It's not as hard as it seems to get out of town. Just northeast of the city centre is the start of the huge forest known as the "Losiny Ostrov" (Elk Island). This is Russia's first national park and contains some sections of "total reserve" (no human activity allowed) and other parts with maps and visitors' centres. One such area, near the town of Mytishchi, has several interesting features: the unique marshlands of the upper Yauza River, a 19th century water-pumping station and a "Museum of tea drinking". Even the urban sprawl at the start and end of this route is enlivened by monuments of industrial history, including the "Mission Control Centre" at Korolyov. On February 8, 1724, Peter I signed the decree establishing the Academy of Sciences and the date (this Sunday) has since been designated the "Day of Russian Sciences". So, in a spirit of scientific exploration, this walk visits some natural and technical treasures. Trains to Mytishchi leave Yaroslavsky Vokzal roughly every 20 minutes, take about half an hour and cost 42 rubles. From Komsomolskaya Metro, follow signs to Yaroslavsky Vokzal. Coming out of the metro, turn right to find the glass building housing the "Prigorodniye Kassi" (local ticket office) and ask for a return to Podlipki Dachniye (84 rubles) - unless you plan to get the bus back instead (see end of walk). The forests of Sokolniki Park and Losiny Ostrov, roughly divided by Yauza River, are visible from the train almost at once.
The original medieval village of Bolshiye Mytishchi was a customs' checkpoint on the ancient, overland trade route from the Yauza to the larger Klyazma River. The old Russian word "myt" meant "customs dues". Walk across the station forecourt, past the statue of Lenin, and along Ulitsa Kolontsova, named after a revolutionary whose statue you will see at the far end of the road. The older factory buildings were first commissioned by the railway tycoon Savva Mamontov who owned the influential artists' estate at Abramtsevo, further down the line. The model of a metro carriage, near a war memorial tank, shows passers-by what "Metrovagonmash" makes now. To the left, you can see the tall, green dome of the 8th century Vladimirsky Church.
Just before you reach the busy Yaroslavsky Shosse, turn right down a little flight of steps and follow a riverside path under the bridge to emerge suddenly on the edge of the "Mytischinskiye Plavni", a watery expanse, punctuated by clumps of bulrushes. Stretching out beyond the horizon, are nearly 400 hectares of wildlife-rich swamp. Follow the road round the edge of the plavni, past a row of wooden houses. At the barrier and when the road divides, take the right fork and follow it as far as Moscow's first water-pumping station. This lovely red brick building, built in the late 19th century, supplied water from 73 springs to the capital. It still works, although Moscow now gets most of its water from reservoirs to the west.
Turn left in front of the gates to enter the little Mytischinsky village. Round to the right, you will find the "Produkti" shop, surrounded by wooden houses, some of which are a 100 years old. Walk away from the red-brick walls of the water station toward the far side of the village where a small gate leads into the trees beyond. Keep going straight through the woods until you reach the road and turn right to arrive at a Visitors' Centre in a large log house with benches and a map in front. Irina Anatolievna, who runs the centre, can tell you more about the area and show you the small collection of samovars in the "Chaepitiye v Mytishchakh" exhibition. If you want to check if the centre will be open when you pass by, you can call her on +7 905 598-1968. Don't despair if it happens to be closed, there are opportunities to drink tea and look at samovars in Korolyov. Turn left after the Visitors' Centre and right before the stables along a row of houses.
Just before the last wooden cottage, turn left and then diagonally right on a track. Skirting a clearing in the woods, the path goes on through pine trees, across a further clearing and reaches the corner of a wall. Bear left into a track between factory buildings and green houses leading to a small park. Keep parallel to the buildings on the left, to reach Ulitsa Bogomolova. A gold plaque on the door of the big, flag-bordered building on the left announces, in Russian and English, that this is "Central Mission Control". The more utilitarian buildings on the right are "Tsinimash", including the Institute of Rocket Making. By this time you might be more interested in the (recommended!) "Exprompto" pizza cafe across the road.
Space research was first based in this town in the 1940s and it is still the centre of the current space exploration programme and the production of spacecraft. The rocket engineer, Sergei Korolyov, after whom the town was renamed in 1996, was in charge of the new institute until his death in 1966. Walk along Ulitsa Tereshkovoi (named after the first woman in space), to the right of the cafe, to reach the town museum. Open since 2005, Wed.-Sun. 10 am-6 pm. (50 rubles), the well-laid out exhibition charts the history of the dacha settlement of Podlipki ("under the lime trees") through the arrival of armaments factories in 1938, when it acquired its Soviet-era name, Kaliningrad, to the space age and beyond.
To the left of the museum, along Ulitsa Oktyabrskaya, is the giant cosmonautics company, "Energia", with a rocket behind it. From here you can catch a bus all the way back to VDNKh. The relative likelihood of running into traffic on the way back to Moscow is offset by a great view of the Rostokinsky Aqueduct, a white stone bridge nearly half a kilometre long, built in 1785. The bus stops right by the newly-restored park surrounding the soaring Cosmos monument and the soon-to-be-reopened Space Museum. Alternatively, going diagonally right and then straight on from the museum, along Ulitsa Kalinina and under the railway, you will reach Podlipki Dachniye Station.