A short, but interesting stroll around the Chisty Prudy area Start: Krasnye Vorota metro End: Chisty Prudy Distance: about three kilometers
This brilliant corner of Moscow is packed with museums and cafes, giving you opportunities to escape the cold and enjoy the treasures of Russian culture. This walk takes you past ponds and palaces, theatres and galleries. You have the chance to visit a seventeenth century mansion, an intimate artist’s flat and a unique museum of dolls.
The exit near the back of the metro at Krasnye Vorota brings you out of a beautiful constructivist archway, designed by Nikolai Ladovsky in 1935, when the metro first opened. Ladovsky was the leader of a group of architects known as the “rationalists” who championed spatial arrangement over function and structure. The archway symbolically replaces the triumphal gates that used to stand here in the 18th century and gave the area its name of Red (or beautiful) Gate. Keeping the metro on your right, walk along Boyarski Pereulok as far as the ‘French Bakery”, which does excellent bread and cakes at reasonable prices.
Turn left opposite the bakery along Kozlovsky Pereulok. At the end of this little lane, turn left past a whitewashed mansion to reach one of Moscow’s most extraordinary buildings. The chessboard green and red jumble of 17th century roofs and chimneys, turrets, porches and columns, with its ornate fence and baroque window frames, was the palace of the Yusupov princes (1). Over the last decade, it has been brilliantly restored and the interiors, now used for parties and receptions, are well worth seeing. Unfortunately, the system for booking tours (which cost 250 roubles/person) is still fairly random. You can try phoning the guards on 6077666 to see if you can fix a time to visit. Otherwise, you can just take potluck and hope that someone might show you round if the palace is not too busy.
The brightly painted chambers on the ground floor are decorated with fantastical flora and hunting scenes. You can see Ivan the Terrible holding a falcon, recalling the house’s origins as an imperial hunting lodge. Upstairs, you reach a Chinese hall, complete with dragons and elephants and the 14-metre high throne room, its vaulted ceiling painted with signs of the zodiac. There follow a ‘shield’ room, with heraldic devices, a portrait gallery and dining hall. On the top floor the family chapel has been recreated. Coming down again, look out for the golden lions on the staircase, holding Yusupov shields. The last member of the family to live here was Prince Felix Yusupov, who murdered Rasputin in 1916.
Walk back along Bolshoi Kharitonevsky Pereulok and go straight on at the junction, taking the next left into Ulitsa Chaligina. An entrance on the left leads to the studio theatre (2) of celebrated director and actor, Oleg Tabakov. Tabakov also founded the Sovremenik Theatre, round the corner, acted for more than twenty years at the Moscow Arts’ Theatre and appeared in such well-known films as “Moscow doesn’t believe in Tears”. In the courtyard are bronze statues of three playwrights, Alexander Volodin, Alexander Vampilov and Victor Rozov. Rozov wrote the play and screenplay for another famous Russian film, “The Cranes are Flying”.
Passing the Latvian embassy, detour left into Furmanny Pereulok to visit the fascinating apartment-museum of Apollinari Vasnetsov (3). Overshadowed by his more famous brother Victor, Apollinari shared an interest in revisiting Russian history and specialized in recreating scenes from medieval Moscow. The museum is open 11am-4pm, Tuesday-Saturday and costs 100 roubles. It is divided into two parts. First there is the flat itself, delightfully crammed with Abramtsevo carved furniture, painted studies of clouds and a polar bear skin from his son’s arctic adventures. Secondly, the next door flat is now a brilliant picture gallery, with a selection of Vasnetsov’s haunting landscapes. Go back to Ulitsa Chaligina, turn left and continue.
Just inside the next road on the left, Ulitsa Mashkova is the “egg house”, an extraordinary oval-shaped red building (4). Take the next right off Ulitsa Chaligina, passing a little art gallery and the “Exhibition Hall”, (a treasure trove of a shop with some good Christmas gift ideas), on the right and the children’s theatre, “Exprompt” on the left.
Turn right at the end of this lane to reach the famous Sovremenik Theatre (5), designed by Roman Klein, who built the Pushkin Fine Arts’ Museum and TsUM department store. Walk clockwise around the pond to admire the ‘Figurny Dom’ (6) on the SW corner, a turquoise art nouveau apartment block, covered in medieval-style white animal reliefs, reminiscent of the cathedral in Vladimir. Just round the corner into Pokrovka, the ‘Museum of Unique Dolls’ (7) is open 10am – 6pm, Tues- Sun and entry is free. This interesting collection packs hundreds of antique dolls into its one-room gallery. They are made of porcelain, wood, clay and papier maiche. There are even figures fashioned from breadcrumbs by prisoners in Burtyrki (in case 17).
There are plenty of cafes and bars in this area, like the Czech microbrewery “Pilsner” on the corner, as you head back past the pond to the metro. The pond’s name (meaning “clean”) comes from Prince Menshikov’s cleanup of what was a polluted swamp in the 17th century, full of refuse from the nearby abattoirs. There is a good view of the baroque church tower that Menshikov built as you walk along the boulevard towards the metro. Before that, just beyond the pond, you pass a monument to Kazakh poet, Abay Qunanbayuli (8), sitting in a kind of rocky garden, not far from the embassy of Kazakhstan on the right hand side of the boulevard. The monument in front of Chisty Prudy metro station is to Alexander Gribeyedov (9), author of a famous 19th century Russian play called “Woe from Wit”, which you can see at the nearby Sovremenik.
Landmark of the Week – The “egg house”, 1 Ulitsa Mashkova Architect Sergei Tkachenko and gallery owner Marat Gelman teamed up to create this unusual house. Nicknamed the “faberge egg house”, the architectural fantasy was completed in 2002 and costs $10,000,000. For a long time, no buyer could be found and there are rumours that the unusual house might be still empty.