Start and End: Solnechnogorsk bus stationDistance: about 3km on foot
The town of Solnechnogorsk, an hour’s bus ride north of Moscow, grew up as a posting station on the road to Petersburg. In the 19th century, there were attempts to build a canal here to transport stone from the Volga for Moscow’s original Christ the Saviour cathedral. After 20 years, the canal was still less than ten kilometres and then, in 1851, the railway opened, making the canal redundant. Lake Senezh, one of the biggest lakes in the Moscow region, was created in the process and is now a hugely popular place for relaxing, fishing and boating. Bus 440 runs from Voikovskaya metro (exit near the back of the train and turn right) every 20 minutes and costs 95 roubles. Some of the coaches are even air conditioned.
When you reach Solnechnogorsk bus station, walk a few steps on in the direction the bus was going and turn right along Ulitsa Rabochaya. The green and white mansion (1) at the end of the road is one of the town’s older buildings. Plaques commemorate connections with Lenin, who stayed here in 1921, and the Red Army, who fought the Germans for three weeks in this area. To the left of the palace, walk through the brick archway into the sculpture-filled town park. A monument to the victims of political repression (2), incorporating two fists ringed by barbed wire, stands to the left of the path. Skirt left round the stadium to reach a small area of woodland on the shores of the lake.
There are more sculptures here, next to a playground for BMX-riders. One massive granite fragment of face (3), lies on its side like a piece of Shelley’s Ozymandias. There are areas of sandy beach to the right and the left with a summer café in between. After lunch, you can try walking along the shore, following a path across the peninsular to reach the woods beyond. Alternatively, you can rent rowing boats and pedalos quite reasonably by the hour or take an hour’s cruise around the lake for 250 roubles on a pontoon. The ticket office is just next to the café. There is not much to see around the seven square kilometres of Lake Senezh, but the wide expanse of water fringed with green makes a great change from the streets of Moscow. On the far side, the boat loops around two tiny wooded islands (4) with gardens of water lilies. (The map in the town museum identifies these as the “Malinovy Ostra” or raspberry islands). The captain then heads back to the town beach, marked by the chimney of an old brick factory, keeping away from the main roads that run along the western banks. Stepping off the boat, turn left along the beachside avenue, past the fountain in the lake (5) and right along Bankovskaya Ulitsa. There are several wooden houses (6) along this road, some of the thousands that sprang up around the lake as it became prime dacha territory during the 20th century. Cross over at the crossroads. Just before you reach the next junction, turn left into the courtyard of the Cultural centre. In the courtyard, a bust of Vasily Tatischev stands outside the town museum (7). The palatial museum buildings date from 1775, when they served as an imperial roadhouse and post station.
Tatischev, an 18th century historian and administrator for Peter the Great, is one of many local celebrities associated with the area. One room of the well-kept museum, furnished as an aristocratic sitting room, has sections dedicated to Mikhail Lermontov, Alexander Blok and others who lived nearby. The museum also has a leather harness from the old post-road days, bronze-age jewellery and the mandatory mock-up of a peasant’s wooden hut or izba. The exhibits relating to more recent history include a merchants’ corner, a war room and cases of products from the present day factories, including medicine bottles from the glassworks and rucksacks from the plastic fibre plant. Cross under the road beyond the museum and walk through the memorial park (8) on the far side. Head towards the far right corner, cross the road and go on along the avenue on the far side, passing a silver statue of Lenin. When you reach Ulitsa Krestyanskaya, turn right to find the bus station. On the bus back to Moscow, look out for the white and yellow church of St Nicholas, on the right before you leave town. It was built in 1875 in the ornate “Russian revival” style that was popular then. Half way back towards Moscow, look left to catch the giant war memorial near Zelenograd. A stone obelisk and soldier’s head on a grassy hill commemorate the battles here during the Second World War. The body of the “unknown soldier”, buried in Alexandrovsky Sad, was taken from the mass grave here.
Back in town, you pass the white statue at the entrance to the Northern River Station (on the right). You can get off here, cross under the road and walk through the park to the metro if you’re worried about getting stuck in traffic further in.
Landmark of the week – Alexander Blok’s house-museum at Shakhmatovo If you want to learn more about symbolist poet, Alexander Blok, you should take a taxi 18 km to the village of Shakhmatovo where his beautiful house has been recreated. The museum is set among woods, fields and beautiful gardens with seasonal flowers blooming right through the summer. Blok lived here from 1881 until the revolution and called it “a corner of paradise not far from Moscow”. With kids… This is a good day trip with kids. There’s not too much walking or history and there are playgrounds, ice cream stalls and plenty to do on the beach. This week’s thirteen-year-old walk tester was even allowed to wear the captain’s hat and drive the cruise boat on the lake.