At this time of year, many people - especially those with children - abandon the capital for greener fields. Foreig ners flee to their native lands, Muscovites head for their dachas, even the theaters choose the summer to go on tour. But those who stay in Moscow through the dog days of summer will find that there is actually still plenty to see and do. For example, this week kicks off the start of the tenth World Festival of Children's Theater at the open air stage in the Hermitage Garden, so here is a splendid walk that ends at the festival, taking in circuses, gardens and museums along the way. Colorful Trubnaya Metro Station, which celebrates its first birthday next month, is a good place to start; its backlit stained glass mosaics of famous Russian towns have a straightforward appeal. At the top of the steps outside is a pillar on which sits St. George and the dragon. Walk past the pillar along spacious Tsvetnoi Bulvar to reach a collection of bronze clown sculptures, one of them unicycling through a fountain with rain pouring down from his umbrella. Like Trubnaya Metro station, this ensemble is the work of Zurab Tsereteli, the artist who designed the huge Peter the Great Statue on the Moscow River. The kitsch exuberance of Tsereteli's work, which has a tendency to annoy more than one critic, has the opposite effect on most children, who are generally more concerned with fun than good taste.
Cross over at the pedestrian crossing near the sculptures to find another bronze monument to Yuri Nikulin, Russia's famous clown, who is depicted stepping out of a car in front of the circus he founded. For much of the twentieth century, this "old circus" was Moscow's only such venue and is still very popular. From Thursday to Monday each week in July, the latest spectacle promises snakes and crocodiles, horseback dancers, dogs in costumes, acrobats and gymnasts. The show starts at 7 p.m. with a matinee at 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays. The box office opens at 11 a.m. The good news if you're here early is that there is a retro, circus-themed coffee shop next door that serves a good breakfast deal (coffee, fresh juice, toast and cheese, pancakes for 149 rubles) until 11 a.m.
Walk past the Tsvetnoi Bulvar Metro Station and turn immediately left between Pizza Hut and the Pizzeria "Na Tsvetnom." Go on along this lane and up some steps, right between two fenced playgrounds and up another small flight of steps, then left through the courtyards onto Bolshoi Karetny Pereulok. Turning toward the main road, the yellowish building on your right is "Sad Sam," a Stalin era apartment block where foreign journalists were reportedly monitored by the KGB during the cold war. It takes its name from the nearby stretch of Garden Ring, ‘Sadovaya-Samotechnaya' Ulitsa.
Turn left along the Garden Ring for 150 meters and cross under the perehod. You will exit in front of a statue of the puppeteer Obraztsov whose famous theatre is next door. This is a treat that will have to wait until the theater re-opens in September, but if you happen to be passing on the hour, you can stop and see one of the clockwork animals come out of the elaborate clock outside. A small crowd sometimes gathers around noon when all the doors open at once. The wolf who appears at two o' clock has earned the nickname "the wolf hour."
Walk past the theater and turn immediately left under a yellow arch. Walk straight through onto 1st Vol konsky Pereulok and left onto Delegatskaya Ulitsa. At the end of the road to the right is the Durov Animal Theatre, which is also taking a break for the summer, but to the left is a children's park and a row of museums that are worth visiting. Turning right through a gate towards building 7, you reach a shady garden with colorful murals, playgrounds and a hill for running. The tall acacia and poplar trees make this place a lovely respite from the heat in this busy area of town.
Coming out of the park and turning right again through the archway by the beauty salon, you arrive at the doors of the Museum of Decorative and Folk Arts, whose displays of antique matryoshkas, pottery and traditional crafts are often popular with children. Beyond this is a round courtyard and the main house of the country estate these buildings once comprised, which is hosting an exhibition of early twentieth-century interior design. This wing of the museum is closed on Monday, while the first two are closed on Fridays.
Back on the Garden Ring, turn right, past the modern buildings and cross over at the pedestrian crossings. Less then two hundred meters along Ulitsa Karetny Ryad on the far side of the main road, you come to the north gate of the Hermitage Gar dens, next to the Novaya Opera. These gardens were laid out at the end of the nineteenth century and remain an oasis in the city. Crammed into the square of green are theaters, playgrounds, lawns and fountains, and sculptures. Most of the entries in the Festival of Children's Theatre will be performed on the outdoor stage.
Going out of the south exit near the playground, turn right along Uspensky Pereulok, passing between a classic example of the Moscow Art Noveau in white and turquoise and an older, empire style building with a row of impish faces above the windows. For adults there is the snooty Arts' Palace restaurant, opposite the church. Or try the unpretentious Leskom Cafe, round the corner to the left, which cooks up nice Georgian food at reasonable rates.