th century.  One of such buildings years ago belonged to a merchant, Ivan Lomov.  Before the Revolution of 1917 the house, at some point Lomov’s family estate, was given by Lomov’s daughter to a charity and turned into an orphanage.  At that time the house had only two stories.  The house got its third story in 1930.  Now Tula’s Central Maternity Hospital, officially called Tula’s Maternity Hospital No. 1 is located here.


A sign describing the house and giving the reference to Tulagid (Tula Guide), a mobile cultural navigator, is on the wall near the central entrance:

roddom table

We can see that thematically relevant bas-reliefs grace the hospital’s beautiful classical facade. (Picture from http://myslo.ru/city/reviews/places/lepota)

roddom fronton

The hospital itself has a rich history.  It opened in 1926 and since then its walls witnessed many miraculous and paramount moments, I’m sure.  Walking by the hospital in this strictly pedestrian part of an old street you always see banners that happy fathers hang on fences opposite the hospital’s windows and messages that they write on the asphalt below.

These particular banners read: "Lilechik, thank you for the daughter! I love you very much!" and "Aniuta, thank you for the son!!!"

roddom zabor

I think that fathers and relatives use the canvas of the street because they’re not allowed to bring any such banner into the hospital itself.  I assume that visiting hours may be limited, too.

I have in my mind an image from my Soviet childhood when fathers or relatives were not allowed into maternity wards or hospitals at all and would meet their families only at time of discharge.  They would stand outside and shout to their wives (oh, the time without cell phones!) who would then try to show babies through closed windows.  They would write messages on small pieces of paper torn from school notebooks and try to give it to hospital personnel to pass to their wives.  At that time the maternity hospital was like a fortress and no matter how the birth went you had to spend there at least a week.

Now the rules changed, although they vary between hospitals and even between hospital’s divisions.  Now you can choose a maternity hospital, if you want, you can have your partner present at birth, you can have your baby staying with you or not  etc.

The times changed but a happy father and messages to new mothers remain.  Some of the messages that you see when passing Central Maternity Hospital make you smile, some are more serious, some are hand-made and others are products of a print shop but they all transfer a sense of celebration and extreme joy that is usually associated with any maternity ward.  I always smile when I see these.  I try to imagine these people and their babies.  And every time I feel privy to some miracle, unexpected, and because of that even more precious.    

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


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.


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)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Old Wooden Houses

Despite the changes in Tula’s canvas throughout the last century and more recently, there still exist whole areas in the heart of the city that have preserved their appearance almost completely.  There are several streets in the center of the city that are almost totally comprised of old wooden town houses.  Sergei Gusev, a historian of Tula whose books I have mentioned in my earlier posts, writes that in pre-revolutionary times these quarters have been favored by the city’s professionals such as lawyers and doctors.  To this day many of these houses still stand unaltered.  And although some look unpopulated, some have been restored by new owners and others are neighbors to an occasional office or a big apartment complex constructed recently, an atmosphere of an old city remains here.



An old water pump.






A reflection of a new building constructed across the street.



Old gardens are in bloom every Spring here.








Tula Landscape: Unplanned Eclecticism

It has been a very long time since my last post to this journal! During this time spring has finally arrived, although belatedly this year. It snowed and then rained for several days making the sidewalks basically impassible. Then the snow started to melt away really quickly leaving rivers and lakes on city’s streets.

One day I was waiting for a bus that was late so it gave me more time for observation. It was really a fine day, water was running down streets, glistening in the spring sun, cleaning crews were trying to pick up the remaining piles of dirty snow, their special snow-picking machines looking like huge grasshoppers; cars, mostly muddy, were stuck in traffic, small taxi buses were speeding up and quickly stopping to unload their passengers; unhurried trolley buses were slowly floating through the morning streets and streetcars were trilling sharply to the cars that blocked the rails. And the canvas for this optimistic chaos was the similarly busy character of the city’s landscape, mainly its planning and architecture.



I already mentioned in one of the earlier posts that walking in Tula reminds me of archeology, or, to be more precise, of those cross-sections that are often used to illustrate archeological excavations. There you often see several levels of landscape, on top of each other, several time periods compressed in one spot. This is the feeling I often get being in Tula where pre-revolutionary wooden houses, apartments built in Khrushchev’s era, some shapeless creations developed recently and construction sites all coexist on one block. Undoubtedly, similar combinations exist in urban landscapes everywhere in the world but here centuries, styles, colors, and details not only converge but often collapse into each other creating an effect of stylistic disorder.

A block of pre-revolutionary buildings on the left faces a newly developed shopping mall and an apartment complex on the right.
In the background is a nine story residential building typical of later Soviet years.

A modern high-rise towers over an apartment house built in the 1950s (on the right).  Across the street is a construction site of a hotel and old merchant rows.

A certain disharmony in the city’s look is rooted in the fact that in Russia historical changes often brought different directions in urban aesthetics and, as a result, dissimilar approaches to architectural design. During the twentieth century alone the landscape of the city changed several times, first, with the destruction of many churches and cathedrals, then with the development of the city’s center and of course with the development of new housing. For example, several old streets in the center of Tula which housed rows of merchant stalls have been annihilated in the 1970s in order to clear the space for Lenin’s plaza and the building for the city’s and the region’s administration. Whole areas have been cleared to make way for one of Tula’s large avenues – Krasnoarmeisky (The Red Army) prospekt. (To be fair – annihilation of old wooden houses started before the Soviet times and is more of a historical, rather than political, event. In Moscow, for example, small wooden houses were giving way to bigger, multistoried apartment buildings in the first decade of the 20th century, to the dismay of some people. Marina Tsvetaeva, a poet native to Moscow, among others, was lamenting Moscow’s changing nature.)

When I was writing about Moscow in the 20th century I noticed that governmental position towards urban development has always two sides – it must address the strategy of new city development while dealing with the old, already existing architectural “funds”. I believed that the balance between these two segments is always an indicator of the state policies in general. Of course, any city’s development always has its opponents and proponents, but mostly it is a sign of progress (or at least a historical progression.) Unfortunately, in Soviet times ideology or the pure need for housing often prevailed over the harmony of architectural integration. And if Stalin’s position on urban development combined the beauty and the comfort (with the emphasis on the beauty, I believe), then Khrushchev’s approach to urban aesthetics was based on the utilitarian approach to the city’s development in general and architectural design per se. Similar “utilitarianism” happened in more recent history when economic opportunities in urban development, scarce budgets, greed or bad taste did not leave any place for beauty in architectural design.

As a result, today in Tula we see two to three story apartment buildings built in the 1940s and 1950s, five story khrushchevkas built in the sixties and seventies out of construction blocks, their better brick variants built in the seventies and eighties, nine story complexes, built either of blocks or brick, square boxes of new offices developed in the last decade, new apartment complexes – orange and yellow brick facades, often with towers on roofs.


An old building in the center used to be a regular apartment house, according to Alexander Lepekhin, a historian.  It has been rebuilt in the beginning of the 20th century to incorporate some elements of gothic style.  Now its neighbors are an apartment house constructed in the 1980s, a high-rise built recently (on the right) …

…and a smaller wooden town house that somehow survived.

Church of Alexander Nevsky has been completed in 1886 and has been restored in recent years.  Unfortunately, the orange brick of the apartment building in the background is in true dissonance with the cathedral's design.  Hopefully, mirror panels of an office building on the right would be more subdued, when the building is completed.

An arch of an apartment house built in the early 1950s gives way to a typical five story residential khrushchevka.

Interestingly, such eclecticism in design and city planning is often amplified by a certain cultural or, probably, historic inconsistency. It is sometimes strange to see advertising or logos of modern companies on old buildings that house them.


Town house of Grechikhin, a Tula's famous merchant, has been built in 1912.  Now it houses offices and stores.


This often ornate collection has, thankfully, several pleasant features: there still exist old prerevolutionary buildings, structures erected in the fifties (I’ll talk about them later) and, at least in the development of the center that I see now, there clearly exist a tendency for a new architectural thought which tries to harmonize the new developments with the historical areas of the city’s center. Whether and to what degree it is successful is another story, but at least there is an attempt (and I guess it must be the part of both the developer and the city’s administration) to preserve the city’s cultural heritage.

Spring Snowstorm

The last weekend’s snowstorm affected Eastern Europe and Western Russia. It set records and was often called “unprecedented” in the news. To Tula, like to many other cities and towns in Europe, Ukraine, Belorussia and Russia the storm brought blizzard conditions, gusty winds and a lot of snow.
alley figure

The city felt quieter, calmer with fewer cars out.

Because this particular storm was big and mainly because it happened to pass us in the last week of March, it sparked a lot of witty remarks about the weather in general and this year’s never-ending winter in particular. Jokes such as “It’s 53rd of February”, or “Happy New Year”, or “The National Weather Service’s special offer: Survive three months of winter, get one month free” (kp.ru) quickly proliferated on the Internet making the weather not only tolerable but even enjoyable.
dkz sun

The storm made the city look better under the clean cover of the sparkling snow.
old houses path sun

Special, spring-like blue of the sky, spiky shadows that trees throw on the ground and the brightness of the snow offset the imperfections of the big industrial town.
monument snow


As a postscript to the previous entry – new containers for the sand appeared on Tula’s central streets. I have to say that they look nice, modern and, what is probably more important, utilitarian. And although small piles of sand on street corners look more picturesque, these yellow containers are definitely an improvement.

March. Ice is Everywhere and Spring is in the Air.

The transition of February to March in Tula is not the most exciting period. It can be boring and gloomy, with grey thaw, overwhelming news about flu epidemics, and news reports on what food has bigger amount of vitamins needed in order to overcome the pre-Spring depression. On these days, it is rather difficult to find any poetics in patches of black ice on sidewalks, dirty snow with sooty-looking spots and polka dots of dog poop, buses enveloped in clouds of wet freezing snow and exhaust or thawed patches revealing disheveled brown grass and last Fall’s leaves.

But the first days of the Spring can also be sunny and frosty. Then the icy sidewalks begin to sparkle, and walking becomes almost pleasant.
Ice road

It usually snows here a lot, not necessarily every day, but repeatedly. When it snows, it can continue for several days so eventually snow accumulates and turns into ice. Street cleaners, both municipal as well as private businesses try to clear snow and then later split the thick coat of ice on the sidewalks. Also, sand is used to make the sidewalks less slippery. Every morning a big truck with sand comes and a worker puts several buckets of sand on corners of avenues to be used later in the day by the street cleaners.

Eventually, the ice comes off, but nevertheless, walking may still be rather difficult and tricky, the key is to lean forward slightly and making careful steps try not to fall. (However, you see a lot of women of all ages walking freely on icy sidewalks in high hills.) The ice on the streets is a perennial trait of a town in Central Russia in the winter. I remember this problem from my childhood; in fact for us, children, it was one of the exciting things in the winter – we would slide on the most glassy patches and even go skating on some of the icy streets. I’ve recently read in the book of history of Tula (written by a local historian S. Gusev) that skating on the city’s central street was popular among citizens in the beginning of the twentieth century.

Amazingly, streets themselves – the road parts – are absolutely free of ice. I see it as a very big improvement, as I remember how sometimes it used to be difficult to drive. Now it looks like two seasons magically placed together – wintery sidewalks and summer-like roads; walking on the icy sidewalk makes you wish you were a car!

Another interesting winter trait is icicles.
Old House Icicles in Tula

On warmer days the sun melts the snow on the roofs and icicles appear.
Apartment Building Icicles in Tula, Russia

They are removed (broken off) by crews of municipal workers on cherry-pickers. Newer co-op buildings usually hire professional climbers to do the job.
Cleaning Snow off the Roof

But on sunny days you look past signs on buildings that say “Danger: Icicles Falling”, stop and look up and see glittering spikes (usually you just swear under your breath and dock as icicles do fall on people, despite the city’s continuous efforts to take them off of the roofs.)

It’s the beginning of March and it’s been snowing today yet again. But the spring is in the air. The workers have been trimming trees’ branches on city’s streets during past two weeks.

Trimming the Trees in Tula, Russia

I guess this is done in order to maintain the trees healthy. This work has to be done before April, when the tree sap begins to flow. Neatly collected piles of cut branches wait to be picked up.
photo (6)

Trees look ugly now, their long braches turned to bare stomps. But we all know that soon, even before we get tired of this seemingly never-ending winter, new green leaves will appear.