Women's Day is this Saturday, of course; so here is a walk that celebrates a few of the many talented women who have called Moscow home. Our journey ends at the striking Novode vichy Convent, which was a refuge or prison for many influential noblewomen in the 18th century while the cemetery next door remembers women from every field (If you wish to take a trip just to Novodevichy, take the number 15 trolley - tickets are 25 rubles from the driver - passing close to the houses of a number of Moscow's famous females). Coming out of Tverskaya Metro station by McDonald's, the popular Soviet film actress, Lyubov Orlova, looks out across the Boulevard Ring. Strolling down the boulevard you pass a lovely terracotta empire-style mansion at number 11, Tverskoi Bulvar (1). This was the home of the actress Maria Yermolova, now a museum (closed on Tuesdays) and is well worth visiting for its turn-of-the-century interiors. It also features a diorama of historic Teatralnaya Ploschad, while the attic recreates her dressing room in the Maly Theatre.
Further down on Tverskoi Bulvar, you can turn right down Malaya Nikitskaya Ulitsa and cross left over both roads at the lights by the yellow church, where Pushkin married Natalya Goncharova, to find Nozhovy Pereulok which becomes Maly Rzhev sky Pereulok. The round building at number 1 is part of the musical academy founded by the Gnesin sisters; outside is a bronze statue of Elena Gnesin playing a winged piano and round the corner, on Povarskaya, is a memorial apartment which you can visit by appointment (290-4505). Opposite this, is Borisoglebsky Pereu lok with the Marina Tsvetaeva House Museum (2), re-opening this week after renovation, (closed on Saturdays); outside is a pensive monument to the poet whose presence pervades much of what she called "my native city."
To return to the bus route, go back to the flying piano and turn right along Khlebny Pereulok, left into Merzlya kovsky Pereulok and right again through an archway in number 16 which takes you through a car park to come out by Shokaladnitsa. From here the bus continues along the boulevards and turns right along picturesque Prechistenka. Just beyond the lion-topped gates of the House of Scientists, you can see a statue of sculptor Vera Mukhina in the road to the right (3). She lived nearby and is most famous for the epic "Worker and Farm Girl" sculpture which became the symbol of Mosfilm. Her house is not open to the public, but you can visit the studio of another sculptor, Anna Golubkina, if you get off at the next stop outside the Artefact Gallery. Turn right into Kropotinsky Pereulok and then left. The museum studio at 12 Bolshoi Levshinsky Pereulok (4); closed Mon days and Tuesdays) has a great collection of her wonderfully tactile work which might be most familiar to Muscovites from the "wave" facade of the Chekhov MKhAT Theatre.
Soon after this stop, the towers of Novodevichy appear at the end of the road. The entrance to the convent (5), which is closed on Tuesdays, is round to the side near the pond, which is worth walking round to get the classic panorama across the water. Founded in 1524, the convent (whose name means "new maidens") was rebuilt in the 1680s by Tsarevna Sofia, Peter the Great's half-sister, who added the gate church and the belltower when she was still Regent. Peter later deposed her and confined her to the convent where she died. She was not the only royal nun there; among others was Peter's first wife, Eudoxia Lopukhina, whose red and white chambers are just inside on the right.
You can wander around the grounds for free, but if you want to visit the museums, you need a ticket (100/150 rubles for Rus sians/foreigners) from the kiosk. Sofia's whitewashed chambers now house an exhibition, but more interesting is the other museum on the far side of the complex. Here, behind the white and gold Smolensky Cathed ral where Sofia and her sisters are buried, and the red and whi te Assump tion Church, which was another of her late 17th century additions, are the chambers of Irina Godunova (sister of Boris). There are frescoes and icons from the cathedral (reopening in May after lengthy renovation), but also tapestries and vestments embroidered by Irina and other nuns.
To get into the adjacent cemetery (6) you need to go round the corner again onto Luzhnetsky Proezd. Going straight ahead through the gates, you soon come to a clearing on your left where, beyond the relatively recent grave of Boris Yeltsin, is a graceful bronze statue commemorating Raisa Gorbachev. Opposite, just before the gate into the older part, ballerina Galina Ulova in white marble makes a lovely contrast with Yuri Nikulin, the famous clown, and his dog sitting next to him.
The graveyard is star-studded, and the highest concentration of famous names is to the right just through the gate: this is where you will find the Gnesin sisters and Mukhina and Yermolova (near the wall with an urn on top, between the painter Levitan and the novelist Bulgakov). Here too is Olga Knipper Chekhova, next to her husband. The nearby statue of a woman half emerging from the marble, commemorates the writer
Anna Antonovskaya, whose book on Georgia found favour with Stalin. At the far end on the left, is Stalin's first wife, Nadezhda Allilueva, en cased in perspex to forestall further vandalism. Left from the gate, to the right of the central path is Lyubov Orlova again with a bronze leaf and rose; one row back on the left, partisan Zoya Kos modemyanskaya runs bare-breasted and with head flung back to her heroic and untimely death at the hands of the Nazis.
When you have finished exploring, cross the road outside the gates and walk directly away from the cemetery along the side of block 38 until another lane on the other side of Ulitsa Usacheva takes you to Sportivnaya Metro Station.