“In every city and every nation / From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station” there are spots that require some sense of humour to fully appreciate. The world’s smallest pub (my dad walked across half of London for a pint), or the giant babies crawling over the TV tower in Prague, or “the world’s largest animated GIF” as the National Library in Minsk is known.
St Petersburg’s Karelia Business Hotel has recently been turned into one of these. This bulky 16-storey building was completed ahead of the 1980 Olympics. The architects, Mikhail Rusakov and Georgy Kostyurin, based it on one of standard Soviet designs, so chances are it is prone to causing a bit of deja-vu.
What gave Karelia a new lease of life, in 2012, was art. Mural artists Raskrasimvse have painted it to resemble a pair of giant suitcases (here’s how they did it). Like many other silly achievements, Karelia’s revamping was included in the Guinness Book of World Records. At 15,682 sq. meters, it is the world’s largest 3D painting.
It is large enough to be seen from my balcony, although the hotel is about 1 km away. Karelia certainly adds some cheer to the otherwise visually deficient neighbourhood, filled with grim Brezhnev-era blocks of flats and swampy parks. Truth be told, I never stayed at the Karelia, and only went up to one of its rooms once back in the 1990s, but its lobby is nice and quiet. Quite in contrast to the silliness outside.