Start: Novokuznetskaya metro station
End: Park Kultury metro station
Distance: about 4 km
One of the pleasantest areas for an urban walk is historic ‘Zamoskvorechye’, whose name means literally ‘beyond the Moscow River’. The area is packed with colourful churches, literary connections, museums to discover, great cafes and hidden gardens, including the sculpture park around the New Tretyakov museum, where this route ends.
The beautiful mosaic ceiling panels in Novokuznetskaya metro station make a suitably artistic start for this mini-adventure. Turn right out of the metro along Pyatnitskaya Ulitsa. Tolstoy rented a flat in the modest town house at number 12 in the mid-1850s and worked on the early novel “The Cossacks” and the short story “Three Deaths.”
Turn left, immediately after the Pain Quotidien café, along winding Chernigovsky Pereulok with its beautiful churches. On the right, you pass a tall green bell tower and the church of John the Baptist under the Pine trees. The lovely 17th century church on the left with its tiled, pinecone-like domes was originally built as a side chapel for John the Baptist opposite; it is officially known as the “Church of Blessed Prince Michael and Boyar Theodore of Chernigov, the Wonderworkers.” Follow the road round, past an art nouveau apartment block; you can see ahead an 18th century mansion, now housing the Slavic Institute.
One of the joys of this area is the variety of architecture side by side. Right and then almost straight on across Bolshaya Ordynka, whose name remembers the invading, medieval ‘Golden Horde’, you get an excellent view of the fabulous ‘Resurrection in Kadashi’. The church itself is accessible through a little gate in Kadashevsky Tupik round the far side. This late 17th century church is a great example of the Naryshkin baroque style, with its white stone ornaments on a red background. There is a restoration workshop in the grounds, which services other churches in the area and even a tiny museum of the Kadashevsky (weavers’) settlement.
After visiting the church, turn left onto 3rd Kadashevsky Pereulok to reach Bolshaya Ordynka again. Number 17, across the road, is another house with literary connections; the poet, Anna Akhmatova, more famously associated with Petersburg, stayed there on her visits to Moscow. There is a modern memorial to her in the courtyard and a new museum has just opened nearby.
Turn right, past the yellow Church of the Consolation of All Sorrows, left past Tretyakovskaya metro, and right again into Malaya Ordynka. Number 9 is the grey weather-board house where the playwright Alexander Ostrovsky was born, author of 47 plays that are still regularly acted across the city. He is closely associated with the Maly Theatre and the upper floor of this lovely house-museum is dedicated to the theatre, and sets and costumes for his plays throughout the ages. The ground floor reconstructs rooms circa 1823 when the playwright was born. The garden, with its bust of Ostrovsky and spring flowers, is a hidden oasis.
You can usually cut back onto Bolshaya Ordynka through the garden of the church opposite. If the gate is locked, simply walk back round via the metro to the far side of the whitewashed Church of St. Nicholas in Pyzhi. Among the heaps of mid-17th century domes and gables, the intricate bell tower and window frames are particularly lovely. The crown-topped crosses on the domes suggest a Streltsy church, funded by the guardsmen of the Imperial army, specifically, Colonel Pyzhev’s regiment of musketeers. Raided by Napoleon, shut down by Stalin and used as laboratory, this great little church is a thriving place of worship again.
Turning left onto Bolshaya Ordynka from the church, you reach the gates of the beautiful Martha and Mary Convent. Princess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and widow of Grand Duke Sergei, founded the convent, with a hospital and orphanage, after her husband was assassinated in 1905. She was thrown into a mineshaft by the Bolsheviks in 1918 and is now an Orthodox martyr. There is a statue of her outside the door of the lovely, art nouveau Intercession church.
Almost immediately after the convent, turn right next to the Fuller’s Pub through a winding, modern courtyard with offices and cafes to emerge onto Staromonetny Pereulok behind the orange and turquoise church of St Gregory, with its silver domes. Make your way to the far side of this mid-17th century building, passing Polyanka metro, to admire all the hallmarks of the period: layers of “kokoshniki” gables (shaped like medieval women’s head-dresses) and a tent roofed bell tower. The frieze of ceramic tiles, with their characteristic “peacock’s eye” motif, is by the Belorussian master craftsman Stepan Polubes, who worked for the Romanov tsars. The church was commissioned by Tsar Alexei who had his son, the future Peter the Great, christened here. Don’t miss the carved and painted stone doorway on the way in.
Take the lane opposite the church, Brodnikov Pereulok, cross under busy Bolshaya Yakimanka through the underpass to your right, and walk along the side of the President Hotel to reach one last church, St Nicholas, in the corner of the ‘Muzeon’ sculpture garden. The Muzeon (whose entrance is beyond the church along the little lane behind the hotel) started as a kind of graveyard of fallen Soviet idols. The most famous exhibits include the towering Felix Dzerzhinsky, notorious, torturing founder of the Bolshevik secret police. This bronze monster was erected in Lubyanka in front of the infamous prison and torn down in 1991, when it ended up here. Keeping him company are several Lenins, together with vandalised granite Stalins and marble Brezhnevs.
Nearby, three men standing together are the characteristically dynamic work of Vera Mukhina, whose giant "Worker and Peasant Girl" stands outside the All-Russia Exhibition Centre. Among the more recent pieces that help make this garden such an interesting place, a gulag of caged heads behind Stalin represents the victims of repression. When you've had enough, there are several options for reaching a metro: right out or the main gates and over the bridge to Park Kultury, left to Oktyabrskaya metro, or take the exit near the giant statue of Peter the Great and cross the river to Kropotkinskaya.
Food and Drink
On the corner of Pyatnitskaya Ulitsa and Chernigovsky Pereulok is a branch of the Pain Quotidien bakery-cafe chain. This particular building, with its interesting brick-lined back room was historically used as a bakery and continues this area’s fine traditions in characteristically tasteful surroundings.
There are plenty of other options in the neighbourhood, including a simple café in the basement of one of the Martha and Mary Convent’s buildings, near the shop left of the gate as you go out. Here you can get reheated soups, salads, fresh pies and espresso. The curd cheese pastries dusted with icing sugar are recommended.
You can pop into the branch of Correa’s in the courtyard-cut-through near the convent if you feel more like pizza, sandwiches and sangria. http://www.correas.ru/en/
There are even a couple of log-cabin cafes in the middle of the sculpture garden at the end, which can be great for beer and snacks on a summer afternoon.
The Exhibition Hall of the Lev Tolstoy Museum, one of three branches in Moscow, is open 11am – 5pm, Weds-Sun and sometimes has interesting shows of Tolstoy-related paintings and manuscripts.
The one-room museum of the weavers’ settlement in the Church at Kadaschi is open by appointment only. Call +7 (495) 953-1319 to arrange a visit.
Alexander Ostrovsky House-Museum – This delightful wooden house is worth popping into even if you have no interest in the playwright. It gives visitors a great sense of what the area might have been like in the 19th century and has an attic full of theatrical memorabilia. It’s open from noon Weds-Sun, costs 150 roubles and is a branch of the main Bakhrushin Theatre Museum. http://bakhrushin.theatre.ru/branches/dmo/
Of course, the two biggest museums in the area are the Tretyakov galleries. The icons and pre-revolutionary works, including those by Mikhail Nesterov, are housed on Lavrushinsky Pereulok while the 20th century collections are in the modern building off Krimsky Val. You can find all the information you need, in English, at http://www.tretyakovgallery.ru/en/ .
The ‘Muzeon’ sculpture garden still has (for now) an iniquitous dual-pricing system, but it’s an interesting place to visit. http://www.muzeon.ru/
The sculpture garden is pretty fun for kids. It’s even got a little playground and some mercifully car-free space. The large, colourful works inside the New Tretyakov are eye-catching too.
Landmark - Intercession Church, Martha and Mary Convent
Alexei Shchusev, who later built Lenin’s mausoleum and the Kazansky railway station, designed this church in 1908. White walls with Vladimir-style carvings are topped by one bulbous and two elongated domes. The artist, Mikhail Nesterov, whose spiritually charged works you can also see in the nearby Tretyakov gallery, painted the murals. The deep blue of the women’s clothes, the luminous figure of Christ in the autumnal sunset of a Moscow birch grove and the expressive faces of the listening Russian peasants are typical of his paintings. Behind the church is a beautiful garden full of roses.