One of the city's most beautiful, but least known parks, is the Troparyovsky Forest. It stretches into the far southwest of the city, yet is less than half an hour by metro from the center of town. The park boasts lush vegetation, including banks of wild summer flowers, maple trees and the sinister umbels of Giant Hogweed looking like the aliens they are among the tufted vetch and cow parsley. In the verdant Ochakovka Valley is a natural spring. It feeds the little river which leads, eventually, to a sandy beach on a lake in the woods where you can relax and swim or row a boat among the trees. Exit from Yugo-Zapadnaya metro station near the back of the train, turn left in the tunnel, left again up the steps and you should see McDonald's to your right along a little path. Walking past Mcdonald's (1) and right along Ulitsa Pokryshkina, you will come to a bus stop. Catch any bus three stops along this road to the stop "Niku linskaya Ulitsa" (2) (you can walk the kilometer instead if you prefer, but it is not a nice road and there are plenty of buses). If you happen to get on a 667 bus, it will be eight stops instead as it takes you on a sneak-preview loop through the park first. The bus stop you want is next to the Ochakovsky Ponds, landscaped in the 1980s when the nearby Olympic Village was built.
Cross over the main road at the nearby traffic lights, turn left and go on over Vostryakovskoye Shchosse to the garage. Turn right round the garage to find a reddish gravel path leading uphill into the trees. Follow this path as it winds through banks of flowers near the River Ochakovka. The river here looks rather murky and stagnant, still overshadowed by tower blocks and building sites. Cross over at the little bridge, but go on following the water and cross back again over the second wooden bridge you come to. Cross again to the left over another bridge and up a flight of wooden steps to find a tarmac path with benches and lamps along the edge of a forest.
Walk right along the edge of the trees above the valley. A sign board with quotations about water marks the place where a natural spring (3) runs out of the bank and into the stream. It is worth going down the bank, especially on a hot day, since the spring produces up to six liters of water per minute at a constant seven degrees all year round. It is not recommended for drinking, but is nice for a cold splash. Back on the path above the spring, turn left near the summer house along the gravel track that leads away from the river into the forest. Turn left again along an avenue of larch trees to reach the central garden with wooden sculptures, benches and flower beds. Take the second exit round to the right along a straight avenue, signed "Leninsky Prospekt."
Each of the radial paths leading out from this central point has been planted with a different kind of tree, including birch and maple to the north. This is the poplar tree avenue and leads to an aviary of "decorative birds" (4) including chickens, pheasants and even a peacock. There are also picturesque nesting boxes placed along the path, but few birds seem to have taken up the offer, preferring the wilder woods to the west. You can explore this less tame area of forest, if you prefer, by following the stream from the spring until it reaches a pond near the MKAD, at which point you turn left along a muddy path veined with tree roots, and follow it until you come out on the tarmac track near the aviary.
Leave the park through a wooden gate onto a road, passing a tall wooden sculpture. Follow the road straight past a garage toward Leninsky Prospekt (family version starts here - see box). Cross under this broad highway and go on in the same direction on the far side, between tower blocks and then garages and a school with a statue of the popular bard Bulat Okudzhava, whose quotations are illustrated on the billboards opposite. Follow this fence on your right until you come to a gate near an information board.
Go through the gate and turn left along the little path along the side of a clearing. Follow the line of the overhead power cable until it disappears into the woods, and then simply follow the defined muddy track in the same, easterly direction until you eventually reach a tarmac track and turn right along it. Don't worry too much about which path to take; as long as you keep going in the same direction and then turn right along the tarmac track when you reach it, you will almost certainly end up at the Troparyovsky Pond (5).
There is a swimming lake in the woods, surrounded by cafes and playgrounds. You can hire pedalos and rowing boats, swim, or simply drink tea at a table under the trees. The cafe at the north end of the lake nearest the huge outdoor theater serves strong Turkish coffee and homemade baklava. Afterwards, walk right along the lake, crossing steep ravines, until you come to the stream at the far end. From here, follow the stream (visible as a green flower-filled valley) all the way to Tyoply Stan metro station. Take care - another stream branches off to the left which you need to cross. Eventually you will emerge from the woods near the Aurora Cinema (6) where two cafes with outdoor seating both provide business lunches for around 160 rubles. ■
Family friendly features
This might be a long hike for small children. To halve the distance, you can go to Yugo-Zapadnaya metro station, exit near the front of the train, turn left in the tunnel and left again up the steps and you will see marshrutka 22 waiting by the road. Get on, pay 20 rubles to the driver, ride for ten minutes to the last stop and then pick up the walk from the nearby park entrance. The pond with its playgrounds and candy floss makes a good mid-point. If the trek to Tyoply Stan from there is too long, you can pick up a lovely ten-minute path near the open-air theater at the north end of the lake. Turn left along tarmac, crossing a bridge over a ravine to come out in a beautiful valley. Head for the tower blocks to find a bus stop with buses and marshrutkas to nearby metro stations.