Any tourists attracted to Gorky Park by associations with the 1980s Cold War thriller might be disappointed to find a lot of fairground rides rather than spy intrigues, but the park has many of its own subtler surprises.
The park, named after the famous revolutionary writer Maxim Gorky, is the highlight of this week's summertime stroll along the Moskva River to Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills). It also takes in the less well-known Neskuchny Sad and ends on Leninsky Prospekt, near the statue of Gagarin, passing fairgrounds, fountains, 18th century estates, a hidden monastery and a space shuttle.
The walk starts at the Lenin monument on Kaluzhskaya Ploshchad, which is straight ahead as you come out of the brown line exit from Oktyabrskaya metro. It was unveiled in 1985 in time for the 70th anniversary of the October Revolution and almost immediately went out of fashion, but proved too bulky to shift.
Turning away from the statue, walk left down Krymsky Val along the urn-topped fence of Gorky Park (open 10am to 10pm daily). The monumental gates are set back from the road behind carousels and balloon sellers. On weekends and holidays, you will need to buy a ticket (80 roubles for adults, 20 roubles for children) from the windows to the left of the gates.
The dramatic fountains are straight ahead, flanked by kiosks, vendors, horses and even camels. If you turn right just before the fountains, you can pay homage to the guy whom the park is named after, Soviet writer Maxim Gorky, whose statue stands among trees and flowerbeds.
The "Central Park of Culture and Rest named after Maxim Gorky" was the Soviet Union's first such park, laid out in 1928. Since then it's become a pop culture touchstone for east and west, from Martin Cruz Smith's novel to the Scorpions' soft-rock anthem "Wind of Change", via Soviet-era rock band Park Gorkogo.
The grounds are dotted with socialist realist statues that hint at its origins. The avenue of rides beyond the fountains seems to have changed little in the last 50 years and might appeal to nostalgia-hunters (if less so to safety-conscious parents). Turning right about halfway along this avenue brings you to the former training module of the Buran Space Shuttle, now parked ignominiously on the riverbank near the rollercoaster. Turn left along the embankment towards the elegant rotunda.
Gorky Park is littered with summer cafes and beer gardens; one of the fanciest is under the trees on the left. A branch of the Uzbek chain, Chaihona-1 offers low, carpeted sofas with cushions in a wooden yurt. Leaving the park through the back gate, you pass a boat-restaurant which is moored nearby.
The open air Stas Namin Theatre marks the start of the Neskuchny Sad ("not-boring garden"). These wooded hills are pleasantly unspoilt considering how close they are to central Moscow. The shortest route is simply to carry on along the riverside path, but you can also choose to follow the winding trails through the trees at the top of the cliff. In the 18th and 19th centuries, these were the sprawling gardens of three aristocratic estates.
Some of the original buildings survive near Leninsky Prospekt, but they are not particularly accessible. It doesn't matter much which paths you take as long as you stay roughly parallel with the river and eventually wander back down to the waterside. Closer to the river, you pass several romantic bridges in brick and stone and the grey and white colonnaded pavilion of a nineteenth century