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Preface

 

 

It happened before A.D.)…

I had another life in the past, not in retail, not in interpreting, not in blogging, not in charity, but in IT. That was my primary call, not maybe the most interesting, but a primary call in accordance to my education it was…

In 1999 I left John Fairfax Pty Ltd, after 10 years of working there and started my work for Compaq/HP. Good money, pager, laptop, Cabcharges from Randwick to Castle Hill, Tandem Computers courses in Melbourne with the future trips to Houston (HP Kingdom) – the money was good, life was also good but stressful. My partner just started to make progress in his new online business, we were so busy, that we almost did not see each other. Rich we were not, but it was the life above the middle class level for us to enjoy. But, this life had its downside. If you knew many women working in IT/Computer Industry in Australia at the start of the noughties, you were clearly in the minority. It was very hard to penetrate the male dominated culture in the work environment. HP had a female CEO, but that was where equality really ended…

IT work environment
IT Work Environment

After 18 months of working there, I had enough. I had been working through 14 hours days, and no pay was enough to compensate for this slavery…Thankfully, I was made redundant in December 2001, just an hour before the office Christmas Party. I had to be accompanied out by a psychologist hired by HP, in case people would become suicidal. That was the rule for all System Managers – during the “heart to heart” with the manager, somebody else would wipe out your passwords and make sure you never existed.

I never failed in my life – it felt for me, like failing at the exams. At that moment, in my wild catasrophing imagination, I saw, all of my life pleasures not supported anymore, including Pilates classes, the cleaner, and going out. In short, all my privileges were to be annulled. Without my big chunk of a salary, we could not afford to maintain the lifestyle we enjoyed. On the following Monday, I went to the employment agency paid by HP, and found out that my position of one person was taken already by not one, by not two, but by three sturdy guys from the other system management areas of HP. It was called centralisation of the tasks and cutting the costs.The employment agency gave me an advice “if you want to stay in the industry, don’t rock the boat, but if, after 5 weeks (my payout by HP) you don’t find a job, you need to hire a lawyer.” In five days I found a job. It was like God (him/herself) answered my prayers all at once. The role offered, entailed less stress, fewer responsibilities and a better pay. I was to look after HP team working on their project for OPTUS, including looking after those three sturdy guys. One of them was particularly mortified, as the last time I met him, he asked me to make him a cup of coffee. He also confided) in me that he liked his coffee the same way he liked his girls to be – white and sweet…HP expressed their concern about my potential lack of objectivity, but my new employer clearly enjoyed the drama. Having re-established my new animal kingdom position and having restored my privileges, I took a deep breath and cut my losses. There were none, I retained the cleaner, my Pilates classes, we were able to go out as before, I had 3 remaining weeks before I started my new job. What would the normal person do in my circumstances?

Roma

We arrived

Together with my daughter we held a military type council, and decided where to go between NY and Italy. Without any further ado we went to Italy just for 10 days in a week’s time. We flew in to Da Vinci airport in Roma on the 11th of January .2001 It was a crispy winter morning, which completely eliminated the smog of Roma. On the first instant, we were enveloped by two distinctive smells in the air – one, of the aroma of coffee, and another one of the aroma of an almond paste used in cornetti (The Italian Croissants).

Ten years prior to this visit, we stayed in Roma for two years as refugees. The city itself, Italy and the Italians were very dear to our hearts, and still are.

The train from Fuimicino took us to Termini via the EUR (Mussolini’s Fascist Third Empire Project, to the centre of the city. The colours changed from teutonic greys and whites to the typical Roma’s pinks and browns and reds. It made the city look warm and feel warm.

EUR, Rome
EUR, Rome
Streets of old Rome
Streets of Old Rome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We reached our little hotel in via Del Tritone only to be told to wait until 2pm. We had cappuccino with “never ever bad” cornetti and had a huge walk. By the time we reached the hotel we were ready to sleep, only to wake up for the bowl of pasta in the nearby trattoria. The good thing about Roma, if you know it well, there are so many non-touristy places to go to for a bowl of pasta…Or for a slice of pizza.

Pizza al taglio, Rome
Pizza Al taglio, Rome
Cornetti with cappuccino
Cornetti With Cappuccino

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Passatella, Rome
La Passatella, Rome
Bruschetta Romana
Bruschetta Romana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Il cibo e sempre buono a Roma quando si sa dove andare a mangiare.” You always eat well in Rome, when you know where to eat.

The Tea Rooms

We discovered in the next 4 days we stayed in Rome, that the only salvation from a bitterly cold weather was to hop from one café to another for a cup of tea, or a cup of coffee, or for a bathroom. If we hopped in for a bathroom, we then needed to buy another coffee and the cycle of coffee/tea/bodily functions/bathroom would become endless. It helped us to find out that the city was not only concentrated on its coffee, but on its tea as well. The culture of tea started in the late 19th century after the English tourists started to travel the world. The most famous Tea Room in Rome is called Babington’s after one of two English sisters and is made in the style of art nouveau – Italian Liberty. Before Babington’s arrival, the tea was sold in Italy only in the pharmacies.

The shop was founded in 1893 by Isabel Cargill and Anne Marie Babington, two English women, with the intention of catering for the many English-speaking people in Rome. At the time of the founding of Babington’s, tea in Italy could be bought only in pharmacies. Babington’s is located on the ground floor of an 18th-century building from which one can see the Spanish Steps, the staircase of the Trinità dei Monti church. Babington’s survived two world wars, the advent of fast food and various economic crises, and has become a favourite meeting place for the writers, actors, artists and politicians.

Cafe Babignton's
Cafe Babignton’s
Antico Caffe Greco, Rome
Antico Caffe Greco, Rome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most beautiful discovery for us was Caffe Greco near Babington’s. It is a historic landmark café, which opened in 1760 on Via dei Condotti, the most fashionable now, street in Rome. It is the oldest bar in Rome and within Italy only Caffè Florian in Venice (established in 1720) is older. The café was named after its Greek (don’t tell me!)) owner, who opened it in 1760. Historic figures including Stendhal, Goethe, Nikolay Gogol,  Byron, Franz Liszt, Keats, Henrik Ibsen, Hans Christian Andersen, Felix Mendelssohn, Morrissey, Wagner, Levi and even Casanova have had coffee there. The prices are above the skies,L’Antico Caffe Greco with all it’s connotations looks unmistakably, well… French, but is worth going there for the atmosphere, cakes, tea, history and …the bathroom…Nikolay Gogol and Casanova amazed me the most.  What were the most patriotic Russian writer and the most unrelenting heartthrob doing there?

Vatican, Saint Peter’s, Protestanism

We took a guided tour to Vatican. We were on the bus with the people from all over the world, mostly of them of the catholics. For the different reasons we loved the tour together. I personally, did not like the little gift shops, where the bus would stop every 5 minutes. Most of the stuff was badly made, some of the souvenirs were even made in China.

I should mention, it was our number “numerous” visit to Vatican. We have been there before. We attended the Christmas Mass in 1988, the audience with then Pope John Paul II. He blessed us in Russian language, he blessed the others and in the languages they spoke, and he knew, altogether, 28 languages. By the way, do not believe any greedy tourist sites.The Papal audience is free of charge! You only have to pick up the tickets from the Swiss soldiers, guarding Vatican.

The Pope shakes hands with the Swiss Guard
The Pope Shakes Hands With One Of The Swiss Guards

Vatican and St Peter’s will never stop to amaze me. The art, the faith, the soul behind the masterpieces, and of course, the history. It is breathtaking to say the least.

St. Peter’s Basilica took 120 years to complete due to the greed, corruption, fires and “comradeship” inside the Vatican. At one stage, the financing of the construction was helped with the provision of the indulgences.

A German Augustinian priest, Martin Luther, wrote to Archbishop Albrecht arguing against him “selling of indulgences”. He also included his “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences”, which came to be known as The 95 Theses. This became a factor in starting the Reformation, the birth of Protestantism.

The Romans also have an expression about something taking ages to complete:they say – “Come La Fabbrica Di San Pedro”  – “Like St. Peter’s factory” But…by hook or by crook or by sheer faith something so divinely beautiful was created, that it is still beyond our understanding. Of course, Rafael and Michelangelo helped a lot too.

Christmas Eve Mass,Saint Peter's Basilica
Midnight Christmas Mass, Saint Peter’s Basilica

Sant’Anna Dei Palafrenieri, Caravaggio, Leonardo Da Vinci

On that day, we went to Sant’Anna dei Palafrenieri Church located beside the Porta Sant’Anna (Saint Anne’s Gate), an international border crossing between Vatican City State and Italy. It is located on the right hand side from the exit from St Peter’s square after the Vatican post office. By the way, all the letters sent from the Vatican post office, carrying the Vatican stamp, always reach their destination by some divine intervention. You have to trust me. I cannot guarantee Australian Post delivery considering the times we are living in. Sant’Anna dei Palafrenieri (The Pope’s Grooms) Church is a very modest church still within the the territory of Vatican. It was built during two centuries, not due to the complexity of the architecture, but due to the squabbles in the Papal Court. Sant’Anna (Hannah) was the mother of Santa Maria, the grandmother of Jesus. In 1603, the Archonfraternity (Fraternity of the Papal Grooms) commissioned Caravaggio to paint a picture of Saint Anne’s for the altar. Painted in 1605-1606, the painting “Madonna and Child with St. Anne” was briefly (for one months) exhibited in the church of Saint Anne in the Vatican. It was subsequently sold to Cardinal Scipione Borghese, and now hangs in his palazzo, presently the museum of the Galleria Borghese. The Cardinal displayed this picture only in his private gallery during his life. I believe, the Church tried to get rid of the painting in a hurry. It shows the darker side of the old Caravaggio and his quite violent nature…Before he died, Maestro had a death warrant issued by the Pope for murdering someone in a drunken brawl. The picture also shows

1) Sant’Anna as a wrinkled unkempt old grandmother

2) A little Baby Jesus stomping on a snake with his bare feet with two adults watching and supervising – where were the Children Protection Services?

3) A little Baby Jesus is portrayed with uncircumcised penis (was he not Jewish after all?)

4) Santa Maria is pictured with the biggest cleavage ever shown on the religious pictures. There were rumours at the time, Caravaggio’s model was a prostitute…

Caravaggio’s painting is very dissimilar to Leonardo Da Vinci’s portrayal of St Anne and Baby Jesus (displayed in Louvre). In Leonardo’s version, Jesus is playing with an innocent lamb, and Santa Maria is wearing decent clothes. She behaves like a good mother to Jesus, when trying to restrain Baby Jesus playing with an innocent lamb. On a closer look, however, Santa Maria is sitting on Sant’Anna’s lap. Why? Nobody knows. Sigmund Freud tried later to re-interpret the picture, as a perfect portrayal of Leonardo’s passive homosexuality. Also, in my opinion, Sant’Anna is dressed better and looks younger than her daughter, which is unnecessary.

In short, Sant’Anna was not an easy character to depict. But the real reason of our visit to the church, was the fact that the Father Confessor (Il Padre Confessore) of 10 years ago, spoke Russian and was originally from Odessa. We checked on him. We had a lovely chat, it was so comforting to re-discover our Rome…

 

St Anne with the Virgin and the Child Embracing a Lamb by Leonardo Da Vinci
St Anne With The Virgin And The Child Embracing a Lamb by Leonardo Da Vinci
Madonna And Child With St Anne by Caravaggio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interior of St Anne's church
Interior of Sant’ Anna Dei Palafrenieri, Vatican

 

 

The Walks Of Rome And How To Cross The Roads In Rome

My daughter and I completed everything in our itinerary in Roma in the first 4 days. We walked from Vatican to Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, to Basilica of San Giovianni in Laterano (all three Churches, belonging to Vatican, not to the State, but outside the international borders of Vatican). We also walked from Via Veneto, via Villa Borghese, via Villa Medici and finally ended our walk in Piazza De Spagna (2 minutes from our hotel in via Del Tritone). We went to the Botanical Garden which is the oasis of tranquility in a forever hectic city. We went to Colosseum and to the Catacombs both Jewish and Christian. I always thought, the catacombs were the hiding place from the religious persecution. The real reason behind the catacombs was quite benign and practical, the lack of burial space. The Roman authorities did not allow the people of monotheistic religions to bury their dead within the walls of the city. Only cremation was allowed, which people of the monotheistic religions considered pagan. Via Appia Antica, where catacombs are, is beautiful, the Catacombs are beautiful too. The last burial in there was in 1920. My advice: when walking in Rome beware of the absence of the pedestrian crossings, or rather of their presence, which does not change the drivers’s behaviours. They never stop to let you cross. The modern Romans are usually crossing the road when the priests or nuns do. It is a bad sign, apparently, to kill the clergy.

Via Appia Antica, Rome
Via Appia Antica, Rome

The Greatest Miracle Of The Roman Trip, 2001

We left our Sunday free of any itineraries. No reason… 11 years before we were saved by one remarkable woman from a Jewish charity called American Joint, when we were in the refugee camps. She saved us momentarily by one signature of her ballpoint pen when she allowed us to change from waiting for US to Australia (we waited for Australia afterwards for almost 2 years). She was also an inspiration for the eternal style of short skirts and thick tights and ballet shoes. I became blond because of her!) She cannot be named for certain reason, but for years, I tried to locate her. I called all of the caseworkers I worked for, in USA, UK and Australia, and no, nobody knew her whereabouts. On that Sunday morning, the 14th of January 2001, we went to the Great Rome Synagogue, which also served as a Jewish Museum.

Great Synagogue Rome
Great Synagogue, Rome

It was not like that 11 years before. The synagogue of 10 years ago, was just a synagogue and a centre of the old Jewish Ghetto.

A little bit of history: The Great Synagogue in Rome was not built when Rome was built, even though the history of Jewish community of Rome goes back to the 2nd century BC. The Jewish community of Rome is the oldest uninterrupted Jewish community in the world outside of Israel. The present synagogue was constructed shortly after the unification of Italy in 1870, when the Kingdom of Italy captured Rome and the Papal States ceased to exist. The Roman Ghetto was demolished and the Jews were granted citizenship. The building which had previously housed the ghetto synagogue in a single building was demolished, and the Jewish community began making plans for a new and impressive building.

Designed by Vincenzo Costa and Osvaldo Armanni (two Catholics), the synagogue was built from 1901 to 1904 on the banks of the Tiber, overlooking the former ghetto. The eclectic style of the building makes it stand out, even in a city known for notable buildings and structures. This attention-grabbing design was a deliberate choice made by the community at the time who wanted the building to be a visible celebration of their freedom and to be seen from many vantage points in the city.

Entrance to the Jewish Ghetto, Rome
Entrance to the Jewish Ghetto, Rome

The elderly lady, working in the museum as a guide, miraculously, recognised me, since we both worked together with the Soviet refugees. She could not give me “Rafaella”s phone number, since it was against all security rules, but she gave me another person’s phone number. Another person, could not help me either. Even though, she remembered me, it was all again, “against the rules”. She could not give me the phone number of an absolutely Catholic guard “Ferdinando” who worked for the Roman Jewish community for 30 years. They had to “protect his identity”. By the time I made all my calls,  my legs carried me across Ponte Fabricio (the oldest bridge in Rome) from the Ghetto to Trastevere.

We went to see Santa Maria in Trastevere:

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches of Rome. The basic floor plan and wall structure of the church date back to the 340s, and much of the structure to 1140-43. T A Christian house-church was founded here about 220 by Pope Saint Callixtus I on the site of the Taberna meritoria, a refuge for retired soldiers. The area was given over for Christian use by the Emperor Alexander Severus when he settled a dispute between the Christians and tavern-keepers, saying,  “I prefer that it should belong to those who honour God, whatever be their form of worship.” The lesson is that every religion should remember being in minority and refrain from persecuting the other minorities…

 

Santa Maria In Trastevere
Santa Maria In Trastevere

We had a beautiful lunch at Enoteca Ferrara in Trastevere to kill the hunger and to kill the time to go to Standa (Italian version of Target with groceries) which re-opens every day after siesta at 3:30pm. Why? I don’t know!!! I was still pretty much convinced we would see “Raffaella” on that day.

 

Lunch At Enoteca Ferrara
Lunch At Enoteca Ferrara

It did not take us even two minutes to get inside  the warmth of the commercial kingdom to see “Rafaella” of 10 years after, trying one of the coats on sale there. We hugged each other – I hugged her so tight that I thought I would break her ribs (I am in no danger of my ribs ever threatened by hugging) My daughter maybe thought, I was a clairvoyant/who married a devil for one day. The meeting was incredible, since then I try to trust my gut feeling, instead of trusting my gut wrenching fear which overcomes me sometimes…I need to invent a gut listening stethoscope…

Friends Hugging (From Downy's Advertisement)
Friends Hugging (From Downy’s Advertisement)

We had a proper reunion with “Rafaella” two days after, when we discovered she had a new marriage and another beautiful girl addition to her two other daughters. We tried to bring everything Australian for this reunion, and discovered that a good Australian wine in Rome was much cheaper than back home even if we tried to convert the price in Euro and back three times. Phew, that was it for Rome, was not it? Venezia and Verona are coming next week!

My life miracles – Roma, Venezia, Verona

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luxury-consumption

An International consulting firm, Brain & Company, estimated that the luxury market was valued at $274 billion in 2014, and was set to grow even bigger to a whopping $280 billion by 2015. And just like only a small percentage of the world wealthiest people make up most of the world’s wealth, only a handful of the most expensive clothing designers make up the bulk of the luxury clothing market.

Along with being a form of expression, fashion has always been a way for people to showcase their status. Much like the size of your house or the price tag on your car, the designer that you are wearing says much more about you than just where you shop. It also says a lot about your level of income, your style and taste levels, whether you prefer funky cool, or sleek sophistication…

I picked up four Luxury Houses for my research. They are not chosen because of their income ladder, but in the order of my preferences… And here we start, with the House of Chanel…

The House Of Chanel

Chanel, Rue Cambon, Window Display

Chanel is a still a privately owned company. It is still owned by the brothers Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, grandsons of Pierre Wertheimer, who, in turn was the business partner of the couturière Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel. From Bloomberg Business: “The pair keep their private lives – and their finances – are out of the spotlight to such an extent that their combined $19.2 billion fortune is more than double previous estimates.” “Chanel would rate at the very top of the industry,” Gilbert Harrison, chairman and founder of investment bank Financo LLC, said in a phone interview. “Given luxury companies are going for three to four times revenues you can easily get to a $20 billion valuation.” “We’re a very discreet family, we never talk,” Gerard was quoted as saying in an article in the New York Times in February 2002. “It is about Coco Chanel. It is about Karl [Lagerfeld]. It is about everyone, who works and creates at Chanel. It’s not about the Wertheimers.”

Lets talk about Coco Chanel for better or for worse! Somebody has to…

I must admit that my research might have resulted in a biased and one-faceted story, when describing this extraordinary and multifaceted personality. I have tried my best. I tried not to gloss Chanel’s personality over, but I tried to be objective at the same time…

The history of House of Chanel is very different from any movies ever made about its creator.

Early Years

Gabrielle, “Coco”, Chanel, came from very humble beginnings. She was born in the town of Saumur, in 1883, one of three daughters of a very sickly mother and forever unfaithful father, who worked as a travelling salesman.

After Gabrielle’s mother died, when the girl was only 11, the father deposited the girls to the orphanage house in Auvergne and was never seen again.

Gabrielle Coco Chanel

At the age of 18, Chanel went to a Catholic boarding school, where the nuns taught her how to sew. Chanel was able to find employment as a seamstress. When not plying her needle, she sang in a cabaret frequented by cavalry officers. Chanel made her stage debut singing at a café-concert (a popular entertainment venue of the era) in a Moulins pavilion, “La Rotonde”. She was among other girls dubbed “poseuses”, the performers who entertained the crowd between star turns. The money earned, was what they managed to accumulate when the plate was passed among the audience in appreciation of their performance. It was at this time that Gabrielle acquired the name “Coco”, possibly based on two popular songs with which she became identified, “Ko Ko Ri Ko”, and “Qui qu’a vu Coco”, or it was an allusion to the French word for kept woman, cocotte.

Coco Chanel With Etienne Balsan
Coco Chanel With Etienne Balsan

Life As A Courtesan

It was at Moulins, that Chanel met the young French ex-cavalry officer and the wealthy textile heir Étienne Balsan. At the age of twenty-three, Chanel became Balsan’s mistress. For the next three years, she lived with him in his chateau Royallieu, near Compiègne, an area known for it’s wooded equestrian paths and the hunting life. It was a life style of self-indulgence, which only Balsan’s wealth and leisure allowed.

Chanel and "Boy" Capel
Chanel and “Boy” Capel

In 1908, Chanel began an affair with one of Balsan’s friends, Captain Arthur Edward ‘Boy’ Capel. Capel, a wealthy member of the English upper class, installed Chanel in an apartment in Paris at Rue Cambon, directly behind Hotel Ritz and financed Chanel’s first shops. It is said that Capel’s elegant style influenced many of Chanel’s creations. The bottle design for Chanel No. 5 had three probable origins, the first two attributable to the sophisticated design of Capel belongings and the third one, to the aesthetics of an apothecary bottle. It is believed, Chanel adapted the rectangular, bevelled lines of the Charvet toiletry bottles he carried in his leather traveling case, or it was the design of the whiskey decanter Capel used and Chanel so admired, that she wished to reproduce it in “exquisite, expensive, delicate glass. The affair lasted nine years, but even after Capel married an English aristocrat, Lady Diana Wyndham in 1918, he did not completely break off with Chanel. His death in a car accident, in late 1919, was the single most devastating event in Chanel’s life. She commissioned the placement of a roadside memorial at the site of the accident, which she visited in later years to lay flowers in remembrance. Twenty-five years after the event, Chanel, was quoted as saying, that “in losing Capel, I lost everything. What followed was not a life of happiness, I have to say”…6 years after Capel’s death, Chanel acquired a logo with two interlocking Cs, said to be dedicated to Boy Capel and herself….

Chanel with Grand Duke Romanov
Chanel with Grand Duke Romanov

No.5

After a three years stint in Deauville, Normandy seaside town, Gabrielle moved to Rue Cambon in 1918, where she settled there since. She sold hats and couture until 1919… In 1919, Chanel’s then lover, The Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich Romanov (known for being involved in the murder of the mystic peasant and faith healer Grigori Rasputin), introduced Chanel to Ernest Beaux, the Russian French Perfumer. Beaux was born to the French Perfumers in Russia, where in 1881 he became the Czar’s official perfumer. Since the Revolution, Beaux fled Russia and settled in an inland town near Cannes. Chanel met him there and asked him to produce a perfume “which would have everything in it and nothing in the bottle”. Her brief was laconic: an abstract of flowers, which would evoke the smell of a woman. Beaux presented his concoctions to Mademoiselle. She chose the fifth composition and called it simply, No.5.

Ernest Beaux - inventor of No.5
Ernest Beaux, the Creator of No.5

 

Chanel No.5 is still constructed of approximately 50 ingredients. The most important is jasmine, but there is also ylang-ylang, patchouli, dried leaf from Indonesia, that was used as a repellent in silk shipments. There is a healthy dose of Provence roses. For the flask, Chanel chose the most banal shape, the rectangular chemist’s bottle. Chanel launched the perfume quietly without any announcement. She wore it herself, spritzed in the dressing rooms. The rumour mill started working – “Mademoiselle Chanel has a new perfume!!!” Only then, Chanel put an order for Number 5 into production.

Happy Birthday Mr President
Happy Birthday Mr President

 

 Wertheimers, The New Era

 

Pierre WertheimerChanel in her 40-s

Theophille Bader, the founder of the French Department Store Galleries Lafayette, wanted to sell the perfume, but in order to do this, Chanel needed to expand her production. Bader introduced her to his friend Pierre Wertheimer, co-owner of Bourjois cosmetics company. In 1924, the deal was signed for Les Parfumes Chanel: Wertheimer got 70% for production of perfumes in his Bourjois factories, Bader got 20% for the finders fee, Chanel received 10%. It did not take long for her to realise she had been duped. She filed so many suits to no avail, that by 1928 Wertheimers hired a lawyer to deal exclusively with Chanel’s demands. Throughout the 20-s Chanel added few more perfumes to her perfume house: Gardenia, No.22, Cuir De Russie, but none of them could surpass the soaring popularity of No.5, which was named the best perfume in the world in 1929. By the 1930-s Coco Chanel was earning $4 million a year and reportedly, had assets of $10 million dollars.

les exclusifs de chanel collage
Exclusive to House of Chanel Collage of Chanel Perfumes

English Aristocracy

Chanel with Winston Churchill and His Son

In 1923, Chanel was introduced into the highest levels of British aristocracy. It was an elite group of associations revolving around such personages as Winston Churchill, aristocrats such as the Duke of Westminster, and royals such as Edward, Prince of Wales. It was in Monte Carlo, in 1923, that at the age of forty, Chanel was introduced to the vastly wealthy Duke of Westminster. The Duke of Westminster lavished Chanel with extravagant jewels, costly art, and a home in London’s prestigious Mayfair district. His affair with Chanel lasted ten years. The Duke, an outspoken anti-Semite, intensified Chanel’s inherent antipathy toward Jews and shared with her an expressed homophobia. In 1927, the Duke of Westminster gave Chanel a parcel of land he had purchased in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera. It was on this site that Chanel built her villa, La Pausa] (“restful pause”). When asked, why she did not marry the Duke of Westminster, she has supposedly stated: “There have been several Duchesses of Westminster. There is only one Chanel.”

Chanel and Hollywood

It was in 1931 while in Monte Carlo that Chanel made the acquaintance of Samuel Goldwyn (most well known for being the founding contributor and executive of several motion picture studios in Hollywood) The introduction was made through a mutual friend, her then lover, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, cousin to the last czar of Russia, Nicolas II. Goldwyn offered Chanel a tantalizing proposition. For the sum of a million dollars (approximately seventy-five million in twenty-first century valuation), he would bring her to Hollywood twice a year to design costumes for MGM stars. Chanel accepted the offer. Chanel said she had agreed to the arrangement to “see what the pictures have to offer me and what I have to offer the pictures. Chanel designed the clothing worn on screen by Gloria Swanson, in “Tonight or Never” (1931), and for Ina Claire in “The Greeks Had a Word for Them”. Both Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich became private clients. Her experience with American movie making left Chanel with a dislike for the Hollywood film business and distaste for the Hollywood culture itself, which she denounced as “infantile”.Chanel’s verdict was that “Hollywood is the capital of bad taste … and it is vulgar.” Ultimately, her design aesthetic did not translate well to film. The New Yorker speculated that Chanel had left Hollywood because “they told her the dresses weren’t sensational enough. She made a lady look like a lady. Hollywood wants a lady to look like two ladies.” Chanel went on to design the costumes for several French films, including Jean Renoir’s 1939 film “La Règle du jeu”, in which she was credited as La Maison Chanel.

Coco Chanel in Hollywood
Coco Chanel Costume Design Hollywood

Another part of Chanel’s story are her “Channelisms” often attributed to her as Chanel’s famous expressions, which as we say in Russian, became the “winged phrases”. They are flying from one story to another, but they might not be by Chanel at all. Chanel was the mistress of some of the most influential men of her time, but she never married. At some stage in her life, she had a loving relationship with the poet Pierre Reverdy. After her romance with Reverdy ended in 1926, they still maintained a friendship that lasted for some forty years. It is postulated that the legendary maxims attributed to Chanel and published in periodicals were crafted under the mentorship of Reverdy, as a collaborative effort. A review of Chanel’s correspondence reveals a complete contradiction between the clumsiness of Chanel’s writing, and the talent of Chanel as a composer of maxims … After correcting the handful of aphorisms that Chanel wrote about her métier, Reverdy added to this collection of “Chanelisms” a series of thoughts of a more general nature, some touching on life and taste, others on allure and love.” In short, when you come across the expression “A women who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.”, attributed to Chanel, it might not have been by Chanel, but by Reverdy…

Chanel and the World War II

When Nazis arrived to Paris in 1940, brothers Pierre and Paul Wertheimer had to flee to USA, since they were Jewish. Once settled in New York, they sent an American H. Gregory Thomas to Grasse to secure the formula and the ingredients to produce number 5 in the United States during the war. Thomas also helped Pierre’s son Jacques escape via Morocco and Portugal to New York. Thomas was later named the President of Chanel USA – he held this position for 32 years. In 1939, at the beginning of World War II, Chanel closed her shops, at the same time, maintaining her apartment situated above the couture house at 31 Rue de Cambon. She claimed that it was not a time for fashion and her 3,000 female employees lost their jobs. Chanel moved to a “house” across the road – to Hotel Ritz. Hotel Ritz at the time housed the German military headquarters. Chanel lived there with her young lover, the Nazi officer Hans Gunther Von Dincklage. World War II, specifically the Nazi seizure of all Jewish-owned property and business interests, provided Chanel with the opportunity to gain the full monetary fortune generated by Parfums Chanel and its most profitable product, Chanel No. 5. The directors of Parfums Chanel, the Wertheimers, were Jewish, and Chanel used her position as an “Aryan” to petition German officials to legalise her claim to the sole ownership. On 5 May 1941, she wrote to the Vichy government administrator charged with ruling on the disposition of Jewish financial assets. Her grounds for proprietary ownership were based on the claim that Parfums Chanel “is still the property of Jews” and had been legally “abandoned” by the owners. “I have,” she wrote, “an indisputable right of priority … the profits that I have received from my creations since the foundation of this business … are disproportionate … you can help to repair in part the prejudices I have suffered in the course of these seventeen years.” Chanel was not aware that the Wertheimers, anticipating the forthcoming Nazi mandates against Jews had, in May 1940, legally turned control of Parfums Chanel over to a Christian, French businessman and industrialist Felix Amiot. At war’s end, Amiot turned “Parfums Chanel” back into the hands of the Wertheimers.

Chanel World War II
In 1939, because of the sudden outbreak of World War II, Coco Chanel closed Maison Chanel. “This is no time for fashion” she said.

Declassified, archival documents unearthed by Hal Vaughan (former US secret service agent turned writer) in his book “Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War” reveal that the French Préfecture de Police had a document on Chanel in which she was described as “Couturier and perfumer. Pseudonym: Westminster. Agent reference: F 7124. Signalled as suspect in the file” (For Vaughan, this was a piece of revelatory information linking Chanel to German intelligence operations). Vaughan establishes that Chanel committed herself to the German cause as early as 1941 and worked for General Walter Schellenberg, chief of SS intelligence. At the end of the war, Schellenberg was tried by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, and sentenced to six years imprisonment for war crimes. He was released in 1951 owing to incurable liver disease and took refuge in Italy. Chanel paid for Schellenberg’s medical care and living expenses, financially supported his wife and family and paid for Schellenberg’s funeral upon his death in 1952.

In September 1944, Chanel was invited for questioning by the Free French Purge Committee, L’Epuration. The committee, which had no documented evidence of her collaboration activity, was obliged to release her. According to Chanel’s grand-niece, Gabrielle Palasse Labrunie, when Chanel returned home she said, “Churchill had me freed” The extent of Winston Churchill’s intervention became a subject of gossip and speculation. It was supposedly feared that if Chanel were ever made to testify at trial, the pro-Nazi sympathies and activities of top-level British officials, members of the society elite and those of the royal family itself would be exposed. Some claim, that Churchill instructed Duff Cooper, British ambassador to the French provisional government, to protect Chanel. Finally induced to appear in Paris before investigators in 1949, Chanel left her retreat in Switzerland to confront testimony given against her at the war crime trial of Baron Louis de Vaufreland, a French traitor and highly placed German intelligence agent. Chanel denied all accusations brought against her. She offered the presiding judge, Leclercq, a character reference: “I could arrange for a declaration to come from Mr. Duff Cooper.” Chanel’s friend and biographer Marcel Haedrich provided a telling estimation of her wartime interaction with the Nazi regime: “If one took seriously the few disclosures that Mademoiselle Chanel allowed herself to make about those black years of the occupation, one’s teeth would be set on edge.”

Vaughan’s disclosure of the contents of recently de-classified military intelligence documents, and the subsequent controversy generated soon after the book’s publication in August 2011, prompted The House of Chanel to issue a statement, portions of which appeared in myriad media outlets. Chanel Group “refuted the claim” (of espionage), while admitting that company officials had read only media excerpts of the book.

“What’s certain is that she had a relationship with a German aristocrat during the War. Clearly it wasn’t the best period to have a love story with a German even if Baron von Dincklage was English by his mother and she (Chanel) knew him before the War,” the Chanel group said in a statement.

Photo Collage of Coco Chanel in Hotel Ritz and of Her Dashing Nazi Lover Baron Von
Photo Collage of Coco Chanel in Hotel Ritz and of Her Dashing Nazi Lover Baron Von Dinclage

In an interview given to the Associated Press, author Vaughan explains the trajectory of his research. “I was looking for something else and I came across this document saying ‘Chanel is a Nazi agent’…Then I really started hunting through all of the archives, in the United States, in London, in Berlin and in Rome and I came across not one, but 20, 30, 40 absolutely solid archival materials on Chanel and her lover, Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, who was a professional Abwehr spy.” Vaughan also addressed the discomfort many felt with the revelations provided in his book: “A lot of people in this world don’t want the iconic figure of Gabrielle Coco Chanel, one of France’s great cultural idols, destroyed. This is definitely something that a lot of people would have preferred to put aside, to forget, to just go on selling Chanel scarves and jewellery.”

Chanel after World War II

During the period directly following the end of World War II, the business world watched with interest and some apprehension the ongoing legal wrestle for control of Parfums Chanel. Interested parties in the proceedings were well aware of Chanel’s Nazi affiliations during wartime, if made public knowledge, would seriously threaten the reputation and status of the Chanel brand. Forbes magazine summarized the dilemma faced by the Wertheimers: it is Pierre Wertheimer’s worry how “a legal fight might illuminate Chanel’s wartime activities and wreck her image—and his business.”

Ultimately, the Wertheimers and Chanel came to a mutual accommodation, renegotiating the original 1924 contract. On 17 May 1947, Chanel received wartime profits from the sale of Chanel No. 5, in an amount equivalent to some nine million dollars in twenty-first century valuation. Further, her future share would be two percent of all Chanel No. 5 sales worldwide. The financial benefit to her would be enormous. Her earnings would be in the vicinity of twenty-five million dollars a year, making her at the time one of the richest women in the world. In addition, Pierre Wertheimer agreed to an unusual stipulation proposed by Chanel herself. Wertheimer agreed to pay all of Chanel’s living expenses—from the trivial to the large — for the rest of her life.

cococ-chanel-in-her-studio-1954chanel-and-suzy-parker-photo-by-richard-avedon-jan-1959

 

In 1945, Chanel moved to Switzerland where she lived with Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, eventually returning to Paris in 1954. When No.5 sales began to lag in the early 1950-s, Pierre Werthemeir paid a visit to then 70-year old Mademoiselle Chanel at the Beau Rivage hotel in Lausanne. Within a few days she was back on the Rue Cambon, planning the relaunch of Chanel Couture. Her 1920-s reminiscent collection in the era of Christian Dior New Look design was simply dismissed. The crowds snickered and simply laughed. “It was a fiasco and one of the cruelest experiences I’ve ever witnessed “, film director Franco Zeffirelli recalled. Chanel, the ultimate survivor, was not to be swayed. “I want to go on, to go on and win”, she told Pierre Werthemeir. He agreed. He also financed Coco Chanel’s hopes. Chanel did go on and her collections became stronger and stronger. It took only one year for Chanel to achieve her ultimate success and to become the Queen of Fashion again. Her success in in fashion boosted the perfume sales and Mademoiselle’s position in the company. In 1954, Wertheimer negotiated his final deal with her: the family would pay all Chanel’s personal expenses, for her Rue Cambon headquarters, her taxes till the rest of her life in exchange for the full control of her name for perfume and fashion. As she had no heirs, upon her death, the family would receive all her royalties too. The same year Pierre bought off remaining 20% from the Bader family. When Chanel died in 1971, Werthemeirs became the sole owners of the company. They still are.

The End of a Turbulent Life

As 1971 began, Chanel was 87 years old, tired, and ailing, but nonetheless stuck to her usual routine of preparing the spring catalogue. She had gone for a long drive the afternoon of Saturday January 9 and feeling ill went to bed early. She died on Sunday, January 10, 1971 at the Hotel Ritz where she had resided for more than 30 years. Her funeral was held at the Église de la Madeleine; her fashion models occupied the first seats during the ceremony and her coffin was covered with white flowers – camellias, gardenias, orchids, azaleas and a few red roses. Her grave is located in the Bois-de-Vaux Cemetery, Lausanne, Switzerland…

White Camellias, Chanel's favourite flowers - Coco Chanel's Grave in Lausanne
White Camellias, Chanel’s favourite flowers – Coco Chanel’s Grave in Lausanne

Coco (Gabrielle) Chanel’s Legacy

Chanel Show

Chanel’s legacy as a person and as a designer will live with us forever… As early as 1915, Harper’s Bazaar raved over Chanel’s designs: “The woman who hasn’t at least one Chanel is hopelessly out of fashion … .” Chanel’s ascendancy was the official deathblow to the corseted, restrained female silhouette. The frills, fuss, and constraints endured by earlier generations of women were now passé; under her influence—gone were the “aigrettes, long hair, hobbling skirts. Her design aesthetic redefined the fashionable woman for the post WWI era. The Chanel trademark was a look of youthful ease, a liberated physicality, and unencumbered sportive confidence. Chanel’s philosophy was to emphasize understated elegance through her clothing. Her popularity thrived in the 1920s, because of her innovative designs. Chanel’s own look itself was as different and new as her creations. Instead of the usual pale-skinned, long-haired and full-bodied women preferred at the time.

French couturier Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel (1883 - 1971) at her home, Fauborg, St Honore, Paris.   (Photo by Sasha/Getty Images)
French couturier Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel (1883 – 1971) at her home, Fauborg, St Honore, Paris. (Photo by Sasha/Getty Images)

Jersey’s Fabrics

Chanel’s initial triumph was the innovative use of jersey fabric, a machine knit material manufactured for her by the firm Rodier, and traditionally relegated to the manufacture of undergarments. Chanel’s early wool jersey traveling suit consisted of a cardigan jacket, and pleated skirt, paired with a low-belted pullover top. This ensemble, worn with low-heeled shoes, became the casual look in expensive women’s wear. Prior to this, jersey tended to only be used in hosiery and for tennis, golf and beachwear. It was too “ordinary” to be used in couture and its weave was difficult to handle. Chanel’s introduction of jersey to high fashion worked well for two reasons. First, the war had caused a shortage of other materials and second, women started to desire more simple and practical clothes. Her fluid jersey suits and dresses were created for practicality and allowed free movement. This was greatly appreciated at the time because women were working for the war effort as nurses, in civil service and in factories. Their work involved physical activity and they had to ride trains, buses and bicycles to get to work. They desired outfits, that did not give away easily and could be put on without the help of servants

chanel-linton-tweed-840x1024

Chanel Suit

The Chanel tweed suit was built for comfort and practicality. It consisted of a jacket and skirt in a matching Scottish tweed and a blouse and jacket lining in jersey or a silk crepe. The jacket had the piping and gold buttons. The tweed she used was supple and light. She did not stiffen the material or use shoulder pads. She also cut the jackets on the straight grain, without adding bust darts. This allowed for quick and easy movement. She designed the neckline to leave the neck comfortably free and also added pockets that could actually hold things. On most other suits, pockets were just for show. For a higher level of comfort, the skirt had a grosgrain across the hips, instead of a belt. More importantly, meticulous attention was placed on detail during fittings. Measurements were taken in a standing position with arms folded at shoulder height. She also conducted crash tests with models where they would walk around, hop on a platform as if they were stepping on an imaginary bus, and then bend over as if they were getting into a sports car. She wanted to make sure women could do all of these things while wearing her suit, without exposing unwanted parts of their body that might catch the eyes of men. Each customer could get repeated adjustments until the suit was comfortable enough for her to perform her daily activities with comfort and ease.

 

Chanel Camellias

 

The Camellias

The camellia had an established association with Alexandre Dumas’s literary work, “La Dame aux Camélias” (”The Lady of the Camellias”). Its heroine and her story had resonated for Chanel since her youth. The flower itself had become identified with the courtesan who would wear a camellia to advertise her availability. The camellia came to be associated with The House of Chanel, making its first appearance as a decorative element on a white-trimmed black suit in 1933.

Chanel Camellia Sneaker
Chanel Camellia Sneaker

The Little Black Dress

After the jersey suit, the concept of the little black dress is often cited as a Chanel contribution to the fashion lexicon and as an article of clothing survives to this day. Its first incarnation was executed in thin silk, crèpe de chine, and had long sleeves. Chanel started making little black dresses in wool or chenille for the day and in satin, crepe or velvet for the evening. The dress was fashionable, yet comfortable and practical because it was stripped of all excess. In 1926, the American edition of Vogue highlighted such a Chanel dress, dubbing it the jargon (little boy look). They predicted it would “become sort of a uniform for all women of taste”, embodying a standardized aesthetic, which the magazine likened to the democratic appeal of the ubiquitous black Ford automobile. Its spare look generated widespread criticism from male journalists who complained: “no more bosom, no more stomach, no more rump…” The popularity of the little black dress can be attributed to the timing at which it was introduced. The 1930s brought in the Great Depression Era during which women desired affordable fashion. Chanel quoted, “Thanks to me they can walk around like millionaires.”

 LBD

Jewellery

Chanel introduced a line of jewellery that was a conceptual innovation in design and materials incorporating both simulated and fine gemstones. This was revolutionary in an era when jewellery was strictly categorized into either fine or costume jewellery.

Basque Diamond necklace by Paul Iribe for Chanel
Basque Diamond necklace by Paul Iribe for Chanel

In 1933, designer Paul Iribe collaborated with Chanel in the creation of extravagant jewellery pieces commissioned by the International Guild of Diamond Merchants. The collection, executed exclusively in diamonds and platinum, was exhibited for public viewing and drew a large audience.

Costume Jewellery Chanel-Goossens collaboration
Costume Jewellery Chanel-Goossens collaboration

Starting in 1953, Goossens worked with Coco Chanel to design jewellery to accompany her fashion designs, mostly through presentations where she would guide his inspiration. Chanel herself loved to blend the rich with the poor and Goossens’ creations were entirely in keeping with that approach. Notable work during his tenure at Chanel includes silver and gold plaited pins set with emeralds, moon earth pendants, and crystal Byzantine crosses. Goossens would create original pieces for Mademoiselle Chanel made of real gold and genuine stones, which in turn were copied as imitations designed for fashion shows and presentations. These models ultimately served as the basis for Chanel’s costume jewellery designs.

Chanel/Goossens Famous Bracelet
Chanel/Goossens Bracelet

Goossens continued his work with the house of Chanel after its founder’s passing, and collaborated with her successor Karl Lagerfeld throughout the 1980s and 1990s to create costume jewellery for Chanel’s ready-to-wear and couture collections. Chanel bought Goossens’ company in 2005.

Chanel quilted bag

Chanel Early quilted bag made from Jersey
Chanel Early quilted bag made from Jersey

Identifying a need to liberate women’s hands from the encumbrance of a hand held bag, Chanel conceived of a handbag that would accomplish this stylishly. Christened the “2.55” (named after the date of the bag’s creation: February 1955), its design, combined with Chanel’s creative inspiration, evoked the memories of her convent days and her love of the sporting world. The original version was constructed of jersey or leather, the outside featuring a hand-stitched quilted design influenced by the jackets worn by jockeys. The chain strap was a nod to her orphanage years, reminiscent to Chanel of the abbey caretakers who wore such waist chains to hold keys. The burgundy red uniform worn by the convent girls was incorporated into the bag’s interior lining.

Karl Lagerfeld's version of Chanel's 2.55 bag
Karl Lagerfeld’s version of Chanel’s 2.55 bag

The bag design went through a reincarnation in the 1980s when it was updated by Karl Lagerfeld. Known as the Classic Flap, the bag retained its original classic shape, with the clasp and chain strap differing from its initial form. Lagerfeld worked the House of Chanel logo, “CC” into the rectangular twist lock and wove leather through the shoulder chain.

Epilogue

I tried to create a true homage to a great designer and to a great business woman. I tried to be as objective as I could. 

The history will never see such a great and, as I love to say, multifaceted input in fashion, design, perfumery, textiles, innovations, as the one, created by Chanel. Should I say I admire this lady? How can I? She was an anti-semite and a Nazi-symphatizer, to put it mildly. At the same time, I admire her for her fashion greatness, for her art, for her business qualities in the same way I would admire Leni Riefenstahl?…( Or maybe more, because Coco Chanel’s talents were much bigger and her horizons and aspirations were much higher…

I do, however, reserve my judgement for the current owners of the House of Chanel.

There are two aspects I wished to mention – I do believe that Pierre Wertheimer was in love with Mademoiselle Chanel, or he was at least fascinated by her survival skills.

Pierre Wertheimer died six years before Coco Chanel passed away, putting an end to an intriguing and curious relationship of which Parfums Chanel was just one, albeit pivotal, dynamic. Coco Chanel’s attorney, Rene de Chambrun, described the relationship as one based on a businessman’s passion for a woman who felt exploited by him. “Pierre returned to Paris full of pride and excitement (after one of his horses won the 1956 English Derby),” Chambrun recalled in Forbes. “He rushed to Coco, expecting congratulations and praise. But she refused to kiss him. She resented him, you see, all her life.”

For the current owners of The House of Chanel – I would like to tell an old legend…

There is a very famous Latin Expression,”Pecunia non olet”, or “Money does not stink”. Roman Emperor Vespasian imposed a Tax on public urinals in Rome’s Cloaca Maxima (great sewer) system. The buyers of the urine (tanners) paid the tax.The Roman historian Suetonius reports that when Vespasian’s son Titus complained about the disgusting nature of the tax, his father held up a gold coin and asked whether he felt offended by its smell (sciscitans num odore offenderetur). When Titus said “No,” he replied, “Yet it comes from urine”…The phrase Pecunia non olet is still used today to say that the value of money is not tainted by its origins.

The owners of Chanel are very private Jewish people. Chanel did everything in her power not only to survive but to prosper during the Nazi occupation… If she could betray the Jews she would…indirectly though.  The Jewish owners of the company did everything they could to gloss her not so glorious past over. It makes their behaviour incredibly opportunistic. And money does stink… In my only humble opinion. There will be more research and more disclosures and more beautiful actresses will be hired to play Chanel in more glorious and more romantic movies to counterweigh those disclosures. But for how long? I think it is a high time to stop this charade – it will only benefit the company.

I started dreaming Chanel…It is not healthy. Therefore,

     Fin…

Chanel Fashion Show 2012
Chanel Fashion Show 2012

 

 

 

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Day 5. Dublin-Galway-Dublin

Monday.

So, as it was decided by my brand new Irish friends, the day before, at Max’s restaurant, that I “needed” to go to Galway. Only ‘2.5’ hours drive. Since visiting Ireland twice afterwards, and since visiting Armenia 4 times, I know now, that the definition of time for my beloved nations is a bit skewed, to say the least.

I was in deep pain the night before, but being a responsible person, I did not take any painkillers and did not take them with me. The car I hired, was an innocent Nissan Micra with an automatic gearbox, GPS, and no air-conditioning. They explained to me that I was plain lucky to get an automatic in Europe. According to the car rentals, “the air-con should be on my next wish list, but it never gets hot in Ireland”. Why on Earth, Europeans, make it hard for themselves all the time?

Irish Village Spring
Irish Village Spring

The drive to Galway took me 3.5 hours, only because I tried to fight with the navigation system in order to pass the most picturesque Irish villages…Mind you, I always fight with the navigation system, only to discover it is right after all…

When going through the villages, I thought, why are they so beautiful, clean, taken care of? Why in Russia are they so neglected? Oh, well, where do we start?

When I finally arrived to Galway, I thought – wow!!! Is it what people say in their blogs all the time? But honestly, it was wow!!!I saw a medieval, bright, non-English looking town, something which would be born out of the marriage of Belgium and Spain.

A little bit of history 🙂

Galway Main Street
Galway Main Street

Galway is the second largest county in Ireland. Physically, it is divided into two distinct parts; the eastern two thirds are flat, with many small lakes and rivers, while the western part of the county includes the area known as Connemara, with its rocky bogs, fjords, and magnificent mountains. The west of the county has the largest remaining Irish-speaking population of any county in Ireland.

The town of Galway was first recorded in 1124 when a fort was built there. However, the town was founded in the 13th century. In 1170-71 the English invaded eastern Ireland and in 1232 a baron named Richard de Burgh took this area and created a town. After 1270 walls were built around Galway.

In 1396 Galway was granted a charter (a document granting the townspeople certain rights). Galway was made a royal borough. For centuries, Galway was ruled by 14 families, known as “the tribes” of Galway. The mayor and the leading citizens usually came from these 14 families. They were the Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, Darcy, Deane, French, Font, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris and Skerrett families.

In the Middle Ages Galway was an important port. The main import was wine. Exports included wool, skins and leather. The leading citizens of Galway were definitely English in their manners and customs. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the English kings gradually lost control of Ireland, except for Dublin and the surrounding Pale. However, to a large extent, Galway was an island of ‘Englishness’.

St Nicholas Church Galway
St Nicholas Church, Galway

The Church of St Nicholas was built in 1320 after Franciscan friars arrived in Galway in 1296. (Friars were like monks but instead of withdrawing from the world they went out to preach).

Lynch window inside the Church commemorates James Lynch Fitzstephen who, it is said, hanged his own son for murder in 1493.

Lynch Castle, Galway
Lynch Castle, Galway

The Spanish Arch (called Spanish, due to the Spanish merchant ships docked in the quays there) was built in 1584, and Lynch’s Castle, the mansion, was built around 1600. Browne Doorway is all that remains of the merchant’s house built in the early 17th century.

Spanish Arch, Galway
Spanish Arch, Galway

At the beginning of the 19th century the population of Galway was about 5,000, but it actually fell during the 19th century. The whole region suffered severely in the potato famine of 1845-49 and there was a considerable loss of population.

During the 20th century Galway was revived. By 1950 it had about 21,000 inhabitants. Galway was still a busy port. Exports included farm produce, wool and marble. Industries in Galway in the 20th century included iron, milling, furniture making and hat making.

At the end of the century modern industries such as engineering, IT and electronics began to replace the traditional industries in Galway.

In recent years Galway has undergone an economic boom and the population has grown rapidly. Today the population of Galway is 78,000…

Coloured Houses of Galway
Coloured Houses of Galway

I did not have much time in Galway, but I went to see the Church of St Nicholas, walked along the river, where I noticed many coloured doors and thought, that the drunken husbands needed those doors anywhere in the world.

It is a very smart “husband capturing” invention. Imagine, your drunken treasure stumbles in the night through somebody else’s door and the story suddenly unfolds to the depth of the unknown. He could be lost there forever!!! He could stumble 3 years later through your doorway once again! No need to imagine, the door trapping worked wonders.

I negotiated little tiny medieval streets in the city centre. I went to buy Aran sweaters and scarves… I went to McDonald and was served there by the speaking perfect Russian Latvian girl.  I did not even flinch – my heart was healed by then fully and completely, and I had nothing against anybody speaking Russian to me…I also made few purchases in Demora boutique, where I met the lovely owner Diedre Morahan. We also exchanged our very valuable opinions on fashion industry and retail industry…

Demora Boutique, Galway
Demora Boutique, Galway
Giants Causeway
Giants Causeway

It was time to drive back. I could not go to Giants Causeway, (you can see America from there)), to Carrick-a-Rede rope Bridge (not for the faint hearted), to the Old Bushmills Distillery – the oldest Whiskey Distillery in the world (since 1608)…To miss the latter one was unimaginable for me, but I had very valid reasons – I needed to go back…

And only then, my fun and games began!!!) Remember Nissan Micra, the air-conditioning or the lack of it? It was a combination of three factors – +32 Celsius, white nights and the navigation system, which I faithfully obeyed at the time.

Motorways Map of Ireland
Map, Ireland, Motorways

Naturally, it ordered me to take the highway (M6). My little bug had to drive with the speed limit of 120km per hour for the mighty 154 km…Feeling hot, tired, sleepy with no “Stop, Revive, Survive” detours along the road, – I …fell asleep at the wheel. The next thing I remember, was a huge thump, smell of the tyres burning and the smoke coming out from the car. I hit a concrete barrier along the road… Completely awake, I managed to drive the car for another 10 metres, before I jumped out with my bag and the sling…I assessed the damage – as much as a non-mechanic could do. The tyre was burned irrevocably, the “left wing” of the car was gone and the car was not drivable. I found the spare tyre inside the car, and that was the end of me. I stared at it as with the expression, as we say in Russian “Like a sheep at the new gate”. Imagine the flock of sheep coming home and seeing a new gate?

Sheep Staring/New Gate
Sheep Staring at the New Gate

Well, I needed to stop somebody to help me to change the tyre. 8pm, blinding sun and the trucks flying by with a speed of light. None of them was stopping. I thought – what about the kindness, openheartedness and friendliness of the Irish people? Just before I demoted the whole nation from Category A to Category Z, a sleek Mercedes stopped abruptly in front of me. The driver looked Richard Gere 20 years ago, but I was no Julia Richards just at that very moment. No tall boots, no long legs, no saucer size eyes and no lips to land a helicopter on…I was Rosa, myself, but also scared and frantic on the top of being Rosa, myself. My Irish Richard Gere gave me a diamond smile (good dentists in Ireland) and changed the tyre like it was a normal thing to do when one wears a Zegna suit and a tailored shirt…He also told me that nobody could drive faster than his/her guardian angel could fly. A catchy phrase, but so true to the core, indeed…I could not help, but notice, that my guardian angel’s car had an air conditioner.

Richard Gere/American Gigolo
Richard Gere/American Gigolo

On my spare tyre I drove back to Dublin with the speed of 80km per hour and tried not to pay much attention to the rowdy truck drivers honking at my snail speed and at my grieving car.

When the staff in Dylan saw my car, my sling, my xanax free state, they treated me with the dinner on the house, with the wine and you name it, what on the house too. The amok survival feeling gave way to the waterfall of tears. I was so happy to be alive…

Day 6. Dublin – KLM – Moscow

KLM Crew
Friendly KLM Crew

Tuesday.

The morning was quite a non-event. I went shopping for antique Victorian jewellery, bought an amazing chain with a pendant for an amazing price, which would have made London antique sellers to become colour green with envy…

Antique Jewellery Shops. Dublin
Antique Jewellery Shops. Dublin

Lingus was really difficult to negotiate with a sling – I think, Irish survival skills and the history of the nation, toughened the service to the point of disregarding people with the slings and the crutches…

No shopping and really bad food for the connection corner of Schiphol (Amsterdam to Moscow). Stupid really, because the Russians are huge spenders in every corner on the planet with the cash register…Had to eat  bad food, thinking loudly “I am fat anyway”, and thinking quietly that the bad food makes you fat anyway.

Boarded a plane taking me to Moscow. Was so ready. My sling and my injuries were taken care of with lots of champagne and lots of beautiful Dutch smiles. By midnight, when we crossed into Russian territory, the pilot of the business class cabin appeared with the pancakes, generously served with nutella and condensed milk. The stewardess told us (to all of the 6 business class survivors) that this pilot loved to do it, because he loved Russia. At this stage I was not surprised with anything. I was not even questioning who was flying the plane at the time.I loved Russia too…I was so ready to land with my healed heart and a very sore shoulder…

Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport
Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport

The Aftermath

Days later I called my rabbi and told him the story. He also told me, there was, apparently, a spiritual belt between Jerusalem and Ireland. It explained everything. What else would have propped me up to the heavens and lowered me kindly to the Planet Earth? Would be either the spiritual belt or my Guardian Angel.

Few months later, I had a complicated surgery on my shoulder performed by the grandson of the Father of Space Research Sergei Korolev, Andrey Korolev, the chief orthopaedic surgeon of Moscow. The spiritual belt magnetism continued.

Since then, I travelled to Ireland twice…I went on the famous Literary Pub Crawl, I went to see the “Lord of The Dance” with the legendary Michael Flatley. I found out why the Irish flag had Orange, Green and White colours. Not because the Red colour was bleached out by the sun:)

I visited, however, another Ireland. The magic of “anything happens” simply disappeared. I think, it was for the better, was not it?…

Michael Flatley. Lord of the Dance
Michael Flatley. Lord of the Dance

 

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I would guess, that 80% of Australians visited Ireland. At least, anybody, who has Irish roots.
I can assure you that everybody discovers their own Ireland. I can assure you, it stays in your heart forever.

Day 1

Moscow – Dublin. Thursday
I went to Ireland from Moscow to heal my wounded heart (very long story)). To be as far from Moscow in Europe as possible… Just for me, the aviation authorities created a route, which took 7.5 hours flying time from Moscow to Dublin. Connecting via Amsterdam (KLM + Lingus), I arrived to Dublin at 10pm.

Dylan Hotel

My beautiful Dylan Hotel was just in the middle of the city, and I could not think of anything better than to toast my arrival with a small champagne bottle from the bar. My healing started on a high note – Vivaldi was playing Primavera in my head. Life started anew. Bugger the broken heart. On this note I fell asleep and slept like a newborn baby, even better, I would say.

Dylan Hotel Bedroom
Day 1. Dublin. Friday

I woke up at 10am in the morning, missed my breakfast and went to take a bath.
I was feeling thin, luxurious and beautiful.
I will spare all the intimate details, but, in short, while I tried to reach the rule the bath buttons with my left arm, I performed a split on the marble floor. I could never perform a split, not even when my parents unsuccessfully pushed me for the world championship in artistic gymnastics)…
I was bruised, scratched all over and sore. To cut the story short, I decided this little accident should not to take over my life and my trip. The hotel gave me all the gauze and disinfectants they had in their storage room.
I hobbled a bit, then took it in my stride and commenced my shopping. Grafton Street, in a capsule, is a little High street and is peppered with the shops like H&M, Mark and Spencer, Mango and the others, with the welcome exception of Brown Thomas, the best department store in Ireland.

Grafton Street Dublin

Second floor in Brown Thomas is dedicated to the Irish designers, where I chose overalls by Mary Grant (still wear them) and the bag by Pauric Sweeney (a famous prodigal son of Ireland) and a very famous bag designer in the world).

I went upstairs to the rooftop café to have the best bangers and mash, and suddenly, everything around me became quite blurred in one moment. At that moment I was taken to the emergency and was diagnosed with quite severe trauma in my poor left shoulder. At least I collapsed after my shopping was finished. And once back in a saddle, equipped with not so fashionable, and lets be honest, ugly, blue, hospital grade sling, I was still determined to live up to my planned schedule.

The opening of a new restaurant at Brown Thomas, Grafton Street. 10.05.1961
That night I went to the Abbey Theatre to watch a play (Bookworms) about an unfortunate Book Club meeting which ended up like Polanski Movie “Carnage”, but in a funnier, Irish way.

Abbey Theatre 1904

I was driven back to the hotel, by the most melancholic taxi driver, who managed to scare me with many stories about the damaged left shoulders of the other people.
Dinner/tapas in my Dylan hotel – Dylan Bar, the handsomest Irish man was playing on the piano under a dangerous degree of intoxication. The songs were by Sinatra, the twang was recognizably Irish, I was in heaven mix of the painkillers, Italian wine and the crowd much more alive and lets say, less snobbish than in Sydney…Met a lovely couple from Northern Ireland, discussed potato famine, and forever admirable Princess Diana.

Dylan Hotel Room

Bruised and confused back to bed – no reading before sleep…

Day 3. Dublin. Saturday.

In the morning, wearing blue Akira dress, remotely matching my sling, I started my excursion around Dublin and Derby.

Blue Akira DressShoulder Sling

I was driven in the limousine by the 10 years older driver/guide, who unashamedly flirted with me. Painkillers, champagne, and feeling beautiful in the eyes of an older Irish flirt, dulled my senses and dimmed my memory. The only vividly remembered part of the rich Irish history was an explanation behind cheerfully painted doors in Dublin. Are you ready for this? The reason behind cheerfully painted doors was for the drunken Irish husbands to determine which house was theirs in the dark of the night. No more and no less

Dublin-Doors
He drove me to Curragh Racecourse, in the county of Kildare.The name “Curragh” comes from the Irish (Gaeilge) word Cuirreach, meaning “racecourse”. The first recorded race on the plain took place in 1727, but it was used for races before then. The first Derby was held in 1866, and in 1868 the Curragh was officially declared a horse racing and training facility by act of parliament.  We also went to see the rich and famous houses, including those of U2(s)…

Ladies Kildare racesthe hourse who won

That night I went to see Arcadia by Tom Stoppard at the Gate Theater. Arcadia is a dazzling comedy of mystery and love, with all the qualities of a gripping literary detective story. Must say that Dublin theatre performances are superb and a lot of Londoners travel to Dublin to see them.

Arcadia Gate Theatre
That night I had dinner at Chez Max, a very traditional French restaurant, where I had the most beautiful foie gras cooked on the bed of an apple puree and served with pommes frites…(No Peta readers please()

Needless to say that 10 minutes into the meal, I was invited over to share a bottle of champagne with a family celebrating their father’s birthday. They could not stand a sight of a single woman having dinner on her own on Saturday night. Of course, the conversation veered into the history/religion/politics. Potato Famine and the history of suffering and the abuse copped from England all mixed up with a certain admiration for the Queen and Princess Diana.

Over the course of this lively conversation we all decided that I needed to hire a car and go on Monday to Galway. Just like this. Never drove in Ireland, but what the heck?

chez-max

foie-gras-dish1

Day 4. Dublin. Sunday

Forget the guides, and the slings, I threw away my sling with the wild abandon of the feminists of the 60-s, throwing away their bras. I also took a double decker bus around Dublin. Discovered, the audio guide had all the languages. The driver offered me one in Russian before I even opened my mouth.
It was a day spoiler (just for a bit). Got off at the Grounds of the Trinity College. It was so beautiful that even I, who suffer from the adult version of ADD), stayed there for a few hours.

exam-hall-interior-Trinity
A little bit of history:

Trinity College was founded after the Reformation, in 1592, on the site of the confiscated Priory of All Hallows. For centuries, Trinity College was owned by the Protestant Church. Free education was offered to Catholics, provided they accepted the Protestant faith. True to the Russian saying, “The only free thing in life is the cheese in the mousetrap”.
As a legacy of this condition, until 1966 Catholics, who wished to study at Trinity had to obtain a dispensation from their bishop or face excommunication. Despite it’s 16th-century foundation, most of the buildings standing today, were constructed in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Trinity’s grounds cover 47 acres.

Book_of_Kells

Trinity College is most famous, though, for it’s splendid library. The Long Room houses Ireland’s largest collection of books and manuscripts; it’s principal treasure is the Book of Kells, generally considered to be the most striking manuscript ever produced in the Anglo-Saxon world and one of the great masterpieces of early Christian art.
The Books of Kells is a beautifully illuminated version of the Christian Gospels dating from the 9th century. It was once thought to be lost — the Vikings looted the book in 1007 for its jewelled cover but ultimately left the manuscript behind.
In the 12th century, Guardius Cambensis declared that the book was made by an angel’s hand in answer to a prayer of St. Bridget. Scholars think, instead that the Book of Kells originated on the island of Iona off Scotland’s coast, where followers of St. Colomba lived until the island came under siege in the early to mid-9th century. They fled to Kells, County Meath, taking the book with them.

The Old Library
The most famous page shows monogram, (symbol of Christ). The most famous students of Trinity include the likes of Francis Bacon, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, Thomas Moore, Oscar Wilde, Jawaharlal Nehru to name the few…

Oscar Wilde

 

Jawaharlal Nehru
Graduates from the Trinity College

 

After Trinity College, off to the Whiskey Factory excursion (Old Jameson Distillery). Love my whiskey, travelled to Scotland and loved Scottish Whiskey, but the Irish one seduced me with its soft and velvety and very elegant taste. Wait until I write about Scotland, maybe I will change my tune)
The Old Jameson Distillery is located on the original site of Jameson Distillery in Bow Street in Dublin. This distillery, founded in 1780, was Ireland’s most famous distillery for nearly 200 years, until its closure in 1971, when distilling of Jameson Irish Whiskey was transferred to the Midleton Distillery. For many years the Bow Street Distillery lay abandoned, but today, once again, it is a hub of activity, welcoming visitors from all over the world.

Old-Jameson-Distillery1The Old Jameson Distillery has recreated, on a smaller scale, the old distillery, and although no distilling actually takes place here, it is an excellent way to understand the how and why of whiskey. Every step of the distilling process has been recreated, from malting and storing barley, to mashing and fermentation, to distilling and maturation. The tour ends with a complimentary glass of Jameson for everyone and for a lucky selected few, a comparative whiskey tasting which compares and explains the differences between Jameson Irish whiskey, Scotch and Bourbon whiskies. After which, I thought, Bourbon – never!!!

jameson-tour
There is a very good restaurant on site, the 3rd Still, The menu is both diverse and contemporary, the atmosphere relaxed and friendly and it offers a bird’s eye view into the bustling lobby below. In fact, if you peer over the balcony of the 3rd Still, you can see into the original foundations of The Jameson Old Distillery which were purpose-built to bear the formidable weight of the enormous whiskey vats.
Back to the Hotel, That’s where I ended my day feeling happy, but with suspiciously throbbing shoulder
To be continued with the Day 4 and 5…Trust me, it is worth waiting for..

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Does it make sense when somebody wishes you Happy New Year and Merry Xmas?

Of course it does!

Does it make sense when somebody wishes you ONLY Happy New Year and nothing else?

In Russia, or in the ex-USSR, it does. Since 1917, Bolsheviks had a hard time re-writing the culture and traditions.They could not eliminate Christmas altogether, therefore they created New Year (two in one) – New Year with Christmas traditions, without baby Jesus and nativity scene.A little bit of history)

Traditionally, New Year’s Day in Russia fell on September 1, which ended Russia’s tax year. In 1700, in an attempt to westernize the country, Russian ruler Peter I moved the holiday to January 1 according to the Julian calendar. Therefore Christmas fell on the 7th of January (if you translate Julian into Gregorian calendar and New Year fell on the 14th of January by the same logic. Russia was 13 days behind the world, but the proper sequence of events was preserved.

The New Bolshevik Russia started using the Gregorian calendar in 1918, leaving the Church, which kept its Julian calendar by 13 days behind.

Between 1919 and 1937, the Bolsheviks banned public celebrations of New Year’s Day, calling it a bourgeois holiday. It became a non-labor day again in 1947. The Christmas traditions became adopted as New Year traditions. Santa Claus with its Russian equivalent of Grandfather Frost and his granddaughter Snegurochka (Snow Maiden girl) slowly became adopted into New Secular Year traditions.

The Christmas Eve became New Year Eve. The presents were left under New Year Tree (read Christmas Tree) or exchanged at 12am on New Year Eve. Christmas itself, on the 7th of January became a non-event. Communism won, but so did secularity. The New Year was embraced and celebrated by everybody religion withstanding. For better or for worse, Jews, Muslims, Russian Orthodox, Catholics celebrated New Year with a real gusto. Even Ramzan Kadyrov (a President of Chechen Republic, the one who approves Isis) remembers with nostalgia the Grandfather Frost, who turned out to be his uncle coming from the next village to bring the children presents.

Which religion are we talking about anyway? The “Opium for the Nation” (Definition of Religion by Lenin) was abolished in 1917. If Communism as an idea gets buried forever, deservingly so, I want to have only one thing left  – New Year celebration as a unifying celebration.

I would love to celebrate Hanukkah, but having had no Jewish religious upbringing, I am also a stranger to my own celebrations. My religion was interrupted through three generations. I don’t know Hebrew and believe me, English translations of Hebrew prayers, don’t make sense. If I were back in Russia, I would be like a fish in the water – New Year and no mistakes, lots of room to wiggle, no traditions to understand. There was also a tradition in USSR enjoyed by every kid from the age of 5 till the age of 13. There were New Year performances in the theatres, Houses of Culture, local clubs. At the end of the performance the kids were given little presents containing chocolates, mandarins!!! (in the middle of winter), waffles and many other yummy treats.

But I am in Australia and that’s how it is. We give presents for Christmas for our Christian friends and for New Year for our Russian friends. At the same time I appreciate the fact that we are so free to celebrate anything we want, that every religion has its niche here.

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One strange thing about Australian New Year is the hot weather. For the first year in Australia I resented the hot weather, I missed winter, frost, snow, the atmospheric feeling of a “proper” season. Having lived in Moscow from 2005 till 2012, I realised there was no proper season. Who would miss the Moscow fireworks only seen from the Red Square or from the tall buildings around, which are not many. Who would miss the snow treated with special salt to make sure the snow looked like an undercooked porridge? Who would miss obligatory ceremony of taking off their shoes and putting on the “tapochki”/slippers when entering Moscow apartments for celebrations.

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But I still miss Russian New Year – the hot beautiful food, the numerous TV shows lasting for 24 hours, the presents given by Grandfather Frost (The Most Non-Drunk Male at Midnight – pretty hard task) and the children promising this Grandfather Frost that they would behave so well next year, that they deserved all of the presents given to them by Most Non-Drunk Male at Midnight. Russians or rather ex-Soviets do the same here and we enjoy it very very much. Having Russian TV handy is a good and cheerful help.

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Since our parents died and there is no 1st of January lunch and dinner visits (soon I will start stealing my granddaughter for the 1st of January), 1st of January for the last 4 years feels for me like a 24 hours long flight on the plane. No care in the world, you feel you are in a certain time capsule where everything is taken care of.

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I start my 1st of January with a splash in the swimming poo

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This is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places on earth, and virtually any building in the large historic center, threaded with canals dotted with baroque bridges, can be considered an attraction—and indeed, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is a magical city, with a long list of major attractions. Its Hermitage Museum, housed in the Winter Palace of the Romanov Dynasty, is both one of the world’s greatest and oldest collections of art, treasure, and antiquities, and one of its most beautiful buildings.

If it was my first time to visit St Petersburg, and I did it now, in 2014, as a foreigner, I would say wow!!! – “Such a beautiful city, placed in the middle of a very different looking country. It is a Venice of the Northern Europe, no more and no less!”

Summer and Winter Gardens, Hermitage, Peter and Paul Fortress, it is a Disney Land of the 18th century Europe, no more and no less.

I was born in USSR in 1960 when St Petersburg was called Leningrad. In the annals of history we studied, St. Petersburg had been the capital of Russia. The Government was overtaken by The Temporary Government in February 1917, the city was renamed Petrograd in the proper Russian way. It was later, overtaken by the Bolsheviks on the 25th of October 1917. It was renamed Leningrad to commemorate the most loved leader of the working people. Is that it for the history of St. Petersburg?

I will tell you the story from the point of view of a very little girl who grew up in USSR, who was familiar with the officialdom of the history of the country, who knew nothing better, than to trust in the open and to doubt in hiding, who learnt studiously the history and tried to discover the facts behind the lies.

Leningrad to me, was a dream, to finally come true. When I was 12, my school chose the “chosen” ace kids to go to Leningrad school for an exchange for two weeks. I don’t know, what my city of Belgorod could offer for this exchange, apart from the warm weather, but an exchange it was.

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We went in a bus via the outskirts of Moscow (Moscow Outer Circle Road), through one of the oldest cities of Russia, called Novgorod (New City, no more no less, of 1220 AC), and straight to the city centre of Leningrad. The ride lasted for two days. When we approached the city centre of Leningrad and we saw the most beautiful cake/bread shop, we behaved in all honesty like a herd of wild tigers let free by Putin into China (not so long ago). The people in the queue asked us whether we were from Moscow, in the same way people from San Fransisco would ask a rude misbehaving person in a supermarket queue, whether he was from New York. We settled in the old school gymnasium, and after two days of riding on the bus, we fell in the thick of the sleep slumber. Straight on the floor mats which was a plenty. For 5 consecutive days we had dozens of excursions all of which, tried to reconcile the history for us with the history of communism, via the history of Peter The Great, who built the city on the swamps in 1703, via Decembrist movement (first aristocrats-rebels) in 1825, via the serfs liberation reforms in 1861, via the first failed revolution in 1905 and via the second successful revolution in 1917…Via relocation of the capital to Moscow and via the siege of Leningrad which lasted 3 consecutive years – from 1941-1944 inclusive. These 5 days gave me my first sense of pride – I saw the most beautiful city in the most beautiful country in the world.

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These 5 days inspired me for the rest of my life to look for a beauty in my life, to find a place to live, which was not anymore offensively ugly. Forget Western Siberia, and Belgorod (a little after that, I lived in Moscow, Roma, Vienna, and …Sydney).

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My second visit to Leningrad happened during perestroika, in 1986. It was in January, in the coldest January since 1941. Coincidentally, it was 45 years since the start of the siege of Leningrad. I was sent to study some obscure accounting software for some obscure computers made in USSR. It was bitterly cold in the dormitory of the University of Finance where we all stayed. But it was the time of perestroika, and the genie of the evil spirit of Stalin was let out the bottle. Leningrad, once again, became the vanguard of everything progressive. We went to the concerts of “Time Machine” (Mashina Vremeni – prohibited in Moscow), to the lectures of Vitaly Korotich , the editor of “Flame” (Ogonyok), the most readable and the most progressive weekly edition in USSR. The old age communists whistled and booed him at this lecture.

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We listened for the first time to the Poem “Babiy Yar”, prohibited since 1960-s and read by the Soviet poet Evtushenko. And look, we were not arrested. It was another country, elevated by hope and by love to “thy” neighbour.

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My third visit to Leningrad happened after Putin came to power. He is also from Leningrad. By that time, the city was called St Petersburg. It was a rather neglected city, aged beyond belief, but nevertheless beautiful. It gave away an impression of past glory and not so much of the future. The new cafes and coffee shops, however, were bursting with life and witty interiors. The canals were frozen, the winds were strong, the bridges were the same – I counted them again and again. But the Hermitage desperately needed renovation and the buildings looked like they also needed a facelift.  The main feeling was that the decadent, progressive city evolved into a city chained and waiting to be released when the time was right.

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Yet again it became the city of Gogol and Dostoevsky, depressed and physically unwell.

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Since the early noughties, St Petersburg became more radicalised, more homophobic, more racist…For the Russian people to become racist, there needs to be a heating from inside to the point of explosion. When there is no steam outlet there, the kettle whistle never whistles. It is called displacement in psychology.

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A little bit of history:

Saint Petersburg was founded by Peter The Great, on May 27 1703. Between 1713–1728 and 1732–1918, Saint Petersburg was the imperial capital of Russia. In 1918, the central government bodies moved from Saint Petersburg (then named Petrograd) to Moscow. It is Russia’s 2nd largest city after Moscow with 5 million inhabitants..

Saint Petersburg is often described as the most Western city of Russia, as well as its cultural capital. The Historic Centre of the City constitute UNESCO protected cultural site.(8000 monuments are UNESCO protected). Saint Petersburg is also home to Hermitage, one of the largest art museums in the world.  Louvre and Hermitage are still competing for this title.

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Peter the Great was interested in seafaring and maritime affairs, and he intended to have Russia gain a seaport (“window to Europe”), so it could trade with maritime nations. He needed a better seaport than Archangel, which was on the White Sea to the north and closed to shipping for months during the winter.

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During its first few years, the city developed around Trinity Square on the right bank of the Neva, near the Peter and Paul Fortress. However, Saint Petersburg soon started to be built out according to a plan. By 1716, Domenico Trezzini, had created a project, where the city centre would be located on Vasiliyevsky Island and shaped by a rectangular grid of canals. The project was not completed, and is evident in the layout of the streets. In 1716, Peter the Great appointed Jean Baptiste Alexandre De Blonde as the chief architect of Saint Petersburg.

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In 1725, Peter died at the age of fifty-two. His endeavours to modernise Russia had met with opposition from the Russian Nobility —resulting in several attempts on his life and a treason case involving his son. In 1728, Peter II of Russia moved his seat back to Moscow. But four years later, in 1732, under Empress Anna Of Russia, Saint Petersburg was again designated as the capital of the Russian Empire. It remained the seat of the Romanov Dynasty and the Imperial Court of the Russian Tsars, as well as the seat of the Russian government, for another 186 years until the October Revolution of 1917.

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In 1825, the suppressed Decembrist Revolt against Nicholas I, took place on the Senate Square in the city, a day after Nicholas assumed the throne.

The Revolution of 1905 began in Saint Petersburg and spread rapidly into the provinces.

On 1 September 1914, after the outbreak of WW1, the Imperial government renamed the city Petrograd, meaning “Peter’s City”, to remove the German words Sankt and burg.

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In March 1917, during the February Revolution, Nicholas II abdicated both for himself and on behalf of his son, ending the Russian monarchy and over three hundred years of Romanov Dynastic Rule.image

On November 7, 1917 (Julian Calendar, October 25), the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, stormed the Winter Palace in an event known thereafter as the October Revolution (there was not much to storm, to tell you the truth), which led to the end of the post-Tsarist provisional government, the transfer of all political power to the Soviets, and the rise of the Communist Party. After that the city acquired a new descriptive name, “the city of three revolutions”, referring to the three major developments in the political history of Russia of the early 20th-century.

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During World War II, Nazi Forces besieged Leningrad following the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. The siege (“blokada”) lasted 872 days, from September 1941 to January 1944.The Siege of Leningrad proved one of the longest, most destructive, and most lethal sieges of a major city in modern history. It isolated the city from most supplies except those provided through the Road of Life across Lake Lagoda. More than one million civilians died, mainly from starvation. Many others were eventually evacuated or escaped, so the city became largely depopulated. My own father’s auntie survived the siege, but died 10 days later from the consequences of food deprivation. Shostakovich dedicated his longest and the most famous 7th symphony to Leningrad and the people living under the siege. It was completed in December 1941 and is called Leningrad.

In 1960 they opened Piskarevsky Memorial with the words engraved at the entrance:

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“From the 8th of September 1941 till 22nd of January 1944, there were 107185 bombs dropped on the city from the planes, 148478 of live ammunition, 16744 people were killed, 333782 wounded, 642803 persons died from starvation.”

There is a permanent heartbeat of the metronome upon the entrance to the cemetery. The diary of Tatiana Savicheva whose whole family died from starvation during the siege, is displayed in two pavilions of the cemetery. The diary is eerily similar to the diary of Anna Franck. Maybe all human suffering is eerily similar?

The wars and revolutions, this city lived through, makes it one of the most suffering city in the world. And yet, the soul of Leningrad is not destroyed.

It might have hardened, but it lies in waiting for the winds of freedom coming its way…See you soon, one of the most beautiful cities on Earth…

My love, my youth, my dream

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It is very difficult to write now about Russia, without mentioning political situation surrounding Russia and Ukraine, but I will. I won’t mention politics, because Moscow, as one of the most beautiful cities in the world deserves my love and admiration. My story of Moscow is not politically clouded.

I was born in the city of Kursk, grew up in the city of Belgorod (size of Newcastle but with pollution of 100 times more than in Newcastle). We had asbestos factory, 5 nuclear stations around, we even had Vitamin A pollution from the vitamin factory.

I have never been to Moscow until I reached the age of 14. My school organised a trip to then Leningrad via Moscow. We stopped in Moscow for 15 minutes to buy Fanta and to allow the driver to have his long awaited cigarette. I remember, that we stopped on the outskirts of the city, the night was lit by the windows of “very tall buildings” and by the huge streetlights – anything was bigger and taller, than in Belgorod. I did not see a city, I saw mirage. At the age of 15, during summer holidays, I fell in love with a very cute Moscovite. All factors combined, I promised to myself to make everything possible to get an entry to one of the Moscow Universities. To cut the story short, I did. 5 years passed, and my husband and I had to leave Moscow, since Moscow was the city closed to people from other regions (see “propiska”). Since then, I saw Moscow only in my dreams, I was desperately, hopelessly in love with the city, with my own mirage.

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25 years passed since I came back to Moscow from my homeland Australia to start our own Cara&Co, to get a second education, and to re-start my life there in some sense. I did not recognise the city. All of the streets were renamed back from their communist names to the original pre-revolutionary names. It clashed with my geographical cretinism and, voila!, I found myself in the city, completely unknown to me. It was again, a mirage, based on my amnesia.

As Heraclites said:

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

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I lived in Moscow from 2006 till 2012. I can only vouch for my own experience.

I will start from few postulates:

1)   Moscow never sleeps. It is a very entertaining city. Forget New York, which sleeps sometimes, – if you want to go to the nightclub in Moscow, the alcohol supply won’t stop at 1 am (makes Sydney stupidly provincial), you can go to the movies at 1am, you can sit on a beautiful veranda in the restaurant at 1am, and nobody, would be washing the floors around you, to show, that your time is over.You can have manicure and pedicure at 1am, a bit more expensive than in daytime, but you can. You can sit with your friends at 1am and leave their place at 4am, because Russians are incredibly conversational people, and they don’t need to drive their kids to netball on Saturday morning). The fitness centres close at 1am and open at 6 am. The nightclubs are abundant, and are one of the best in the world.

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2)   Moscow is a very old city – the first reference to it dates back to year 1147 when Yury Dolgorykiy met Svyatoslav Olgovich. The original Moscow Kremlin was built during the 14th century. It was reconstructed by Ivan,The Third, who in the 1480s invited architects from Italy, such as Petrus Antonius Solarius, who, in turn, designed the new Kremlin wall and its towers, and Marco Ruffo, who designed the new palace for the prince. The Kremlin walls, as they now appear, are those designed by Solarius, completed in 1495. The Kremlin’s Great Bell Tower was built in 1505–08 and augmented to its present height in 1600.

Moscow ceased to be Russia’s capital when Peter the Great moved his government to the newly built Saint Petersburg on the Baltic coast in 1712. After losing the status as capital of the empire, the population of Moscow at first decreased, from 200,000 in the 17th century to 130,000 in 1750. But after 1750, the population grew more than tenfold over the remaining duration of the Russian Empire, reaching 1.8 million by 1915.

3)   Moscow is still a very Russian city. Usually, when the foreigners praise St Petersburg, as much more beautiful city, Moscow, however, IS a Russian City, The Mother of the Russian cities (“Мать городов русских”). St Petersburg was built mostly by the Italian Architects, based on Peter the Great idea to create a European city. St Petersburg, somehow, does not have the same feel of Russianness, that Moscow has. Moscow has incredible examples of the early Russian church architecture like St Basils Cathedral, where the history mentions the name of the architect, Ivan Yakovlevich Barma (Varfolomey). Legend held, that Ivan The Terrible blinded the architect so, that he could not re-create the masterpiece

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There are incredible examples of Russian/Soviet modernism architecture, evolving later as the Soviet constructivism. There is a very distinct parallel in those styles with Art Nouveau, and Art Deco in Western Europe and USA. At the same time there is a distinctly Russian /Soviet difference.

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The finest examples of this are of Yaroslav Railway station (by Fyodor Schectel), Church of Saint Martha (Aleksey Schusev), Moscow Metro (first stations like Mayakovskaya and Belorusskaya were based on designs of Alexander Deineka), The Government House, aka “Dom na Naberzhnoy” by Architect B. Iofan, TSUM by architect Roman Clein.

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The architecture course in France is taught and based on the early examples of Soviet Architecture, with the best names in mind like Vladimir Tatlin, Nikolai Nikitin, Roman Klein, Aleksey Schusev.

4)   Moscow is a fashion savvy city. Russian women have, as I always put it mildly, so called “garbage bin syndrome”. They would rather be seen dead than without proper makeup and proper attire, even when they take the garbage out. Nothing like Australian celebrities, wearing approaching their death sentence garments, caught by paparazzi, when picking up the morning newspaper.) Moscow shops have all brands imaginable on the planet. Moscow does not have giant shopping malls, the ones I was writing about before, and invading Sydney, but it has very good shops and boutiques and department stores.

GUM:

William Craft Brumfield described the GUM building as “a tribute both to Shukhov’s design and to the technical proficiency of Russian Architecture toward the end of the 19th century”.

The glass-​roofed design made the building unique at the time of construction. The facade is divided into several horizontal tiers, lined with red Finnish granite, Tarusa marble, and limestone. Each arcade is on three levels, linked by walkways of reinforced concrete.

It is still open nowadays, and is a popular tourist destination for those visiting Moscow. Many of the stores feature luxury brands from all over the world; locals refer to these as the “exhibitions of prices”, the joke being that no one could afford actually to buy any of the items displayed.

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TSUM:

TsUM is one of the most fashionable and trendy places in the city, and the largest fashion department store in Eastern Europe. It carries more than 1000 brands of fashionable apparel, perfumery, jewellery, as well as “TsUM Globus Gourmet” gastronome, a fusion restaurant, a cigar room, a café, and champagne-bar “Veuve Clicquot”.

TsUM new seasonal collections appearance is supported by sound advertising campaigns with world-famous fashion stars, Milla Jovovich, Naomi Campbell, Natalia Vodianova, Malgosa Bella, and Cindy Crawford.

The world-renowned designers participate in TsUM events, introducing to the guests and clients of TsUM their newest collections in person.

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Tsvetnoy Central Market is a mall located in a newly built 5-storey building near the Tsvetnoy Bulvar metro station. It’s one of the trendiest places in the city, a real hipster paradise. The more you go upstairs, the more expensive and extravagant the boutiques get, and there is a food market on top.

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Stoleshnikov Pereylok, Tretyakovsky Proezd, Petrovka are the areas where the best concept stores are located, Podium, Kuznetsky Most 20, 3.14 (Pi), Luntz, Leform.

Below are Miroslava Duma – a socialite, famous blogger, and aspiring designer(on the left) and Vika Gadzinskaya, the most famous Russian designer. Her creations are in Colette, The Other Stories(H&M) and many other famous stores in the world.

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5)   Moscow is a very cultured city

With 50 museums, I mean museums-museums (not just the History of Buttons Museum)), with around 100 art galleries, with 80 State Universities in Moscow alone, with so many theatres and world renowned directors like Kirill Serebrennikov, Russia is still an epicentre of all things cultural. My favourite place, when I lived there, was the Catholic Church (Metro Belorusskaya) where Sunday concerts of different varieties, all of incredible finesse and perfection were held, and where the tickets would cost you only 50 roubles (1.6 AUD). Our Australian Ambassador gave away to me this well hidden secret. My Sundays became very memorable.

I must admit at the same time, there is a Vodka Museum in Moscow…)

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6)   Moscow is a very corrupt and very bureaucratic city. I have had my business in Moscow. Russia is proudly ahead only of Nigeria and Bangladesh in the corruption ladder, depending on who is making the order.

One has to oil the wheels every time, when one wants anything to happen. That’s why so many Western companies in Russia have an army of brokers and middle people to handle all of the awkward situations. To start and register a company in Australia takes you one week, to do the same in Russia takes about 6 months. Go figure.

I left Moscow in 2012 to start my business in Sydney. I left a very successful business there and the rest is history. I still miss Moscow, not as a mirage anymore, but as a city, where I forged many friendships, the city where I lived a non-stop social life, and where the sparkles were not only in champagne, but in the pure atmosphere of the city. I miss Moscow, as one misses a very good friend, maybe a bit unstable and manic, but a friend, nevertheless.

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We all know only too well that jewellery encrusted with diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds costing millions apiece tends to moulder away in strong rooms, deposit boxes and various other safe places, either waiting to be put up for auction or for an executor to dispose of the estate. Only a little of it is lucky enough to see the light of day for longer than when it was on the jeweller’s workbench.

The idea of costume jewellery appeared in the 20th century. It was out of the question to manufacture jewellery from precious stones and metals twice a year for every new collection because of the eye-watering cost. Fashion houses weren’t ready to take risks like that or for that sort of expenditure. On top of that, for the exact same reasons jewellers tried not to experiment with design and produced things that they were certain would sell. That didn’t suit fashion designers, who were keen that every new garment should take your breath away. The exception was items produced for private family collections. Non-precious materials came to their aid. Initially faux jewellery was made in the form of mock-ups exclusively for closed shows intended to bring out or complement some outfit or another. The client had the opportunity of commissioning from the jeweller whatever had taken her fancy, to be made in accordance with the mock-up, only this time from precious materials. Soon both designers and clients realised that the mock-ups weren’t at all bad in their own right and the materials and stones that were used were simpler and easier to work, which allowed for new heights of design to be scaled.

Jewellery from non-precious materials made a bashful entrance to fashion at the beginning of the 20th century, along with the new wave of designers who followed in the wake of the fathers of haute couture, Worth and Doucet, and by the 1920s it had firmly established itself in the fashion pantheon thanks to celebrated couturiers of the day.

After that there followed a period of oblivion since for two decades Europe was immersed in a far from peaceful time of wars and revolutions. Women’s clothing of that era did its best to look like men’s and representatives of the fair sex were preoccupied by matters of social equality to such an extent that they forgot who a girl’s best friends are. Then in the late 1940s Christian Dior reawakened the interest in costume jewellery, which had fallen sound asleep, with a passionate kiss from the New Look. The market for costume jewellery reached its height in the 1950s-70s when it became an indispensable part of any fashionable look. Things had taken a different turn by the time the 1980s came around, although that decade also left its mark for all the right reasons.

Throughout the 20th century a huge number of people, both talented and less so, have longed desperately to inscribe their name and as indelibly as possible on the wall of honour of costume jewellery. But in my view there are three names that will always stand out – Robert Goossens,Gripoix and Jacques Gautier.

Up until the 1980s, nearly 60 percent of all costume jewellery was made by these top designers, from the sketch designs right through to the finished product. For several decades YSL, Chanel, Dior and a host of other top fashion houses worked with them. Most of the items that this trio produced are to be found in private collections and are true designer pieces by a designer with a capital ‘d’. Many of them were produced to a limited run of no more than 10.

The veteran of this Stakhanovite drive in costume jewellery was the maison YSL, but that takes nothing away even from those products of theirs, which had the longest run.

In order to work out which items to buy and what’s hot property the first thing you need to do is to get a proper sense of what has got you interested in faux jewellery in the first place. If you just want to keep pace with a trend, plain and simple, although in a way that’s anything but, to draw gazes of burning envy and to be able to elicit the odd question like “Where did you get that?” or “What’s the brand?” then buy something from the 1980s or early 90s – large stud earrings by Gripoix, say; geometrically patterned fashion jewellery by YSL made of plastic, metal or non-precious stones; crosses or long ropes from Chanel by Goossens of brass and drops of coloured crystal. If you want to delve more deeply, then look for the work of less well known producers. Although it’s not easy, it’s worth making the effort to track down the designer costume jewellery produced independently by Isabel Canovas,who used to work for Dior.

Her work – executed in a thoroughly ethnic style using warm metallic tones and semi-precious stones – is for card-carrying connoisseurs of costume jewellery. If it’s for your own wardrobe, then don’t be shy about buying unsigned pieces – they often yield nothing in design and may be one-off items by famous producers.

Opportunities to buy costume jewellery at auctions such as Auction Atrium, for example, don’t come up that all that often and the ultimate cost will be fairly high. You’re better off looking out for closed sales where private collections are being sold off cheap and you can pick up real masterpieces for a very nice price. If you have the time, it’s worth setting aside a few days or even weeks for poking around antiques markets. At the better known ones such as Saint Germain-des-Prés in Paris and Portobello Road in London you’ll pay more, but at the less famous ones on the outskirts of Brussels and Lille the prices can be pleasantly surprising. Get talking to your fellow browsers and you might get an invitation to one of those very same closed sales of private collections. If all this has engendered a desire to set up a business or invest money – as opposed to just seeking aesthetic enjoyment – then buy Art Deco jewellery from the 1920s and 30s such as Lanvin or else 1940s or Art Nouveau or Liberty jewelery.

Buy jewellery made from large crystals, of complex natural and mineral hues. A scattering of rhinestones arranged with superb artistry may sometimes weary, but will never fall in value. Check that the item has the manufacturer’s stamp, is signed on the underside or has a certificate of authenticity. If you’ve decided to cast caution to the wind, then try your luck buying costume jewellery on Ebay: it can often work out substantially cheaper, but remember – there are no safeguards against counterfeits or defects. Making a purchase on Ebay is like internet dating: it’s quite possible that things won’t go any further than the initial approach, you don’t have any opportunity to make a close inspection, you need to prepare yourself for possible disappointment and you have no recourse if something goes wrong. Then again, it’s entirely possible for every one in five purchases to be ideal. Basically it’s a lottery. If, in spite of everything, you’ve decided to go with internet shopping, then try www.beladora.com, an on-line dealer in antique and estate jewellery, as there are more guarantees to be had here. And if you do, then I advise you to be in Beverly Hills where the head office of the firm is located on the day when the sale goes through as it will make it a lot easier to return anything or to exchange the goods if that proves to be necessary.

In Russia and the USSR there was no culture of costume jewellery as such and so for the moment there are few people with a proper appreciation of the magic of this art form and, more importantly, the ability to use it for peaceful ends. Both in their own country and abroad, Russian clients are as taken aback as they always used to be and turn up their noses when they hear that something is made of materials somewhat different from the more familiar gold, platinum, rubies and diamonds. Few of them realise that rare pieces of costume jewellery can cost more than normal fine jewellery. So you have every chance of becoming a highly fashionable aesthete and connoisseur, who doesn’t just follow trends but sets them. One piece of advice: try not to wear vintage faux jewellery with vintage clothing if you find it difficult to know when to stop, as otherwise there’s a high likelihood that you’ll end up looking decked out like a Christmas tree. Play it for contrasts. Then again, there’s an exception to every rule.

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There’s one thing that has always astonished me, and that it why it should be that in Russia, where there is always everything in the way of jewellery, even if it’s more expensive, it’s always difficult to track down antique jewellery from the time of Queen Victoria? It’s understandable that it should be difficult to find Art Nouveau jewellery – all the jewellery from that time perished in the furnace of the Revolution and as for Art Deco jewellery by that time the USSR had shut its borders and for the very same reason there was no Liberty or Moderne jewellery to be had. Yet I failed to understand what Queen Victoria had done to displease Russia and how. But again history comes to our aid – Queen Victoria was still a girl when she came to power in 1837 and left this world and her office simultaneously in 1901. This period in Russo-British relations was marked by the so-called Great Game, the struggle to master the sphere of influence in Central Asia and in the Middle East. During this period in history the Crimean War took place, Russia annexed Turkmenistan, there was a war in Afghanistan and several other conflicts between the two countries. It is because of this almost century-long enmity that one of the most important styles in world jewellery – the Victorian style – is missing from the collections of Russian jewellers.

It was said that Queen Victoria had two passions – a passion for her husband, who passed away prematurely, and a passion for jewellery. Not one monarch before and after the reign of Victorian has been so closely associated with a style of applied art created during her rule, in part in the art of jewellery. Antique jewellery from the time of Victoria is still wearable, it lies in the caskets of English-speaking great-grandmothers in countries of the British Commonwealth, it can be bought in antique shops in Sydney, Cape Town, Delhi, Auckland, London, Boston… Essentially it was jewellery from that period that first attained the status of applied (saleable) art and became decoration, losing the ritualistic, religious and ceremonial character of jewellery of preceding eras.

There are three distinct stylistic periods that can be defined in the period of the Queen’s rule. The first is the Romantic Period, lasting from 1837 to 1860: a very young Victoria becomes queen and marries Prince Albert for love (a great rarity). This period of happiness (as a result of this royal union nine heirs to the throne were brought forth) was characterized by romantic symbolism in jewellery – by golden patterns made up of hearts, anchors, snakes and kisses. Why patterns? It all came down to economy, of course – England’s gold reserves were running low, goldsmiths had to use the material sparingly and so executed their work in the form of filigree or interwoven ornament, hollow-bore bracelets and intricate chasing. All of this created the illusion of volume and made the items appear massive. During the era of Romanticism various different precious and semi-precious stones were used – pearls, turquoises, coral, blue zircon, pink topazes (they would turn pink as a result of being overheated), amethysts, peridots, aquamarines, garnets, sapphires, vulcanite and so on. There were tacit ways of deciphering the language of jewellery from that time – the language was made up of the symbols in the engraved patterns and castings, of stones and outlines on enamel:

JEWELS & FLOWERS AND THEIR MEANINGS

ITEMS MEANING
RUBY PASSION
DIAMOND FIDELITY
EMERALD HOPE
AMETHYST DEVOTION
PEARLS TEARS
BUTTERFLY SOUL
A DOG FIDELITY
A WISHBONE A WISH AND HOPE
IVY FRIENDSHIP
A LIZARD PASSIONATE LOVE
ARROWS LOVE
A FLY HUMILITY
FORGET ME NOTS TRUE LOVE
LILLY OF THE VALLEY UNEARTHLY MEEKNESS
ACORN LONGEVITY OR FIDELITY
PANSIES I’M THINKING OF YOU
PETUNIA ANGER
YELLOW POPPIES SUFFICIENCY OR ABUNDANCE
SWEET PEA PARTING

 

Contemporary etiquette proscribed the wearing of diamonds during the day; it was regarded as vulgar. Nor were unmarried women allowed to wear them – diamonds were only given as a present to wives as a guarantee of future fidelity. In 1861 the Queen’s beloved husband, Prince Albert, dies. The age of romance in styles of clothing, jewellery and interior design came to an abrupt end. It gave way to another epoch in style and jewellery – the Mourning Period. In the absence of the necessary psychiatric help the entire country was plunged into mourning – mourning became fashionable and large-scale. The country put up funeral bracelets, jewellery made from jet(black amber), black glass and black onyx.

Jewellery pieces became massive, hair from the beloved would often be woven into it as a memento. Since mourning had become large-scale, the production began of jewellery that was affordable for the masses, made not just of 18-carat, but also of 14- or 9-carat gold, and not just with precious but also with semi-precious stones. The Mourning Period coincided chronologically with another phase known as the Grand Period. By this time the sovereign of the seas had gathered even more strength and got back on her feet – gold was discovered in America and Australia. Gold jewellery becomes truly massive – the methods of the master craftsmen of antiquity began to be used in its production. Jewellery was made with enamel in the Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman styles, souvenirs brought back by English travellers were incorporated in lots of pieces – bracelets were incrusted with bits of lava from Pompeii, stones from the ruins of the Colosseum and so on.

I have a bracelet with a minimal amount of gold and with bits of lava with have cameos carved on them – in style it bears comparison with the old Egyptian bracelets that are so successfully copied in Jerusalem these days. In 1853 diplomatic relations were established with Japan and India and ethnic motifs and styles appear: ‘Japonaiserie’ manifested itself in the form of representations executed in enamel in a Japanese style; there were signet rings bearing Indian miniatures. Thus did the Industrial Revolution and the spread of colonialisation begin gently to wipe away the traces of mourning in the Victorian style of that time.

In 1880, when everyone, including the Queen herself, had got fed up with mourning, the Aesthetic Period began.

Thank heavens, diamonds started to flow from another colony: South African diamonds were so high in quality that there was no point in setting them with other stones. The quality of the material, the purity of the stone and the skill of the jeweler were valued more highly than the complicated designs of the Romantic Period. By this time the Queen was over 40 and 40 was not then “the new 20” and it has come to be called now. Forty meant that Queen Victoria had grown old, lost her looks and put on weight – the Queen’s daughter-in-law, Princess Alexandra, the Princess Diana of the 19th century took centre stage. Competition arose between the old and the new. The Queen and the Princess experienced the same feelings towards each other as Elizabeth II and Princess Diana. There was a division of spheres of influence in style: as before, the Queen dictated the style of domestic interiors, design, hats and hair. The Princess exerted a huge influence on the styles of jewellery and clothing. A so-called sub-style of Princess – subsequently Queen – Alexandra was created. In the last years of the rule of Queen Victoria the production began of jewellery made from white gold with diamonds and pearls. On an official photograph from that time Princess Alexandra has been captured wearing a necklace of numerous ropes of pearls It was said that the value of this necklace was equal to the cost of the unique first American skyscrapers. What would you have chosen – pearls of a skyscraper? In 1901 Queen Victoria passed away and out of English life and the most stable period in the history of the British Empire came to an end.

Over the course of this period the Industrial Revolution occurred, new colonies were established, the country became more liberal. Great Britain became not just sovereign of the seas in the full sense of the word; the achievement of that age was also the raising of applied art to the level of fine art for the first time in British history. The Victoria and Albert Museum was the first museum of applied art in the world. Even today jewellery of the Victorian age is still to be seen. It became so popular that it is still being copied today (what a shame that the Queen did not patent her style as Tiffany would have to pay a pretty penny for the copyright) and bijouterie is still being produced in this style by Mikhal Negrin in Israel, among others. Bracelets of 9-carat pink gold with a check lock can cost upwards of $2,000 if they are genuine antiques and up to $300 if they are brand new reproductions. But it doesn’t matter how much they cost; what’s important is that they are united by the same name, the same era and the same great history.

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