From candles and gas lamps to flood lights and power stations Start: Chisty Prudy Metro station End: Ploschad Revolutsii Metro station Distance: about 4 km To celebrate the last week of Russia’s ongoing festive season and illumine the grey days, the theme of this walk is simply “light”. The route winds through the heart of the old city, crisscrossing the river and passing ten churches, Moscow’s most famous power station, the delightful “Museum of Lights” and the dazzling spectacle of decorated Red Square. Since the days are still so short, this is a walk specifically designed for after dark, but you can – of course – enjoy it at any time of day. Exit from Chisty Prudy Metro station onto Chistoprudny Bulvar and walk straight along the boulevard, with its old fashioned street lamps, behind the statue of playwright, Gribeyedov. Turn right along Arkhangelsky Pereulok, named after the nearby Church of the Archangel Gabriel (1). Don’t miss the church, hidden in a courtyard on the right. The pink, baroque tower, topped with what looks like a gold pineapple, was commissioned by Peter the Great’s friend and advisor, Alexander Menshikov in 1704. At the time it was one of the tallest towers in Moscow. Inside and out, the walls are covered with flying cherubim. The archangel appears in murals on either side of the newly gilded iconostasis, announcing the impending birth to Mary (right) and Joseph (left). The interior, lit by beeswax candles, reaches up to an octagonal wooden gallery. Turn right along Krivokolenny Pereulok (“crooked lane”) and follow it until you come to Armyansky Pereulok on the left with a baroque brickwork façade exposed near the start. This lane, as the name hints, contains the Armenian embassy, the floodlit, neoclassical building at number two. The whitewashed 17th century palace opposite the embassy contains the “Museum of Lights” (2) in four vaulted rooms. At the far end of this attractive lane, cross over Ulitsa Maroseika into Starosadsky Pereulok (“old gardens lane”), with the blue, domed church of Cosma and Damien (3) on the corner. This creation of the famous, late 18th architect, Matvei Kazakov, once numbered Fyodor Dostoevsky among its congregation. During the Soviet era it was used as a motorbike club.
Walk along Starosadsky, passing the Maharaja Indian restaurant and the tall, striped spire of the Evangelical Lutheran church of Peter and Paul. At the end of the road, you reach a walled convent and the beautiful, many gabled church of St Vladimir in the Old Gardens (4), which was originally set among imperial orchards and flowering cherries. Prince Vasily III first commissioned the church in 1514, but it was rebuilt in the 17th century and the oldest fragments of painting inside are from the 19th century. The main cathedral of the St John’s convent opposite is a wonderful contrast, redecorated in pale pastels and golds. Having served as a prison, reformatory and field hospital (during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877), this institution has had its share of celebrity inhabitants, including the Empress Elizabeth’s daughter, Princess Tarakanova, and mass-murderer, Daria Saltykova. The monastery’s bakery supplies a tiny, cheap cafe outside the gates. Alternatively, “Noah’s Ark” just down the hill along Maly Ivanovsky Pereulok provides a completely different experience. With its silks and velvets, mosaics and chandeliers, this luxurious Armenian restaurant offers suckling pig and sturgeon, as well as a carnivorous selection of kebabs. At the bottom of the hill, turn right and then sharp left onto Ulitsa Solyanka, part of the old highway to Vladimir in medieval times. You skirt around an 18th century church with a memorial (5) to the victims of the Beslan tragedy outside. Hundreds of people, including many children, died in 2004 when terrorists took more than 1000 hostages in a school in North Ossetia. The sculptural groups on the gateposts opposite the church mark the entrance to what was once the city’s orphanage. Turn left down the hill towards the towering Kotelnicheskaya apartment block and turn right across the Moscow River. If you need refreshments, the Coffee Point café, diagonally left across the crossroads at the far end of the bridge is a good place to stop. Several of the buildings to the right of the bridge form part of the Mosenergo power station (6), a living memorial to the electrification of Moscow and still the largest thermal generation company in the world, now a subsidiary of Gazprom. This industrial complex was founded in the late 19th century and in the 1920s, Ivan Zholtovsky, a pioneer of Stalinist classicism, added an elegant boiler house. The nautical chimneys, smoking above the river, form a dramatic contrast with the Kremlin towers on the skyline behind. A museum, covering the power station’s 120-year history, is due to reopen this spring. Turn right along Sadovinchesakaya Ulitsa. At the far end is the mid-17th century church of St George (7). Its five domes and many-layered gables, typifying the style of the time, have been beautifully restored after their neglect during the Soviet era, when the church served as a storehouse. Monks from the Solovetsky Monastery, which now owns the church, conduct occasional services. At the end of the road climb up the steps and turn right across the bridge towards Red Square. This main road bridge can be noisy, but it affords one of the best nighttime views in town. The Kremlin cathedrals, walls and towers, floodlit St Basils (8) and GUM, outlined in fairy lights, make a stunning panorama. The seasonal ice rink and New Year’s trees still decorate the ancient cobbles. Turning right at the far end of Red Square, through the Resurrection Gates (9), you can stroll past the stalls and rides of the Christmas market to reach the metro station. Landmark of the week – the Museum of Lights (2) This old building houses a fantastic collection of lanterns and streetlights from four centuries of city planning. From the Empress Anna’s flickering oil lamps, through coloured glass and kerosene, gas pipes and carbon rods, the museum’s English language leaflet takes you through a selection of highlights. The museum is open every day from 11am-6pm and costs 70 roubles.