Graphic designer, traveler, instagram explorer, Katya Kotlyar knows her home city inside out, and sees it as an artist would, as a beautiful backdrop for living.
Katya, tell us your story.
I spent my early years in Moskovsky District. But then, when I was 10 years old, our family moved to the city center, near Tavrichesky Garden [literally "Tauride Garden," derived from the historical name for Crimea, which was Tauris], and this is still where I live. I graduated from St. Petersburg State University, where I studied at the Faculty of Arts, with the goal of becoming a graphic designer. We were constantly making sketches, paintings, and sculptures, and our teachers often took us to their studios on Vasilievsky Island. Usually they were in attics or top floors. There is definitely a special artistic atmosphere on the island, like the pedestrian zone of the 6th line, the main university building and Repin street (the narrowest street in St. Petersburg, it was named for Ilya Repin, the great Russian painter).
After my graduation in 2010, for five years I worked at different places: in the Committee of Urban Planning and Architecture, an advertising agency, for the Sochi Olympics, and for an American IT-company. Since January of 2017 I have been freelancing.
“I’m not a blogger!” – I would love to buy a hoodie with that printed on it, because I don’t earn money from my website or Instagram page. I don’t like to go to the same places, as I am always eager to explore. You can find all my discoveries very easily by using the Instagram hashtag #piterkotlet. I love to make listicles – the best coffee shops, best St. Petersburg suburbs, the most beautiful Hermitage rooms. But I don’t think that people should follow my listicles one hundred percent! Take something from me, something from another local, and then create your own unique list.
I think that it’s essential to read about any place before you travel there. Make a list of things that particularly interest you. For example I don’t recommend spending the whole day at the Hermitage, but instead concentrate on the halls and eras which interest you. Probably foreigners will be more impressed by the State Russian Museum and its collection of the Russian art. Choose certain sites and don’t try to run around everywhere. I have lived in St. Petersburg my entire life, and I love it for the opportunity to find something new each time I go outside.
For tourists I would recommend the Winter Canal. If I am nearby, I plan my route accordingly, so I can pass this place. It's a pity I didn’t walk on the frozen rivers and canals this winter, because it’s the best way to come out onto the Neva River. You can also get this feeling if you go on a sup-surfing tour. Plus you can view at it from the Hermitage, from the passage-bridge that connects the Old Hermitage and Hermitage Theater.
I love Tavrichesky Garden, because it is so close to my house (laughs). I think this is the best park in the city, because there is nothing there. It is just a beautiful garden, planned in the late eighteenth century, and there are no shops here, no boat rentals, just one café. Of course, it’s a pity that there are not enough toilets and no fountains with drinking water. People come here and do whatever they want, especially in the summer. Luckily, no one tells them: “Keep off the grass” [lying on the grass is prohibited in most St. Petersburg parks]. It is a perfect city park: people celebrate weddings or birthdays here, play the drums, organize picnics, and cycle around. It’s always full of life for me!
The hidden gem of St. Petersburg for me is House #9 on Bolshaya Konyushennaya Street.
It’s not very visible, is half empty, and greets you with a dark entrance stuffed with advertisements and different things. But then you step inside and see the grand white staircase. Go on the top, walk around, there is some kind of Asian food cafe, a beauty salon and shops. But if you go to any room on the 3rd floor, you will find perfectly preserved historical ceilings. It's an amazing place. All you have to do is look up.
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