"My heart is ever bound to Ostafyevo" wrote the historian, Nikolai Karamzin, who lived in the Vyazemsky manor house at Ostafyevo for 15 years. Karamzin started out as the family tutor, married Yekaterina Vyazemskaya and stayed on to raise his family. Karamzin was one of many 19th century literary celebrities who were drawn to the colonnaded mansion in the woods. Alexander Pushkin, Vasily Zhukovsky, Alexander Griboyedov and Nikolai Gogol all visited the house at various times. It was Pushkin who nicknamed the lime tree avenue behind the house the "Russian Parnassus". This trip explores the landscaped parkland with the option of a longer walk back to Moscow afterwards through the Moscow Region countryside. Catch a train from Kursky Station to Sherbinka (56 roubles; local ticket offices are downstairs); walk to the front of the station, in the direction you were travelling, to find a No. 45 bus or marshrutka minibus on the right of the railway line. The 3 kilometre trip to the Ostafyevo estate (23 roubles) is pleasant enough and passes several picturesque wooden dachas, but it is better to catch the bus because the roadside footpath is narrow and intermittent.
The bus stops by request on the corner, between the lake and the early classicist Church of the Holy Trinity, built in the 18th century. There is nothing much to see inside the church, but walking into the calm across the old tiled floor reinforces that "just-escaped-from-Moscow" feeling. The dilapidated buildings opposite the church, now the administrative complex, were part of a factory, belonging to the Sheremetyev family who took over the estate in the late 19th century and built the various monuments in the garden.
Walk through the gates into the park (open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily; free). Cross the bridge above a ravine, heading towards the main house, the central part of which is still being restored. Walking round the house to the right, you come to a small museum and café (open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Wed.-Sun.). The most interesting thing in the museum is a model showing how the estate should look when restoration is finished. Otherwise, there is currently a basement display devoted to the former landlords and the renovation work, which includes photos of the old interiors.
From the café (erratic opening hours so bring snacks) and from the terrace on this side of the house, there is a good view across the lake to a newer mansion and the renovated old village school. Behind the house is a bust of the poet, Pyotr Vya zemsky, the second Vyazemsky to own the house. The next monument, topped by five volumes of his "History of Russia" is dedicated to Karamzin. He wrote these tomes in his austere study on the second floor of the house in the nearby north-western corner. The monument was the first of several erected by Count Sergei Sheremetyev. This one dates from 1911, the centenary of the history's publication. Napo leon's troops visited the estate in 1812 and there was fighting in the peaceful park. Pyotr Vyazemsky volunteered and fought at the battle of Borodino.
A little further into the park, a memorial clearing designated the "campus martius", was created in 1822. The monument to the left is Pyotr's son, Pavel Vyazemsky who continued the academic traditions of his forebears, founding a society for "lovers of ancient literature". Pavel's daughter inherited Ostafyevo and married Count Sheremetyev, who wrote a book about the estate, chronicling its literary heyday. The neighbouring obelisk is a monument to the translator and poet who founded Russian Roman ticism, Vasily Zhukovsky. The playwright Gri boyedov also visited the estate and read his play, "Woe from Wit" here. Gogol was a guest in the summer of 1849 and the estate is commemorating his 200th birthday with a literary evening this Sunday.
Near the linden avenue he loved, a diminutive statue of Pushkin stands on top of a plinth. Turning away from the house and the monuments, follow the lake on your right, past a picturesque white bridge. Pyotr Vyazemsky described the garden in one of his poems: "Before the house, a rounded meadow; behind, a shady grove/ and through the winding, wooded valley a little river flows". The new building in the middle of the park belongs to Gazprom. Going on along the path through the trees, you reach a gate in the far corner of the boundary fence.
From here, you can either retrace your steps through the park, catch the bus from outside the church and the train back to Moscow; Or you can go through the gate and follow a much longer, wilder and muddier route back, passing wooden villages, tower blocks and a mysterious Bactrian camel.
Turn right out of the gate and hurry along the road past the shop, turning right along a factory wall. Keep on along this track, which curves left. Turn right just before you reach the red and white weather station and follow another path, under a metal archway, to the outskirts of another village, fringed with birch trees. Skirt around this village to the right, ignoring the numerous dogs that dacha-owners feel compelled to keep and go on along a track, which runs between the village and a fence, until you reach open fields. Just before the last house, you might like to detour left along the edge of a stream to explore the most attractive part of the old village of Yazovo with its cottages and ponds.
From the last house head downhill towards the tower blocks of South Butovo, crossing the little Tsyganka (gypsy) river and passing a field of horses with a lone camel standing incongruously in the snow. Follow the right hand shore of the lake ahead to reach Buninskaya Alleya above ground light metro station.