There are lots of reasons to visit Park Pobedy, or Victory Park. Skateboarders love its expanses of smooth stone, afternoon strollers enjoy its flowers and fountains, newlyweds like to pose by its striking monuments and historians revel in the graphic dioramas of the war museum. This Saturday's Victory Day celebrations will draw even bigger crowds, carrying their flowers and medals in memory of the heroic dead. When you remember that more than 26 million Soviet citizens died in the "Great Patriotic War" the monumental scale of the memorial complex at Park Pobedy seems fitting. The easiest way to reach the park is from Park Pobedy metro station, on Kutuzovsky Prospekt near the triumphal arch. This walk gives you an alternative way in, through the hidden nature reserve of the Setun Valley. The Setun is the largest tributary of the Moscow River, which it joins near Sparrow Hills. Although it runs through densely populated urban areas, it provides a green corridor for frogs, ducks and walkers. The riverside paths have been improved recently. We even met a Greenpeace warden patrolling the valley in a smart uniform. The water and riverbanks are still polluted and littered, but there are signs that things may be improving. There are even moments when the blossoming trees and the sun on the water can make it feel quite idyllic.
From Kievskaya metro station, head towards the river just beyond Mu-Mu (in the round building with flags on). From the bus stop here, catch any trolleybus six stops to "College". Don't forget to look left on the journey for a great view of the Novodevichy Convent and then the university across the water. Walk a few more metres up the hill and turn right along a little lane, passing the new institute with a clock tower at No. 4 Vorobyovskoye Shosse.
At the end of the lane, go down the flight of steps a little way to your left. Walk towards the sports' ground ahead and then right to find a second flight of steps leading down to a bridge across the river.
Cross the bridge and go straight ahead until you find more steps on your left leading over a pipe to a path through the woods. Follow the path until you see the river ahead, which has meandered round to join you. Follow the path along the riverbank until eventually you reach and cross another bridge near a huge circular tower block. The Church of the Life-Giving Trinity with its elegant white tent roof is visible at the top of the bank ahead near the numerous embassy buildings off Mosfilmovskaya Ulitsa. If you want to get a closer look at this lovely 17th century building, walk right along Ulitsa Dovzhenko to find a little track on the left that skirts around the golf course to come out near the church.
Otherwise, simply carry on along the far side of the river and go under the Stary Rublyovsky Most, or Old Bridge. Soon afterwards you reach the Novy Rublyovsky Most, a road bridge which is emphatically in use. Scramble up the bank on to the bridge and turn right along the main road. This stretch beside noisy Minskaya Ulitsa lasts only until you have crossed under the railway bridge. On the far side, you can already begin to distance yourself from the traffic by walking along a little stream with fieldfares hopping on the banks. Head for the memorial mosque whose red brick minaret towers up ahead of you. This is one of the trio of religious buildings built when Park Pobedy was laid out in the 1990s. It is worth going in to admire the lacy plasterwork that covers the inside the dome.
From the mosque, enter the park near the naval museum, a concrete swimming pool of military ships sitting incongruously among the birch trees. Further on to the right there is a similar display of trains, planes and ground to air missiles, the "Weaponry and Fortifications Exhibition". The ticket office is round the far side. Following the main path into the park, you reach the steps up to the War Museum's colonnade. From here, you can see why this is called Poklonnaya Gora, or greeting hill. Travellers approaching Moscow from the west would have their first sight of the city from this vantage point. There is still an interesting view of the tower blocks and skyscrapers. Inside the museum (open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tues.-Sun.; 120 roubles), there are a series of artistic dioramas representing crucial battles. The whole design of the memorial complex is heavy with symbolism, from the number of crystal tear drops hanging above the "hall of sorrow" to the giant sword and shield at the top of the oak leaf-fringed staircase.
In front of the museum, each 10 centimetres of the 142-metre-high obelisk represents one day of war. The relief work on the obelisk includes the names of the "hero cities" while the bronze St. George nearby has sliced up the swastika-covered dragon. These sculptures are recognisably the work of the prolific Zurab Tsereteli. He also worked on the tall Church of St. George standing proud among the fairground rides and cola kiosks. The huge building site behind the church is the proposed Moscow Aquarium.
Walk through the fountains, bronze pillars and blazing beds of tulips towards Kutuzovsky Prospekt. This road was named after General Kutuzov who led the Russian troops against Napoleon when he marched into Moscow along this road. The metro station, also decorated by Tsereteli, has the longest escalators in Europe, taking nearly three minutes to reach the platform.
Landmark of the week
The Triumphal Arch
Designed by Osip Bove (of Bolshoi Theatre fame), 20 years after the Napoleonic War of 1812, it was removed from its original site near Belorusskaya Station when Leningradsky Prospekt was widened. The classical sculptures by Ivan Vitali were preserved at the Donskoi Monastery and replaced when the arch was rebuilt in 1968.