Fancy a slab of marbled steak as street food? What about Shakespeare or Gogol performed with puppets? Welcome to Voronezh, the capital of Russia’s European region and one city of many representing the ‘New East.’ The area is made up of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Russia and Central Asia and is increasingly attracting adventurous tourists.
The Calvert 22 Foundation, a London-based non-profit organization whose mission is to support and share the contemporary culture and creativity of the New East, has recently released a travel app, accessible online as well as iPhone and Android, aimed at design-conscious, culturally-curious travellers, updated regularly with hotels, restaurants, museums, art venues, and hangouts.
The city guides feature places like Voronezh, considered Russia’s puppet capital by theatre critics, laid-back Sochi, cultural melting pot Kazan, and more obvious places like Moscow and St. Petersburg. Unlike most guides, you won’t be directed to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Instead, authors suggest places like the Aurora Cinema, the city’s first movie house, which retains its resplendent art deco interiors and today hosts live theatre, opera transmissions from other locations, and international films.
The app is simple and straightforward, listing cities alphabetically, most popular, and trending. In addition to essentials like addresses, opening hours, and contacts, authors provide first-hand insights about the vibe of a bar or restaurant. For example, Barak O’Mama, a bar and burger joint is described as a ‘one-time hipster Mecca that now attracts a wider audience.’ Read: tourists allowed. In Kazan, 820km east of Moscow, check out the Anti-Kremlin Café, a legendary establishment using its façade as a display space for anti-establishment expressions. Kazan, set on the Volga River, is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan. The local tram line has become an unofficial architectural tour bus, making a circular route through nearly all of the city’s neighbourhoods. The journey resembles a historical timeline, with pre-revolutionary buildings, post-constructivist, Brezhnev-style Soviet modernism, and the dormitory suburbs of the 1990s and 2000s via a Stalin-era city district, and cookie-cutter blocks of the Khrushchev era. Hopping on and off couldn’t be easier.
As the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution draws near in 2017, the app is a celebration of how far these current and former Communistic countries have come, from Voronezh’s must-see galleries in the art capital of the South to the resort-filled city of Sochi. The foundation will be adding more cities over the coming months. The Calvert journal offers more in-depth reporting for those who want to dig a little deeper.