A museum crawl through woods and suburbs to Kuskovo palace Start: Perovo Metro End: Bus stop on Ulitsa Yunosti (buses to Ryazansky Prospekt and Vykhino Metros) Distance: about 7km
For early autumn, here is a walk that offers a few indoor options, visiting unexpected museums of avant garde sculpture and an orangery full of porcelain. There is also a chance to admire the autumn trees, reflected in Kuskovo’s lovely palace ponds.
Take the exit nearest the front of the train at Perovo Metro (yellow line) and turn right in the underpass, coming out near a branch of Shokaladnitsa. Turn left, parallel to the main road, Zelyony Prospekt, to enter a small, but attractive urban park. There is a memorial (1) by Vadim Sidur in the centre, dedicated ‘to soldiers lost during Afghan War’. Walk diagonally left out of the park from the sculpture and turn right across Novogireevskaya Ulitsa to reach the Vadim Sidur museum (2).
An unpromising brick tower block houses galleries of work by this non-conformist sculptor. The museum is open from 12 noon, Thurs-Sun, and costs 40 roubles. They also host a series of concerts and literary evenings during the winter months. There are examples of early works, like the intricate plaster ‘Adam and Eve’ as well as the more symbolic metal forms that characterized his mature style. Born in 1924, Sidur was profoundly influenced by his experiences as a young soldier in WWII. Round the walls are photos of Sidur in his studio and the coffin-shaped installations of his ‘grave art’. There is also a delightful piece called simply ‘Besyeda’ (“talk”): three sections of drainpipe face each other as though deep in conversation. Up a winding staircase lined with graphic works is an eclectic selection of pieces, including watercolours. Sidur died in 1986 and the museum was founded the following year.
Turn left out of the museum and follow leafy Novogireevskaya. Turn right at the end of the road onto Polymernaya Ulitsa, past the bright yellow building of the Art School (3). Take the next left turn, past a garage and go straight on at the next crossroads. The hospitable ‘Chance’ café (4) on the left is a good place to stop. There is a 150-rouble business lunch on weekdays, including tasty soup and an elegant glass of tea. Continue past the Perovsky Pond and follow the rather derelict, but relatively empty road round to the right until you come to Kuskovo station.
Cross the bridge over the railway lines into Kuskovo forest park and take the path leading straight ahead, away from the railway, to come out on a little lane. Turn left to reach the great palace pond (5) with its water birds and wooded island. In Kuskovo’s heyday, this pond was used to stage mock sea battles. Ruddy shelducks and ragged, fiery maples contrast with the pink wooden palace across the lake. Walk anti-clockwise around the banks to enjoy the classic views of the Kuskovo estate across the pond. When you reach the canal, flanked by obelisks, you need to turn right along it to find the bridge and then return along the other side, with the late autumn trees moulting into the reflecting water. Go on around the lake to the entrance near the main road. You need to buy tickets here for whatever you would like to see inside. The grounds are closed on Monday, Tuesday, the last Wednesday of the month and after 4pm (in winter).
This palace and its lovely grounds belonged to the Sheremetev family, the richest aristocrats in 18th century Russia. The yellow church, with the statue of the Archangel Michaeal, on top is the oldest building in the ensemble; it was built in the 1730s, but the bell tower with its tall gold spire was added half a century later. The delightful Dutch House (6) with its red brick gables is reflected in a small pond. If you simply want to explore the grounds, a 50-rouble pass for this tile-lined 1740s gem could be just the ticket. If you haven’t been inside the palace, it’s worth shelling out 150/300 roubles for Russians/foreigners to admire its authentic furnishings, including Flemish tapestries and mirrored ballroom. Alternatively, turn right at the palace and head for the splendid orangery, framed by Italian statues and formal flowerbeds.
The more modern ‘American Orangery’ (7) next door houses the national museum of ceramics. Entrance also costs 150/300 roubles. The long chain of galleries is arranged chronologically. The first few rooms contain porcelain from the imperial collections, but in many ways the most interesting pieces are the Soviet era creations in the later galleries. Natalia Danko, who was responsible for the musical figures on the ceiling of Teatralnaya metro, is well represented. Her figurines include revolutionaries and workers, their heroic and monumental qualities somehow at odds with the delicacy of the form. The museum includes one of her famous chess sets with the sickle-wielding red army victorious and the white army in chains. The bold colours and gilding in the “Soviet orange” series are also particularly striking.
You might also want to visit the grotto (8), encrusted inside with sand and shells. The small, pink buildings nearby, ranged around a pond once contained a menagerie. The green and white Italianate villa is another miniature summer palace. When you have had enough, you can catch a bus from outside the gates to Ryazansky Prospekt or Vykhino metro stations. There are cafes near Ryazansky Prospekt, including a branch of the demotic Italian chain, Il Patio.
Landmark of the Week – Vadim Sidur’s monument, Zelyony Prospekt (1) These three mourning figures are characteristic of Sidur’s simple, but powerful works in metal. He originally composed the work, as part of his ‘monuments’ cycle in 1972, when it was called “To the unburied ones”. Two decades later, it was erected here as a memorial to soldiers lost during the Russian war in Afghanistan, 1979-1989.