For a peaceful day trip, it is very hard to beat the beautiful country estate of Gorki Leninskie, where Lenin lived intermittently from 1918 until he died there in January 1924. Opened as a museum in 1949, it is now an anomalous white elephant in the heart of the Podmoscovy countryside. It is precisely its status as an abandoned shrine that makes it such a perfectly tranquil setting for a picnic and stroll. The woods are full of flowers and birdsong and the houses are packed with history and cultural relics. From Paveletskaya Metro, follow the signs for "Prigorodni Kassi/Poezda" and buy a one way ticket to "Lenin skaya" (48 rubles), nearly an hour's journey south of the center. Trains run roughly every half an hour. If you have some time to wait, go out of the station to the right behind the kiosks where you can buy a picnic and peer through a locked gate towards the pavilion which houses the steam train that pulled Lenin's body back to Moscow. Leninskaya Station is a typical piece of Soviet monumentalism. A tiered pavilion topped by a red star on a spike, it sums up the rise and fall of Lenin-worship: it was built three decades after Lenin's death in the expectation of a continuous stream of pilgrims and now stands deserted, its marble interior closed off and its windows boarded up.
Cross under the railway, using the tunnel in the middle of the platform and go on in this direction. A defined muddy track leads you through a damp tunnel under the main road, after which you bear right along the edge of the old village of Yam, whose church you can see through the trees. Head for the big bridge ahead, where another main road crosses the lazy Pakhra River on elegant brick arches. As you get closer, you will see a little path leading you to the foot of a flight of steps with an orange railing. Go up and over the bridge, coming down the other side on a matching set of steps between banks of dandelions and mustard seed, and turn left under the bridge along the river bank.
Follow the path between fields and river until, just beyond a metal fence you come to a makeshift log-bridge over a stream. If it has disappeared or looks unfeasibly slippery you can follow the stream left along an overgrown path until you reach the road and turn right to join the route again by the statue of Lenin. If you do manage to cross the stream, go up the bank on the far side. Don't be put off by the abandoned brick shed or rubbish-filled barbecue site; ahead of you are pleasant winding paths through flowery birch groves. Cross the field diagonally to the left until you reach a small parking lot and a road. Walk along the road to the left, following the fence, until you come to the gates of the estate. Immediately inside them is a statue of Lenin and a building which houses an exhibition, reconstructing Lenin's office and flat in the Kremlin (100 rubles for foreigners). Although the location has shifted, everything inside this museum is otherwise authentic and provides a poignant insight into a simple, bookish lifestyle.
Beyond the house, an avenue of cyprus trees, called the "Traurnaya Alleya" (mourning avenue) leads to the main house where a granite memorial shows Lenin's body being carried by grieving workers. If you want to explore the woods and fields stretching away to the right, it is simple enough to make a loop through them which ends near the memorial. A carpet of white stitchwort and purple vetch spreads out under the oaks and the meadows are full of cow parsley.
The main house was originally built in the 18th century. Zinaida Morozova, widow of the philanthropic businessman, Savva Morozov, bought it in 1909 and employed Mos cow's trendiest architect of the day, Fedor Schektel (who built the Gorky House and Yaroslavsky Railway Station) to remodel it in the neoclassical style. Tours - in Russian - are available every hour or so (100 rubles for foreigners, available from the house beyond), revealing the interior to be largely as Zinaida left it. The furniture, paintings and even many of the books, were her choice rather than Lenin's. The highlight of the tour comes right at the end when visitors are led into the garage to visit the huge silver Rolls-Royce with caterpillar tires and skis which Lenin and his wife used to negotiate the snowy driveways of the estate.
Below the house, a path leads from the terrace down to and along the bank of the ornamental lake via a rotunda summer house. Going on along the upper path, away from the house through gates decorated with wrought iron bowls of fruit, you enter a birch and lime tree avenue. The modern building away to your right, white marble with red brick towers, is a Museum of Twentieth Century Politi cal History, dedicated, predictably, to Lenin. Eventually a path leads right into the columned entranceway. There is yet another statue of Vladimir Ilyich inside at the top of the stairs.
By this time, however, you might be more interested in the buffet, hidden in the basement behind an unmarked door. The staff never seems to be expecting many visitors, but still they can rustle up a cup of tea and apricot pie for a very nominal sum. If the café is shut, no need to despair; just outside the gates of the estate and round the carpark to the right is a produtky shop and - sometimes - a fruit and veg stall.
Walk left past the shop and then diagonally right to pick up a path through the little park that backs onto Sadovaya Ulitsa. Go past the playground at the end and almost immediately left between houses 91 and 88 to the bus stop. Bus 439 (30 rubles) goes to Domodedovskaya Metro at 12.13, 13.33, 14.53 and then roughly every forty minutes until 6:53 p.m. A marshrutka service runs about fifteen minutes before each of these times for 35 rubles and will usually get you back into town in less than half an hour. If you cross over the road to the tent-shaped bus stop, you can also flag down a ride fairly cheaply and easily.
Family friendly features
Dead communist leaders may not be top on every child's interest list, but the wide open spaces and fresh air will do them good and the train ride, log bridge, hilly terrain and silver Rolls-Royce are all fun. The early cross-country section from the station is probably not suitable for very small children.