Kamenka, Novosibirsk

The largest city in Siberia was built on the banks of the mighty Ob River. It also has its own hidden urban stream, the Kamenka. Its once-imposing gorge was filled in the 1960s and a highway built atop its former course two decades later.

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Adding to the insult, the river’s name was removed from the highway in 2007 and sets of luxury residential towers are popping up on undeveloped land that could have been used for daylighting the stream as a linear park. One hint of the Kamenka in the city is the Sibrevkom Street Bridge that spans the much shallower gorge that was carved by the Kamenka.

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Chyornaya River, Saint Petersburg

The imperial “northern capital” of Russia, Saint Petersburg is a city of many names such as Venice of the North for its many canals. On its northern side is a hidden waterway with a rich history whose name in English translates to “Black River.”

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The river has a place in history as a dueling site where Russia’s most famous poet was fatally wounded. That makes its name appropriate from a poetic viewpoint.

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Moscow’s Clean Ponds

When I teach art history, the top Russian artists in my syllabus are Ilya Repin and Isaac Levitan, whose countryside landscapes underscore the vastness of the world’s largest country. It’s a shame that I haven’t visited it since age seven and a return is long overdue. The last place where my family visited in Russia was its capital Moscow, city of more than 12 million residents.

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Once a tiny village, the city began to develop in 1156, when Yury Vladimirovich Dolgorukiy built a fortress (Kremlin) on the Moscow River and has since expanded in concentric circles to nearly a thousand square miles. Within the city’s borders are numerous hidden streams such as the polluted Yauza and the underground Neglinka.

In total, the number of hidden waterways within the city exceeds a hundred. For now, here’s the story of Chistye Prudy (Чистые пруды) or Clean Ponds, a park in the city’s center, a mile to the northeast of the Kremlin. Continue reading