Pascha, the biggest festival in the Orthodox calendar, falls this year on April 27 so if you missed the western Easter at the end of March, you can celebrate the resurrection again on the sacred ground of Kolomenskoe, where beautiful churches and centuries of history coexist with a landscape park that is hard to match within the city limits. Rumors that Peter the Great was born here led to it being dubbed "the Russian Bethlehem." This spring-time route takes in the countryside south of the museum complex, the Moscow River, the old apple orchards where the blossoms are just beginning and the grass is full of wild flowers, and a hidden valley where ancient stones that pre-date Christianity still attract pilgrims. Turn right on the Kashirskaya metro platform and right again at the top of the stairs. A small shop at the right hand end of the first tunnel sells fresh pies and flat Uzbek bread from their own clay and charcoal oven while, inside the main building, towards the back, is a stall selling homemade cheese and butter [Note: Another way to get to the park is to use the Kolomenskaya Metro, first car from the center. Exit left in the pedestrian underpass, and then right. Once outside, keep walking straight and you will arrive at the park's northern entrance].
Heading away from Metro Kashir skaya, cross over a quiet road straight ahead and then under busy Prospekt Andropova to emerge through gates into a rural park, marred only by a building site (1) ahead. Here the wooden palace of Tsar Alexei, once hailed as the eighth wonder of the world, is being hastily reconstructed on a concrete framework. Turn right along a tarmac track and almost immediately left onto a narrow mud path, running parallel to the main road, until you reach another track. Turn left until you come to a broad cobbled path on the right, along the edge of a flower-filled ravine.
Follow this track down to the water and turn left along the smart new riverside walkway (2) with green-painted benches. Above you are two spires: the Church of John the Baptist - in scaffolding - and the white tent
roof of the beautiful 16th-century Ascension Church (3). Cross over a small wooden bridge near a sandy beach and climb the stone steps leading up to this church, the first to reproduce traditional wooden architecture in stone. Nearby are a 17th century water tower, St. George's belfry, and other buildings, all usefully labeled in English. Inside the gatehouse, an interesting museum displays the treasures and history of the area.
Skirting around the yellow pavilion with views along the river and across to the domes of St. Nicholas Church on the other side, follow a track downhill and parallel to the river until you reach a little street of wooden cafes (4) leading left. You can take your pick from these shashlik-and-blini stalls with lovely open air terraces and barbecues; the slightly larger Ko lo men sky Dvorets at the near end does a great line in freshly grilled meat and fish with egg plants, marinated peppers and flat bread on the side. If you want to bail out at this stage, Kolomenskaya metro is not too far away (see short cut on map). If you do persevere, there are plenty of treats in store.
Walk uphill, away from the cafés, to the blue-domed Church of our Lady of Kazan. Beyond it, you can see Peter the Great's log cabin in the trees to your left (currently being restored) and the wood-roofed Savior Gates to the right. Walking straight ahead and forking left, you come to the Boris Stone, a granite boulder marked with a cross which marked the boundary between two 12th century principalities. A pond lies a short distance to the right near a wooden beekeeper's house with a honey-tasting pavilion. Here you can sample and buy everything from cheap, grainy local honeys to the nearly white nectar of the Altai Mountains for 600 rubles a kilo.
An apothecary garden and a buzzing apiary in the near corner of the orchard complete this idyllic scene which is only spoiled by the proximity of the main road. Walk from the beehives diagonally through the orchard to the far corner, coming out on a tarmac path near the "Konyioshenny Dvor" (5) a reconstructed medieval village with stables and caged hawks. Walk along the fence of this compound right round to the back, through a small grove, to find a flight of wooden steps leading down into a valley. At the foot of these steps, turn left and follow the stream as it grows, fed by several springs, past sacred rocks, known locally as the "goose" and "maiden." The supposed spiritual and healing properties of these stones is reflected in the numerous strips of votive cloth tied onto nearby trees.
Continue along the stream, passing several bridges and stairways, until you reach a place where wooden steps lead up on both sides of the stream and the river is visible ahead. Climb up to the right into another orchard where a track leads straight back to Kashirskaya Metro station. It is worth detouring left through the fruit trees, however,
to enjoy the branches above the anenomes and celandines, then right along the tarmac road for a cliff-top view, and right again beyond the dacha and pond to the original track. Passing two small houses, go straight along the side of the fence to return to the underpass leading to the metro. N
Family friendly features
Kolomenskoe is a lovely place for a family outing and there is plenty here to interest the kids. The stable yard runs animal demonstrations and troika rides on a regular timetable. There are also excursions led by guides in traditional costumes and frequent festivals with music and dancing, including a children's concert of "Tales from Opera" this Saturday. More information at www.mgomz.ru or phone 84996152768.