There are ways to enjoy
summer even in the
urban giant of Moscow...
Click on any image in this story to zoom in.
The summer has finally arrived to Moscow. After unusually rainy and cool May, June has been generous enough to remind us Muscovites how a summer is supposed to look and feel.
In fact, this summer is unique in some respects for Moscow - and for me personally (though for different reasons). Speaking of personal aspects, my business schedule is so overloaded that for the first time in many years there's no hope to get even a short break before September. All summer I will be staying in Moscow - not a very refreshing and promising idea... But I'll share some of my findings about how to survive throughout this hot season in the city, so for the readers of my stories this summer promise to be enjoyable.
For Moscow, this summer is a busy season of hectic preparations for celebration of the city's 850th anniversary. The official event will take place on September 4-7. All summer all city construction workers and city administration are going to do their best to make Moscow look really great on its birthday.
Several months ago I mentioned in my October'95 story the largest hole in Moscow. At the time, it was a correct description of Maneznaya square. Now, the largest square in the very center of Moscow is almost ready to become a huge mall. The construction occupies three underground levels. The work under the surface is still in progress and that part closed for public. Above the surface, one can already enjoy new lawns, fountains, marble stairways, and even a man-made river.
Opinions about the architecture of this largest birthday present that Moscow is about to receive are controversial, but at last everyone agrees that the new Manezhnaya is better than a dull dusty parking lot for tourist buses it used to be. On the other hand, not many would call the new design an example of a really good taste.
But let's get back to the survival technique in summer Moscow. Fountains at Manezhnaya are hardly an ultimate solution. Maybe it's a good place to stroll through on a weekday if your business brings you to the downtown. But weekends call for something bigger. What is the right way to really relax in or near a large city, and how to do that with no car? As many Muscovites, I do not have one.
In one of the stories on these pages, I have already mentioned the national park that begins inside the city limits, only a few metro stops from The Kremlin and Manezhnaya Square. The park is called Moose Island, it stretches for many miles to north-east, jumps across the belt road that serves an official city border of Moscow and there starts the places that are as close to wilderness as one can get near Moscow.
Inside the city and a bit to the south from Moose Island, a smaller park, Izmailovo, is located. A picture to the right shows you the house of Izmailovo ranger. A cozy place, isn't it? The park around is not wild, and is not preserved as a national parks are. Most of the territory is crossed by asphalt-covered lanes featuring frequent comfortable benches. Senior Muscovite do like the place and you will find lots of them there on a weekend. The blue line of Moscow metro comes right to Izmailovo park, so it would not take too much walking to get to it for anyone.
Several ponds in Izmailovo offer not very exciting fishing, but still some enjoy it. And anyway, water in the park makes the air fresher and cooler on a hot day. After several experiments, I found Izmailovo too small for bike rides and shifted my attention to the Moose Island, deciding to better study what it offers in its parts located beyond Moscow city limits.
|Couple of miles after crossing the belt road on Schelkovskoe highway - and you can turn left on almost any trail. Click on the pictures - the views are worth a close look! This magic of a fragrant morning haze is slightly unexpected so close to a huge urban center. Fat and lazy hares and squirrels cross the trail in front of the bike and the only voices you hear belong to singing birds, no human or industrial sounds can be heard at all. Heavy highway traffic seems so far away, while in fact it's only half a mile behind me when I take these pictures.|
The forest is all decorated with flowers. Forget-me-not and dandelion weave a blue and yellow tapestry on the emerald background of a forest clearing. Lilies-of-the-valley glow like pearls in the green depths. It's too bad that despite all multimedia enhancements, the Net still cannot transfer smells!
Fragrant and moist shadows, a heavy dew on the grass, shining like sparks in the sunlight... And nobody around! It's really amazing how few people dare to leave the roads for trails. Most of them don't even look around, driving to places somewhere far, looking for a supposedly clean and nice place.
Of course on a summer day the forest is great, but there are mosquitoes in it and nothing to dive in. So water is definitely something to look for! The Moose Island offers a nice and clean streams that remind me of small rivers in northern wilderness. But here they are a bit shallow for swimming and the banks are far from being comfortable. Fortunately, several centuries ago a pond was made one of these small brooks and now thousands of overheated Muscovites occupy its beaches. This place is much more civilized, with a huge parking lots and numerous vendors offering you snacks and drinks.
After a short swimming exercise, new energy comes up from some hidden source, and six more miles of a ride do not look too difficult.
These 6 miles bring me to Bear Lakes, another recreational spot. It's on the right-hand side of the highway and does not belong to Moose Island. So what? Look at the photo (and click on it!) The air and the water are great, and the really good fishing places are not too far from merry and crowded beaches. And once again the forest floor boats the carpet of joyful colors among elegant birch-trees.
By the way, the Bear Lakes are famous not only among fishermen and relaxing Muscovites. Across the highway, at the edge of the Moose Island, a unique scientific facility of Russian space scientists is on duty around the clock. The Center of Deep Space Communication has some spectacular dishes to look at...
On the way back home I cannot resist the temptation to make one more short detour that, strictly speaking, breaks (or at least bends) the law. I visit the area of the "aqueduct", one of the several supplies for Moscow drinking water. The area is restricted - but too nice to miss. It's so wonderful to sit at the empty bank of this man-made channel that brings clear water to my apartment.
But finally it's time to go home. To the city where street bands play on the sidewalks of Tverskaya adding a pleasant note to its never stopping noise. To the crowds and markets, to the smog and heat of stone, concrete and asphalt. Still, two days on a bike, 90 kilometers behind, rides through the woods are refreshing enough and help to recharge my batteries for another week at work.
Andrey - firstname.lastname@example.org
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