A great holiday excursion (weather permitting) is to take a trip along the Moscow Canal to the Klyaz minskoe reservoir, where sandy beaches and resinous pine trees line the edge of the sparkling water. Its popularity is, however, its problem. On a sunny weekend, this day trip to paradise can all too easily become a voyage to a rubbish-strewn, alcoholic hell. The trick is to choose your day: if you can't get away during the week, try a rainy morning in the hope that the afternoon will clear up, and the crowds will have been deterred. The ship's bar is as good a place as any to watch the rain falling on the water. Exit from Rechnoi Vokzal Metro Station via the last carriage of the train. You exit at a lively market. Walk past rows of curbside vendors, and go through the gates into the park. Walk straight ahead as far as the playground, and then turn right toward the main road. Cross under through the perekhod ("underground crossing") and continue straight on through the riverside Park Druzhbi ("friendship") toward the imposing Northern River Station ahead. A classic building of the early Stalinist era, it features painted medallions, elegant rows of arches with slim pillars which rise in diminishing layers toward a star-topped spike. The building was opened in 1937, when the Moscow Canal was completed, linking the Moscow River to the Volga and so to the sea.
Walk down the steps to the left of the building, and turn left along the riverside, until you come to the kassa ("ticket office") number 9, near the Chaika cafe. Various day trips are available from here with the Stolichnaya Skhod nenskaya Kompania: you can take a simple hour's cruise around the reservoir. This takes you to about level with the Megamall in the town Khimki and then turns round. Alternatively, you can take one of the longer trips out of town that go up to the Klyazminskoe Reservoir and drop you off on one of the beaches there for an idyllic afternoon.
Six trips a day run to the beach near the village of Gorky, an hour and a half's cruise away. More expensive, but more rewarding, is the twice daily voyage to the Bukhta Radosti ("Bay of Joy"). The journey is two hours each way and costs 800 rubles for adults and 350 for children. There is a bar on board that sells beer, tea, coffee and snacks, but you are also free to bring your own picnic and alcohol. In fact, most of the groups who make this journey are celebrating something and have brought their own party food and drinks with them.
The sheer number of different kinds of water transport visible on this journey is incredible. As well as the cruise liners and pleasure boats, there are the submarine and aquaplanes of the Submarine Museum across the water in Tushino. A little farther on, you pass the sea-going barges and cranes of the harbor, followed by a rusting grey and brown war ship whose rocket launchers and satellite dishes have seen better (or more war-like) days. After the delightful Leo Tolstoy Park in Khimki with its summerhouses and fruit trees, there follows a long peaceful stretch of canal with green banks of birch trees, fringed by purple cranesbill and meadowsweet.
After two picturesque inlets, one leading to the old Klyazma River, the canal passes under another railway bridge, this time the Savelovsky Railway, heading for Uglich, a day and a half away by water. Finally, after the Dimitrovske Shchosse ("highway"), the reservoir begins to open out with yacht clubs and beach resorts scattered around the edges. The Klyazma Valley was flooded in the 1930s to form part of a network of reservoirs joined by rivers and canals. These supplied water to Moscow, and the new lakes were soon surrounded by villages of dachas.
The beach near the village of Gorky is visible on the right bank with a yellow cafe and blue changing cubicles, followed by the gold-domed white church at Troitskoe. The Cher kassky family built the church in the late seventeenth century and also owned the village of Ostashkovo on the other side of the reservoir. The first glimpse of the Bukhta Radosti, is the yellow dome at the end of a palm-tree lined pier next to a tethered pirate ship restaurant. Farther east, the wooded banks of the reservoir become less developed, and it is usually possible to walk away from the boat through the pine trees and find a quiet little cove overhung with willows where you can swim in the cool water relatively undisturbed. The reddish local soil lends a tinge to the water, but the overall quality is better than anything to be found inside the city limits.
Swimming here is a pleasant experience with soft sand underfoot and a wide view of the open water with sailing boats, which is lucky as it is just about the only thing you can do here without spending yet more money. Even sitting at a picnic table costs around 300 rubles for a day's hire, while to rent a summer house for a party can cost up to 4000.
One cafe, run by a nice Krygz family, is Cafe Number 6. They serve tasty pork or potato shashliks, fresh salads and Turkish coffee, and will let you sit by the water in a summer house under the willow trees without paying extra for the privilege. Nearby you can play table tennis (100 rubles per half hour), rent a pedalo (from 300 rubles an hour) or even hire a whole football pitch. For details of how to reach the Bukhta Radosti by public transport, go to http://www.buhta-radosti.ru/contacts.htm. These methods are certainly much cheaper (less than 100 rubles return), but otherwise have little to recommend them. The marshrutka takes you to the village of Sorokino, from where you walk down a gravel road, and from where the water beckons.