On the beaten track. Moscow must-sees. (Now with no added cathedrals.)
We’re staying off the cathedral trail, via that quick excursion to the cinema last week: a sudden ninety degree turn – hope you’re still holding on… Expect more sudden diversions and changes in pace. Talking of which, I’d like to pick up the pace somewhat this week and give you more of a “scatter shot” of Moscow gems before heading east – on the page that is, rather than in person. I’m sure I’ll be sitting in the kitchen all the while, working through tea-bags and soya milk.
So, after the textbook style of the past weeks (or is it months?), I also want to include more interviews with some of the interesting people I connect with who have “been there, done that”, or who are in fact living it on a daily basis. I keep thinking, “Without the human experience, all of this stuff is just dead stone” (albeit beautiful and even awe-inspiring dead stone). It’s true.
It’s also high time we had more of those random asides that have been absent for a while (remember the “Weird Little Things” tombstones?). Anyway…
Perhaps your principal reference is the eponymous 1983 film starring William Hurt? Very good film, incidentally, though some prefer the book. (Just how many film references can I get away with dropping into TAT? Well, let’s find out. I haven’t even touched on Solaris yet…)
Opened in 1928, Gorky is officially the “Park of Culture”, and was named after Maxim Gorky: writer, activist against the Tsarist regime and co-originator of Socialist Realism in literature. These days it features “Extreme rides: accompanied by physical and psychological stress” – or so the warning/disclaimer goes. Well, isn’t that just the right way to remember him?! There’s currently a 1500-ruble day pass for the rides, which otherwise cost typically 100–400 rubles each. There’s also a 100-ruble ticket to enter the “park” section of the, er…park.
Yes, it is part fairground/theme park, it’s true, though there’s plenty more there besides, and I’m not just talking about the restaurants. The park is 3km long, covers 300 acres and runs alongside the south bank of the Moskva River. It sits in south-west central Moscow, in the crook of the elbow between Leninsky Prospekt and Ulitsa Krymsky Val – just behind Gosudarstvennyj University in fact. There are plenty of grounds, trees, ponds, sculptural features, fountains and pavilions to explore, for those of a more serene nature – or those just seeking a respite from such rides as the “Rabid Mill”. There’s only so much Rabid Mill a person can take, after all.
Other features of interests include: ice skating during frozen winters, a (deactivated) test vehicle from the Buran space-shuttle program (eat your heart out Disneyland) and, close by, the remarkable Peter the Great statue. All bases covered then.
The Peter the Great statue
While we’re in the vicinity, we might as well…
This statue of Peter the Great is not to be confused with the “Bronze Horseman” or “Seated” statues in St. Petersburg. Instead, it is an exuberant and excessive affair, considered by some to be one of the ugliest statues in existence! These “some” include a good deal of the general Moscow population, the consensus being that they want rid of it! They’ve tried to fob it off on St.Petersburg, but the latter refused their offer – and this is a statue in honour of that city’s founder! There is even a suggestion that the 600-ton steel, bronze and copper creation, standing at 315 feet, be simply scrapped.
So what does it look like? Well, it’s Peter the Great at heroic scale, standing map in hand at the wheel of a relatively diminutive galleon, complete with sails and rigging. All atop a column formed from stacked ship bows bristling with flags. It’s an official marker of the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy, though there’s a rumour that the sculptor, Zurab Tsereteli, converted it from a statue he’d made of Christopher Columbus, when a home for this original piece could not be found.
Maybe it’s a taste issue? Culture lovers relax (whether anti or pro): the monument is expected to be removed but not destroyed in the near future, with the cities of Arkhangelsk and Petrozavodsk having both offered to take it off of Moscow’s hands.
Next time: Trips and Tales (Part 31)
In and around Victory Park, Moscow’s open-air memorial museum.
[Photo by Ashley R. Good]