The UNESCO-listed museum reserve at Kolomenskoe is one of Moscow's great treasures and, as such, is surprisingly under-visited by foreigners. It is a beautiful place at any time of year, but in the late autumn with the cidery scent of apples still heavy in the air, it has a golden charm. Here the season of "mellow fruitfulness" can be fully appreciated as the mists rise up from the Moscow River and the orchards give up the last of their harvest. To appreciate the full extent of the 390 hectare site, you can walk straight from Kashirskaya Metro and then wander through places that Empress Catherine the Great chose for her residence. 1. Stepping off the train at Kashirskaya Metro, follow signs to "Muzeyu Kolo menskoe." This brings you out near a green area. Walk towards this, crossing over a quiet road and under a busy one and enter the park through the gates. Ahead of you is a brown metal fence, surrounding construction works. Walk up to this and along the left hand edge along a mud track. Keep straight on, past two cottage gardens, heading for the blue and gold domes on the horizon, and continue along this track until it reaches the apple orchards around the "Church of the Beheading of John the Baptist."
2. Turn right just before the pond and walk through the apple trees to the tarmac road. Turn left onto this and follow it until you reach the viewpoint above the river, a place favored by both painters and hang gliders. At this point, just before the church (currently in scaffolding; a modern mosaic head of the beheaded saint is over the gates), turn left along the church wall until you get to the top of some wooden steps leading down to a clear, sandy brook. Crossing over, turn right along this little stream and follow it down to two seventeenth century ponds, near the river.
3. Just after the second pond, near a bridge, some steps lead up (left) to the beautiful collection of old buildings that form the heart of the museum reserve. The most striking is the recently restored sixteenth century Ascension Church with its whitewashed walls and tent roof. Another church, a pavilion, two gates and a bell tower make up the rest of the ensemble. The huge red and white gate, flanked by old regimental and administrative chambers, houses an eclectic historical museum, including bells, books, armor, tiled stoves, architectural models and double-headed Romanov eagles. Walking though the gates and to the left, you reach Peter the Great's wooden cabin, next to some huge oaks, some of the oldest trees in Moscow. The cabin, which has been moved to this park and is now a tardis-like museum, was where Peter I lived while he supervised the building of the fort and Russian fleet at Arkhangelsk.
4. From the log cabin, go on past a small round pond and turn right along the edge of another orchard to find an apiary and an apothecary garden at the corner. Turn right again and walk between the Honey pavilion (where you can taste different honeys from all over Russia) and the wooden "Bee master's Farmstead" through the foundations of the seventeenth century summer palace that used to stand here.
5. Near the white "Savior Gate," turn right again to the "Our Lady of Kazan" Church. Go up the steps into the church (women should cover their heads), through the icons and beeswax candles of the cool interior, and down the steps at the back, then round to the right and down a little path by a fence into the lovely garden beyond. If the church is shut, you can go straight into this "Kazansky" garden with its traditional seventeenth century layout.
6. Walking down through the flowers and fruit trees, you reach a delightful row of cafes on a little street flanked by herbaceous borders. Here you can get all kinds of refreshments with an emphasis on shashlik (kebebs) and blini. These cozy log cabins on the site of one of the oldest village settlements are variable in both opening hours and service, but recent experiences would lead me to recommend the Trapeznaya (fantastic barbecued chicken) and not recommend the Chayinaya (stale and unhelpful despite its seemingly idyllic seating area). From here, it is a further fifteen minutes to Kolomenskoe metro, past the police and administration blocks along the same road, and then through the gates and along the path through the trees by the main road.
Extended route from Tsaritsyno - 14 km:
If you are looking for a walk that is longer and altogether more challenging, it is quite possible to walk all the way from the controversial, but pleasant park at Tsaritsyno to Kolomenskoe, mostly along lakes and rivers.
Exit from the Orekhovo Metro, walk downhill through the trees into the park until you reach the lake. Then turn right along the water and follow it to the musical fountains, crossing both bridges and heading towards the main gate of the park beyond. Through the gate, turn right along the road until you reach a lakeside path to the left. Follow this all the way along the big lake, over a bridge, along the little river and up onto a road. A short way under the main road bridge ahead, cross the railway at Moskvorechye Station and go through the little arcade of cafes. Turn right at the end of this and immediately right again to scramble up a steep bank. At the top you can follow an unofficial path all the way along, next to a concrete wall until it turns the corner and you can drop down again to the right onto a tarmac track. Through the gates at the end, bear right again, down off the embankment onto a long walkway by the Moscow River. You can follow this until you pick up the route above at 3.
By Phoebe Taplin
Family friendly features
1. For a shorter route, you might want to start and finish at Kolomenskoe Metro, going up through the Savior Gate. There is a small playground just outside the entrance to the park.
2.The whole area, with its fresh air and open space, is a natural playground. Kids love the wooden bridges and staircases. Boat trips are available from the waterfront in summer.
3.Horse and cart rides run from the stable yard (Konyushenny Dvor), which also displays carriages and sledges.
4.The dressed-up tour guides and art students provide some color in passing. The museum includes an entertaining variety of objects and levels, including assorted clock mechanisms in the gatehouse tower.
5.A good choice of food and drink is available, not to mention the honey-tasting (especially if you missed the festival at Tsaritsyno).
Start: Kashirskaya Metro End: Kolomenskoe Metro Distance: 6 km (or 14km from Tsaritsyno
The Park is open every day. The museums are closed on Monday.