“Astoria” Saint Petersburg

1-22-2018

In the white night – crimson crescent’s

Coming out in the blue.

Roams in ghostly-splendid essence,

Looks in Neva stream askew.

 

Secret thoughts’ fulfillment beckons,

I can see it in my sleep.

Does Good hide in you, I reckon,

Crimson crescent, quiet weep?..

When I travel the world and explore incredible places on my traveling map, I always have a desire to reward people by sharing stories about my great country. Normally those people do not have a clue about real Russia. They have no idea that you can actually spend all your life travelling around one country and, nevertheless, it will not be enough time to collect all of the pearls of this unbelievably long, stunning necklace that stretches for 10,000 kilometers from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka and that represents rich historical heritage. Even I am not aware of a tenth part of all of the country’s miracles though I’ve explored Russia a lot.

 

Definitely, it’s not that easy to choose one region or one city not mentioning choosing only one hotel. There will be many stories about Russia and I will tell you about dozens of unique hotels. And it is truly difficult to choose the first one that will become the beginning of the novel about Russia. But, anyway, I have to do this complicated choice.

I know that many foreigners associate Russia with Saint Petersburg. Rather from the political and administrative point of view, Russia is associated with Moscow, with Kremlin, but from the cultural point of view, I might say that Russian soul is associated with Petersburg. Unsurprisingly, UNESCO included historical center of Saint Petersburg to the World Heritage List. A starting point for getting to know Russia should be not just a hotel. It has to be the place that possesses a rich history, represents the country’s soul and importance of the culture. Such hotel should be the pride of the nation.

 

There are several hotels in Petersburg that are included to the rating of the best hotels in the world and I’m going to tell you about all of them. But there is one name that practically each of us knows and that name is associated with Saint-Petersburg, with Russia — luxurious hotel that represents the St. Petersburg Bohemia.

“Astoria” — is not just a hotel. Nowadays it is one of the symbols of Petersburg, which has been through everything together with its city. It was opened in 1912 and it went through the First World War and through the terrible siege of Leningrad together with the nation.

 

I decided to start this story with the work of Alexander Blok not without purpose. His poetry that he read in 1915 in Petersburg had opened the way for Sergei Yesenin who is probably the most “Russian” poet. His love to Russia was absolutely pure, he felt all of the contradictions and conflicts of the Russian nation, he felt the fragility and at the same time the complication of a Russian soul. All of this formed the basis of the lyric hero of Yesenin.

Я люблю тебя, родина кроткая!
А за что — разгадать не могу.
Весела твоя радость короткая
С громкой песней весной на лугу.

Despite the fact that the list of foreign guests of “Astoria” is enormous and there are a lot of interesting stories that this stunning hotel is proud of, I would like to describe this magnificent place from the point of view of Yesenin. He spent a lot of time at the halls of “Astoria” accompanied by Isadora Duncan, who found those halls as a center of the social life of Petersburg.

“Astoria” was being built from 1911 to 1912 under the leadership of Fyodor Lidval, a Russian-Swedish architect. It was considered as one of the most modern European hotels. The site was acquired by English corporation “Palace-Hotel”. On the one hand, the name was supposed to be sonorous and memorable; on the other hand, it was not supposed to sound like the majority of hotels – “Grand Hotel”, “Bristol”, “Grand Palace”, etc.

“Astoria” was named after fashionable hotels of New York, that were owned by Astor family.

On December 23d 1912 the great opening of the hotel took place and it became a huge event of a European scope. It is fair to say that “Astoria” started the year of great celebration of three hundredth anniversary of the Romanovs’ house and of course, it became one of the centers of a Petersburg social life.

 

“Astoria” was built in an era of technological progress and prosperity of European culture and it became the embodiment of the «belle epoque» style. The best world’s producers had been working on the “smart home” of that era, using the last technological and design trends.

Indeed, there were lot technological breakthroughs: automatic dust absorbent system that was developed by the Berlin company, lighting with wiring, cork soundproofing. There was a house cleaner call button in each room and even a telephone in some of them, which was a luxury of that epoch.

 

Interior and décor were exclusive as well: marble Salzburg columns, chandeliers from the Saxon bronze factory Wurzen. Bathrooms were decorated with ceramic tiles made in the Russian-Bohemian plant and the tableware was provided by the German porcelain factory of the brothers Bausher joint stock company. Classy giant panoramic windows on the first floor gave the opportunity for bohemian Astorian public to have a great view on the rest of St. Petersburg.“Astoria” was being built from 1911 to 1912 under the leadership of Fyodor Lidval, a Russian-Swedish architect. It was considered as one of the most modern European hotels. The site was acquired by English corporation “Palace-Hotel”. On the one hand, the name was supposed to be sonorous and memorable; on the other hand, it was not supposed to sound like the majority of hotels – “Grand Hotel”, “Bristol”, “Grand Palace”, etc.

“Astoria” was named after fashionable hotels of New York, that were owned by Astor family.

On December 23d 1912 the great opening of the hotel took place and it became a huge event of a European scope. It is fair to say that “Astoria” started the year of great celebration of three hundredth anniversary of the Romanovs’ house and of course, it became one of the centers of a Petersburg social life.

 

“Astoria” was built in an era of technological progress and prosperity of European culture and it became the embodiment of the «belle epoque» style. The best world’s producers had been working on the “smart home” of that era, using the last technological and design trends.

Indeed, there were lot technological breakthroughs: automatic dust absorbent system that was developed by the Berlin company, lighting with wiring, cork soundproofing. There was a house cleaner call button in each room and even a telephone in some of them, which was a luxury of that epoch.

 

Interior and décor were exclusive as well: marble Salzburg columns, chandeliers from the Saxon bronze factory Wurzen. Bathrooms were decorated with ceramic tiles made in the Russian-Bohemian plant and the tableware was provided by the German porcelain factory of the brothers Bausher joint stock company. Classy giant panoramic windows on the first floor gave the opportunity for bohemian Astorian public to have a great view on the rest of St. Petersburg.

The building itself represented the refinement and monumentality of Art Nouveau. The beveled corner of “Astoria” opened a stunning view of St. Isaac’s Square. The location was unique. Unsurprisingly, the hotel with wonderful rooms, winter garden, amazing restaurants and cafes, banqueting hall and library had become the best European hotel right after its opening.

 

After the first four years, “Astoria” made a huge profit and then the tough period of wars and revolutions started. The hotel went through all the difficulties together with the nation and it remained the permanent symbol of the city on the Neva river.

 

During the First World War the hotel became the “Petrograd Military Hotel” where officers of Russian army stayed. After the October Revolution “Astoria” became the “First House of the Petrograd Soviet” where the State officials with their families stayed. Then the hotel went through the terrible siege of Leningrad and it was used as a hospital at that time.

 

Fortunately, due to the popularity of the hotel it was saved during the Great Patriotic War. Adolf Hitler prohibited the destruction of “Astoria” as he planned to celebrate the capture of Leningrad there.

The hotel had been owned and managed by the Intourist for 70 years, but it started the 21st century as a part of amazing collection of Rocco Forte Hotels. “Astoria” was lucky to be the part of that chain because Rocco Forte Hotels was able to make a symbol of a place out of a simple hotel.The building itself represented the refinement and monumentality of Art Nouveau. The beveled corner of “Astoria” opened a stunning view of St. Isaac’s Square. The location was unique. Unsurprisingly, the hotel with wonderful rooms, winter garden, amazing restaurants and cafes, banqueting hall and library had become the best European hotel right after its opening.

 

After the first four years, “Astoria” made a huge profit and then the tough period of wars and revolutions started. The hotel went through all the difficulties together with the nation and it remained the permanent symbol of the city on the Neva river.

 

During the First World War the hotel became the “Petrograd Military Hotel” where officers of Russian army stayed. After the October Revolution “Astoria” became the “First House of the Petrograd Soviet” where the State officials with their families stayed. Then the hotel went through the terrible siege of Leningrad and it was used as a hospital at that time.

 

Fortunately, due to the popularity of the hotel it was saved during the Great Patriotic War. Adolf Hitler prohibited the destruction of “Astoria” as he planned to celebrate the capture of Leningrad there.

The hotel had been owned and managed by the Intourist for 70 years, but it started the 21st century as a part of amazing collection of Rocco Forte Hotels. “Astoria” was lucky to be the part of that chain because Rocco Forte Hotels was able to make a symbol of a place out of a simple hotel.

I might say that the distinctive feature of RF is the individuality of each hotel, its identity. Absolutely all of the hotels are different, they do not have similarities in design or décor. Each of the hotels has the unique features that unite it with the city where it’s located.

The reconstruction of “Astoria” after joining the Rocco Forte collection was done under the leadership of director of design Olga Polizzi. The hotel was not just reconstructed, it embodied in a new style, but at the same time, it managed to retain the historical heritage. “Astoria” acquired the features of Russian hospitability and it represented the strong connection with the great city — Saint Petersburg.

 

Sergei Yesenin always admired the Russian nature, especially the beauty of a countryside. Warm and light colors of hotel rooms, wood, flax – all of this represents the boundless beauty of our country’s nature. The hotel is luxurious, but there is no pomposity in it. This luxury is aimed to create such an atmosphere for the guests that will inspire them, that will help them to feel the connection with the place, with the great city and its soul.I might say that the distinctive feature of RF is the individuality of each hotel, its identity. Absolutely all of the hotels are different, they do not have similarities in design or décor. Each of the hotels has the unique features that unite it with the city where it’s located.

The reconstruction of “Astoria” after joining the Rocco Forte collection was done under the leadership of director of design Olga Polizzi. The hotel was not just reconstructed, it embodied in a new style, but at the same time, it managed to retain the historical heritage. “Astoria” acquired the features of Russian hospitability and it represented the strong connection with the great city — Saint Petersburg.

 

Sergei Yesenin always admired the Russian nature, especially the beauty of a countryside. Warm and light colors of hotel rooms, wood, flax – all of this represents the boundless beauty of our country’s nature. The hotel is luxurious, but there is no pomposity in it. This luxury is aimed to create such an atmosphere for the guests that will inspire them, that will help them to feel the connection with the place, with the great city and its soul.

There are 169 rooms in the hotel; 86 of them are suites. Several presidential suites, named after Russian composers, the royal suite with a balcony and the royal three-hundred-meter suite make up the richest collection of the Forte suites. I was lucky to stay at the presidential suite Shostakovich Suite and it was the best room I have ever stayed at.

 

The room is luxurious but at the same time it’s light and cozy. It gives you a feeling of staying at home. The whole floor is covered with light parquet, all furniture is exclusively made of wood, which creates an incredible coziness and at the same time amazes with its beauty and grace. Ceiling, walls, doors – all white. Along with wide windows, it fills the room with the light and some kind of a sunny mood.There are 169 rooms in the hotel; 86 of them are suites. Several presidential suites, named after Russian composers, the royal suite with a balcony and the royal three-hundred-meter suite make up the richest collection of the Forte suites. I was lucky to stay at the presidential suite Shostakovich Suite and it was the best room I have ever stayed at.

 

The room is luxurious but at the same time it’s light and cozy. It gives you a feeling of staying at home. The whole floor is covered with light parquet, all furniture is exclusively made of wood, which creates an incredible coziness and at the same time amazes with its beauty and grace. Ceiling, walls, doors – all white. Along with wide windows, it fills the room with the light and some kind of a sunny mood.

We arrived in St Petersburg with my son and we settled in our own bedrooms, which differed one from another. After our morning bath rituals, we gathered at the spacious living room where the coffee had been already served by that time.

The living room is wonderful. Wooden antique chests of drawers, magnificent table lamps and bronze figurines. Amazing table that can be served for the lunch of several people or for the romantic dinner of a couple.

 

There are a spacious wardrobe and a stunning hall with a huge mirror, bronze figurines and an antique black carved little table. Unlike everything else in the room, the hall welcomes guests with bright red and burgundy tones.

 

If you need to work calmly with no distractions, you can use a small library-office that has a quite casual interior design style. The perfect working atmosphere is created with the help of cozy coach and comfortable working table, and, of course, there is a collection of Russian and foreign literature.We arrived in St Petersburg with my son and we settled in our own bedrooms, which differed one from another. After our morning bath rituals, we gathered at the spacious living room where the coffee had been already served by that time.

The living room is wonderful. Wooden antique chests of drawers, magnificent table lamps and bronze figurines. Amazing table that can be served for the lunch of several people or for the romantic dinner of a couple.

 

There are a spacious wardrobe and a stunning hall with a huge mirror, bronze figurines and an antique black carved little table. Unlike everything else in the room, the hall welcomes guests with bright red and burgundy tones.

 

If you need to work calmly with no distractions, you can use a small library-office that has a quite casual interior design style. The perfect working atmosphere is created with the help of cozy coach and comfortable working table, and, of course, there is a collection of Russian and foreign literature.

It’s impossible not to mention an amazing collection of goods made of flax. I have never ever seen before such a good quality of flax in the hotel rooms. An English company “Volga Linen” has been providing flax to “Astoria” for more than 10 years. Linen curtains, bed linens, tablecloths, bedspreads: all of this not only create an incredible coziness, but also help to revive the ancient weaving skills, which is an important part of the heritage of Russia and the Volga region. The company deals with both famous factories and small sewing communities of the Volga region that produce hand-made goods using traditional sewing techniques.

 

A breathtaking view of St. Isaac’s Square and the cathedral, paintings of Russian artists, ancient engravings and photographs, personal service — all this complements the image of a magnificent guesthouse, in which everyone who visits St. Petersburg dreams to stay.It’s impossible not to mention an amazing collection of goods made of flax. I have never ever seen before such a good quality of flax in the hotel rooms. An English company “Volga Linen” has been providing flax to “Astoria” for more than 10 years. Linen curtains, bed linens, tablecloths, bedspreads: all of this not only create an incredible coziness, but also help to revive the ancient weaving skills, which is an important part of the heritage of Russia and the Volga region. The company deals with both famous factories and small sewing communities of the Volga region that produce hand-made goods using traditional sewing techniques.

 

A breathtaking view of St. Isaac’s Square and the cathedral, paintings of Russian artists, ancient engravings and photographs, personal service — all this complements the image of a magnificent guesthouse, in which everyone who visits St. Petersburg dreams to stay.

In Yesenin both angel and demon got along: he had a desire to relax under the tender sun of the Russian province, and at the same time the unrestrained desire to open the soul to the primordial Russian joy. So “Astoria” is exactly as Yesenin: along with cozy rooms, it offers several places where everyone can spend a quiet evening with a glass of your favorite drink or indulge themselves with culinary excesses in a noisy company.

Astoria Café is the main restaurant of the hotel. Dishes of Russian and French cuisine take us a century ago reminding of a stunning atmosphere of Russian balls and dinners. Wonderful views and interiors, great cuisine, photos from the scenes of the Mariinsky Theater: all of this help us to get to know St. Petersburg.

 

Lichfield Bar is very atmospheric. This incredible style is created with the help of photos of the great photographer Patrick Lichfield. He started his career, as he said when he was six years old — he took the photo camera for the first time in his life and then he never stopped to take photos. The heroes of his pictures were members of the royal family, actors, musicians and just ordinary people, but each of his photos, of course, is a world masterpiece.

 

There are famous photos with nude models and with the picturesque surroundings of London in the bar. The bar was named after the great photographer. Leather furniture, the interior design style in crimson and yellow colors, “live” jazz: all of this creates an incredible atmosphere that welcomes us 24 hours per day.

Rotonda Lounge one represents the tradition of a Russian bun-fight. This tradition was introduced to “Astoria” by the first director — Lui Teorie. A huge polished samovar is still in the same place as a century ago.

 

To conclude I would like to say that everything that I have described is just a part of the heritage of “Astoria”. I reckon that the uniqueness of the hotel is created with the help of thousands of stories and rumors of guests. And those stories are just a small part of all of the events that actually happened in “Astoria”.

 

Grigory Rasputin often visited the princess Dolgoruky at “Astoria”.

Sergei Yesenin with Isadora Duncan and poet Sergei Gorodetsky, Maxim Gorky with the science fictionist Herbert Wells often had meals in the restaurant of the hotel. Alexander Vertinsky considered “Astoria” as his home, and once he had been waiting for a free room for more than ten hours, but he did not dare to change the hotel.

 

In 1932, Mikhail Bulgakov spent a honeymoon here with Elena Nyurenberg, and the impression of the hotel was described in the immortal novel “Master and Margarita”.

Sergei Dovlatov spent a lot of time in “Astoria” and mentioned it his stories “Compromise”, “Suitcase”.

 

Sergei Mikhalkov, Vladimir Vysotsky, Sergei Diagilev, Vasily Aksyonov and many other great Russians sincerely loved this place and enjoyed its hospitality.

The jazz musician Vladimir Feiertag recalled that “Astoria” was also considered as the Masson Lodge: there were simply no other places to listen to decent jazz musicians besides the hotel.

Elton John, Madonna, certainly stayed at “Astoria”, coming with tours to St. Petersburg.In Yesenin both angel and demon got along: he had a desire to relax under the tender sun of the Russian province, and at the same time the unrestrained desire to open the soul to the primordial Russian joy. So “Astoria” is exactly as Yesenin: along with cozy rooms, it offers several places where everyone can spend a quiet evening with a glass of your favorite drink or indulge themselves with culinary excesses in a noisy company.

Astoria Café is the main restaurant of the hotel. Dishes of Russian and French cuisine take us a century ago reminding of a stunning atmosphere of Russian balls and dinners. Wonderful views and interiors, great cuisine, photos from the scenes of the Mariinsky Theater: all of this help us to get to know St. Petersburg.

 

Lichfield Bar is very atmospheric. This incredible style is created with the help of photos of the great photographer Patrick Lichfield. He started his career, as he said when he was six years old — he took the photo camera for the first time in his life and then he never stopped to take photos. The heroes of his pictures were members of the royal family, actors, musicians and just ordinary people, but each of his photos, of course, is a world masterpiece.

 

There are famous photos with nude models and with the picturesque surroundings of London in the bar. The bar was named after the great photographer. Leather furniture, the interior design style in crimson and yellow colors, “live” jazz: all of this creates an incredible atmosphere that welcomes us 24 hours per day.

Rotonda Lounge one represents the tradition of a Russian bun-fight. This tradition was introduced to “Astoria” by the first director — Lui Teorie. A huge polished samovar is still in the same place as a century ago.

 

To conclude I would like to say that everything that I have described is just a part of the heritage of “Astoria”. I reckon that the uniqueness of the hotel is created with the help of thousands of stories and rumors of guests. And those stories are just a small part of all of the events that actually happened in “Astoria”.

 

Grigory Rasputin often visited the princess Dolgoruky at “Astoria”.

Sergei Yesenin with Isadora Duncan and poet Sergei Gorodetsky, Maxim Gorky with the science fictionist Herbert Wells often had meals in the restaurant of the hotel. Alexander Vertinsky considered “Astoria” as his home, and once he had been waiting for a free room for more than ten hours, but he did not dare to change the hotel.

 

In 1932, Mikhail Bulgakov spent a honeymoon here with Elena Nyurenberg, and the impression of the hotel was described in the immortal novel “Master and Margarita”.

Sergei Dovlatov spent a lot of time in “Astoria” and mentioned it his stories “Compromise”, “Suitcase”.

 

Sergei Mikhalkov, Vladimir Vysotsky, Sergei Diagilev, Vasily Aksyonov and many other great Russians sincerely loved this place and enjoyed its hospitality.

The jazz musician Vladimir Feiertag recalled that “Astoria” was also considered as the Masson Lodge: there were simply no other places to listen to decent jazz musicians besides the hotel.

Elton John, Madonna, certainly stayed at “Astoria”, coming with tours to St. Petersburg.

Charitable balls became diplomatic parties, and nowadays fashion shows and awards ceremonies take place in “Astoria”.

The spirit of Russian nature, the cultural heritage of St. Petersburg, the greatest history of the century — all of this gives you a unique sense of belonging to Russian history and gives you the opportunity to enjoy the greatness and uniqueness of our country.Charitable balls became diplomatic parties, and nowadays fashion shows and awards ceremonies take place in “Astoria”.

The spirit of Russian nature, the cultural heritage of St. Petersburg, the greatest history of the century — all of this gives you a unique sense of belonging to Russian history and gives you the opportunity to enjoy the greatness and uniqueness of our country.

Pavel Manylov

Categories:Trips

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