Instead of wishing for spring, why not revel in winter? Before the snow melts again, head out to the island of Serebryany Bor where you can ski, sledge and skate through the frosty trees. All these activities, along with eating pancakes, are traditional during Maslenitsa, the week-long, pre-Lent festival, which is all about celebrating the end of winter. The little lakes and inlets in the pine forest are also a magnet for the Morzhi, or walruses, people who like to swim in cold-water swimming pools hacked out of frozen ponds. And if the river is still solid, you can experience the thrill of crossing it to explore the village on the far side with its beautiful churches.
The most popular way to get to the wooded island reserve of Serebyany Bor is by trolleybus or marshrutka from Polezhaevskaya metro (purple line). For an alternative approach, this walk starts downstream and follows the far bank of the river to visit the riverside church before crossing the bridge. Come out of Oktyabrskoye Pole metro near the front of the train (assuming you are heading out of town), turn left in the underpass and left again up the steps and then right at the main road to find the bus stop. Catch trolleybus Nos. 19 or 61, bus Nos. 243 or 691 or marshrutka No. 99, giving 25 roubles to the driver if you haven't got a ticket. Get off again, about 15 minutes later, at the stop called Karamishevskaya Naberezhnaya. The most obvious landmark is the Karamishevsky Bridge ahead, built in 1937 above the "Moscow River Shortcut".
Turn right along a fenced cliff top path above the canal, which soon joins a broad section of the Moscow River. Across the water you can see the dachas of Krylastkoye and, to the left, the arches of the Karamishevskaya Plotina, linking Krylatskoye to the Nizhniye Mnyovniki Island. On the near bank, you pass a new development, built to resemble a series of gothic castles. You also have a view along the river to the new suspension bridge on the right.
About a kilometre further along this path, you reach the beautiful Trinity Church, decorated outside with many-layered gables and inside with gorgeous frescoes. Built in the late 16th century, the church is all that now remains of one of the estates of Tsar Boris Godunov. The village of Khoroshevo was an important resting place on the road to Zvenigorod and the tsar had a wooden palace here on the cliff above the river. Just before the church there is a cafe and bakery on the other side of the road, which sells freshly baked flat bread.
Beyond the church, the road leads under the new highway and left across the canal onto the island of Serebryany Bor. Following the road over the bridge and through the barriers, turn left into the trolleybus terminus and then right again from the far corner along a path through the distinctive scotch pines that cover much of the island and give it the name Serebryany Bor, or silver pine forest. Follow the right-hand path until you reach the corner of a wall round a housing compound and fork left to a bridge. Cross the bridge and turn left again around a promontory until you reach another little bridge across a narrow channel to a road.
To the right, you can see one of the icy swimming holes that draws numerous bathers and spectators every January for Epiphany. Either, follow the road or one of the woodland paths running through the trees towards the far end of the island. Cross over at the road junction and head diagonally right through the woods until you reach the Moscow River. At this point you have a choice. If the river remains frozen solid, you can cross over to explore the village on the far side. Obviously this is only recommended if it is clear that lots of other people are safely doing the same thing! If there is any doubt, do not attempt the crossing as the river is wide with strong currents.
If it is safe to cross, go up the road from the far bank and turn right to explore the painted wooden houses of Troitse Lykovo. Just after the church, turn right along a path that leads downhill back to the river, admiring the view across to the island before you descend. Turn left along the water and keep going in this direction until you eventually reach the Stroginskoye Shosse where you can catch a bus or tram right to Shukinskaya or left to Strogino. On the way, you may see people looking like a Breughel painting, strolling, skiing, sledging, cycling and even pushing prams across the broad, white expanse of the Moscow River and the huge lake, which is dotted with the little coloured tents of ice fishermen. This is also a favourite place for snow kiting, where people on skis are pulled across the frozen water by giant parachutes.
If the river has thawed, don't worry. There is an equally picturesque path along the western bank of the island. Turn right along the shore, following an undulating path. On the far side of the river you can see the beautiful baroque Naryshkin Church at Troitse Lykovo on top of the wooded slope. Eventually, on the north-western tip of the island, through the landscaped area known as Veteran's Park and over the Tamanskaya Ulitsa, you will find the fancy Pomestiye restaurant which claims to have been serving the dacha-dwellers of Serebryany Bor since 1856 (although presumably not in this actual log cabin). Since this is your only choice for refreshments in these parts, you may have no choice but to swallow the exorbitant prices along with the warm mead and bitter cappuccinos. It does have a nice line in silk cushions and a view of the river, making it a good place to warm up and enjoy some traditional blini. You can also skate on the outdoor rink, hire cross country skis or hurtle down the ice slides. From the road outside this winter wonderland, you can catch a trolleybus or marshrutka to the metro.