Stroll past snow-covered cottages, churches and palaces beside the Moscow River Start: Kolomenskaya metro End: Kashirskaya metro Distance: about 4km There is something quintessentially Russian about wooden buildings covered in snow. Moscow may seem to be a city of grey concrete and towering glass, but there are several places where you can still find traditional izbas, dachas, chapels and even palaces made from wood. Kolemsnkoe, site of the oldest inhabited settlements in Moscow, some dating back as far as the late Stone Age, is rich in many kinds of architecture and looks majestic in wintry white. Leave the train at Kolemenskaya metro through the exit near the front of the train and follow signs for the museum reserve and the Orbit Cinema. The usual way into the park is straight ahead, past the cinema, but there is a side entrance, left along Ulitsa Novinki past the school which lets you in near the growing Museum of Wooden Architecture. Just inside the gates you can see a row of half-finished wooden houses (1), which are to become an ethnographic centre, including carpenters, blacksmiths, weavers and wood carvers. Turning left along the track inside the park, head for the three-domed wooden church, newly reconstructed in this area, admiring the views to the right of the main architectural ensemble on its cliff above the orchards. Close to the wooden church, you will find 17th century towers from the gateway of the Nikolo-Korelsky Monastery and the Sumskoy and Bratsk stockades (2). A little watermill and dam, a falconer’s yard and a stable have been reconstructed by the Zhuzha river, a tiny tributary of the Moskva. Apart from the falconer’s yard, the buildings are only open in the summer, but they form a lovely picture against the snowy fields and frosty birches. When you reach the Moskva River, turn right along it. The water here has collected a whole city’s-worth of pollutants and rarely freezes even in the coldest weather. The overwintering gulls and mallards don’t seem to object and pale sunlight glints off the misty surface. As you approach the unmissable spire of the Ascension church, a track leads back to the right up the hill. A row of log-cabin cafes (3) at the top can usually provide refreshments if you need them. The pancakes with honey are particularly good. Turning sharp left along the cliff top through a grove of limes, you reach an elegant pavilion (4) guarded by two stone lionesses, looking out across the river. This is the only building that survives from a post-Napoleonic reconstruction of Catherine the Great’s riverside palace, built in turn to replace the dilapidated wooden labyrinth of Tsar Alexei. The Ascension church itself, the UNESCO-listed jewel of the estate was built by Vasily III in 1532 to commemorate the birth of his son, the future Ivan the Terrible. There is a small exhibition in the basement, but the mark up for foreigners on all the museums in the park is so outrageous that you may want to save your money for the main exhibition, “Milestones in Kolomenskoe History” housed in the green tent-roofed gatehouse (5) beyond the church. On the far side of the gates, there is another wooden building, an early 18th century cottage from Preobrazhenskoe. Next door you can admire the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Virgin with its starry blue domes. This church used to be connected to the imperial palace via a wooden walkway. Turn back to the left through the white walls to find some ancient Kolomenskoe oaks, several hundred years old, and the wooden cabin (6) from which Peter the Great supervised the construction of Novodinsk fortress in 1702 and the Russian fleet at Arkhangelsk. From here, there are views across the valley to the 16th century church of John the Baptist half hidden in the trees. Turning right by the cabin, you pass snowy orchards, reconstructing the Tsar’s 17th century gardens, to reach a charming bee-keepers cottage (7). A honey-tasting hall and apiary (inside the fenced corner of the orchard) complete the ensemble. Skirt round the orchard to reach the stable yard (8), another collection of wooden cottages perched at the top of a steep flight of steps down into a ravine. This could be the place to find out about seasonal troika rides. You can climb down the staircase to visit the spring and ancient, sacred ice age rocks that still attract pilgrims, who tie votive ribbons on the nearby trees. Climbing out of the ravine on the far side, turn right to reach the reconstruction of Tsar Alexei’s palace (9) at the far end of the park. Alternatively, if the steps seem treacherously icy, simply turn right just beyond the stable yard at the top of the steps and follow the track that runs roughly parallel with the main road, Prospekt Andropova. This route is certainly not as rural, but it also involves less climbing, less chance of getting lost and some great views across the ravines to the distant palace. Through the exit close to the colourful palace, a tunnel leads under the main road to Kashirskaya metro. Landmark of the Week – Tsar Alexei’s Palace at Kolomenskoe (9) Tsar Alexei, father of Peter the great, who was born at Kolomenskoe, created his rambling, asymmetrical fairy-tale palace in the mid 17th century, employing armies of carpenters, upholsterers, painters, gilders, carvers and blacksmiths. A similar, modern day legion has been busy, at ex-mayor Luzhkov’s instigation, over the past few years and has recently finished reconstructing the palace, famous in its day as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. The palace’s ‘relocation’ to the far side of the park and lack of real historical accuracy have been subject to criticism, especially when so many genuine historic buildings are desperately in need of restoration. The interiors, open for just a month last September, are now closed again until the spring. The exhibitions of ‘historic’ rooms and imperial costumes are due to include paintings and etchings, icons and tiled stoves. With kids: The steep gullies at Kolomenskoe are excellent for sledging. There is a MacDonald’s just outside the exit near the beekeeper’s cottage if you’re desperate.