Peredelkino is a victim of its own success. Many famous writers, including Boris Pasternak, who died forty eight years ago this Friday, lived in this rural retreat just outside Moscow. Now, the fields in front of the dacha where Pasternak lived for thirty years have become a nightmarish building site where palatial mansions are being constructed for those who want their suburban gated community to be associated with literary greatness. The village still has its delightful corners, however, and you can still wander through the trees that are left, see the austere study where Pasternak wrote Dr Zhivago, and the graveyard where he is buried. In Russia, he is celebrated as a poet, one of the most influential in the twentieth century, and his grave always has flowers on it, even more so this weekend. The title poem of his 1943 collection, "On Early Trains," describes the journey from Moscow on the electric train and so, following in his footsteps, we start by catching the train from Kievsky Vokzal near Kievskaya Metro. The ticket office and platforms for local trains are at the end of the station, furthest from the river towards the flower market. Follow signs to the ‘Prigorodni Kassi' and ask for a return to Peredelkino (this will be fine for Michurinets too) which should cost just 38 rubles.Trains are fairly regular, but there is a typical weekday gap in trains out of town between about 10am and 1pm. Display boards in the ticket office tell you where each train is going and from which platform; the red lights indicate stations where the train will NOT be stopping.
Less than half an hour out of town, the train reaches Michurinets Station, shortly after Peredelkino, in the middle of the woods. Take the path from the back of the train right along a muddy track and then turn left along the little road leading into the village. Passing dachas and fruit trees, cross over Ulitsa Lenina and Ulitsa Karla Marksa to arrive at a junction with Ulitsa Dovzhenko. A few doors to the left, at number eleven is the wonderfully cluttered memorial dacha of the bard-poet Bulat Okudzhava (open 11-4 Thurs to Sun) - best known to most foreigners in Moscow from his slouching bronze statue outside Moo Moo restaurant on Stary Arbat.
Turning right, you come out on Ulitsa Lermontova, just in front of the bizarre mansion of the sculptor, Tsereteli, who was responsible for the giant statue of Peter the Great in the Moscow River. A huge bear and a mosiac structure are visible over the fence. Turning left along Tsereteli's fence, you come to one of the few surviving bits of woodland in the village. Turn right off the road and take the winding path to the left through the trees. This is your best chance to enjoy two features of the countryside here that Pasternak celebrated in his poetry: the "lemon-with-incense breath" of the pine trees and the lily of the valley, whose delicate white flowers are spreading through the woods this month.
As the path approaches a fence, turn right along it and bear right again at a fork to come out on the road. Turn left to reach a junction with two roads and left again (not sharp left) along Ulitsa Sera phimovicha. Eventually, towards the other end of this long, dacha-lined lane, you reach the memorial house museum of Russia's best-loved children's author, Kornei Chukovsky. Open 10-5 except for Mondays and Tuesdays, it is well worth a quick look inside (40 rubles). A ‘wonder tree' in the garden covered in shoes, a motif from one of Chukovsky' verse-tales, sets the tone; behind the house is a small forest path leading to a stage and campfire site for visiting school groups and next door is a children's library.
Going on to the junction with busy Ulitsa Pogodina, the fence has panels painted by children, illustrating Chukovsky's stories. Across the main road, slightly to the right, is the Ulitsa Pavlenko, where, at number 3, you reach the memorial house of Boris Pasternak. It is open 10-4 Thursday to Sunday and entry costs fifty rubles. The interior of the white-trimmed brown dacha is markedly austere. In the bare bedroom and study are his boots, coat and hat, just where he left them. The conservatory/dining room laid out with samovar and cups, looks out onto the overgrown orchard. Fortunately, this obscures what would otherwise be the heart-breaking sight of Pasternak's old view across the fields being demolished to make room for elite mansions.
Behind the dacha, at the end of Ulitsa Pavlenko, there is access to a natural spring running into a tributary of the Seytun River. If you cross the bridge behind it, turning right along the stream, through bullrushes and marsh flowers, you come to the brutal fence of the new housing development. Following the fence inexorably left, it is possible to walk through this ghost town of sham neo-classical palaces, still in their plastic wrappers and scaffolding, and get a horrifying glimpse of Peredelkino's future. From here, you can go right through the building site back onto the main road. A much simpler and less traumatic route, however, is simply to return to the main road from Pasternak's dacha and turn left along it. The pathway on the far side is preferable and has the added advantage of passing the restaurant, "Dyeti Solntsa", along a drive way to the right, next to the Dom Tvorchestva ("House of Creativity"). Decor and prices reflect the aspirations of the prospective clientele; if your budget won't stretch to it, there is a modest Produkti over the road.
Having crossed the River Seytun, the safest way across the road is to go down the bank to the right and duck under the bridge. On the other side is the cemetery. If you follow the fence and wall to the left all the way round to the top you come to Pasternak's white gravestone near the famous pine trees. Continue along the fence past a field of cows and goats with a great view across to the church. Coming out of the main gates, the ornate building ahead of you is the Summer Residence of the Russian Orthodox Patriarch, including the colourful Transfiguration Church. Taking the tarmac path through the fruit trees past the Patriarch's house, go on across a road and you will soon see Peredelkino Station ahead of you.