пятница, 18 сентября 2009 г.

THE “GUT” OF ST.PETERSBURG



For the entire three centuries of the history of St.Petersburg Sennaya Square has been associated with Sennoy Market, which used to occupy the place. For fear of fires the territory was cleared of thinly growing trees and the resulting space was designated for trading in hay (hence the name of the square and the market – “hay” is “seno” in Russian) and also straw and timber. Over the years Sennoy Market expanded to acquire a tremendous popularity. Rightfully called the “Gut” of St.Petersburg, it offered an ample variety of goods, so people went there for all sorts of things.

Originally farmers were selling right from the carts thereby making it possible for the residents to buy fresh products cheap, both wholesale and retail. Over the years, however, such direct trade underwent changes and consumers and producers came to deal with one another through intermediaries who profiteered at the expense of St.Petersburg residents.

Every day, after 1 a.m., milkmen and greengrocers from all over the city headed for Nikolskaya Square. At 2 a.m. the flag went up signaling the start of the trading. Sennoy Market vendors were the first to rush to the loaded carts and in as much as half an hour bought up the goods delivered and were stacking them in their stalls two hours later. Built of stone and iron in the 19th century Sennoy Market comprised three spacious glass-roofed buildings. It had up to five hundred stalls and four lanes. Each stall had a number with the vendor’s name above it.

Sennoy Market was famous for meat, fish and greenery stalls. As it opened at 6 a.m. one could see the finest varieties of vegetable — cauliflower, cabbage, turnip, salad, asparagus, onion and beans stashed into huge baskets and sacks. In July the Market was heaped up with cucumbers from near Moscow that the vendors sold for ridiculously small prices. Berries and fruits were available both at the Market and from the street vendors.

The walls in the meat sector were zinc-paneled for sanitary considerations and the floor, covered in sawdust, absorbed streaks of blood from hanging carcasses of animals. The carcasses hang everywhere hooked by the hinder legs. Arranged on the counters were lungs and liver glittering in dark red colours. Hundreds of frozen hares hang head down, peasants brought them from Novgorod. By the thousands and bunches of dead game lay on the shelves. Every morning the meat stalls were packed to capacity with a milling crowd. Women with big baskets stocked up on provisions, and as the dusk fell Sennoy Market was visited by the owners of all sorts of eateries and restaurants.

The fish stalls were a sight, especially in wintertime. Dwellers of rivers, lakes and seas of Russia, now frozen, were stored in baskets with ice on the floor. Stacked on the shelves were smoked white-fish and silvery salmon, bowels removed, so the bright red cut was clearly visible. And there were special reservoirs with swimming perches, pikes, ruffs and even crayfish. Sennoy Market had the so-called “Gluttony Stalls”, which offered cheap meals for visitors from the provinces.

In June 1831, Sennaya Square was shaken by so-called “cholera riots” that started with the brutal murder of medical personnel in a cholera hospital in immediate proximity to the Market. For lack of effective anti-cholera medication the police had to pack all people suspected of having contracted cholera into special barracks. That gave rise to rumours that the people thus isolated were poisoned deliberately to check the spread of the disease. The sporadic riots that followed had to be suppressed with the help of a regular army. Legend has it that Emperor Nicholas I traveling in an open carriage rode right into the rampaging crowd unguarded and in the rumbling voice of his ordered the rioters to their knees. The crowd, taken by surprise and therefore totally disoriented, obeyed and was thus pacified.

Though Sennoy Market has long gone, and Sennaya Square serves a living reminder of the once biggest city bazaar. Another reminder is the metro station Sennaya Square.

Source:The Voice of Russia

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