Start: Michurinets Station
End: Peredelkino Station
Distance: About 4km
Peredelkino, the writers’ village where Boris Pasternak wrote “Dr Zhivago”, can be a magical place in winter, despite the new developments and busy roads that threaten to erode its peace. Visitors arriving at Michurinets Station, the next stop after Peredelkino on the local train from Kievsky Vokzal, can feel as though they have stepped into a different world, one that is far more than half an hour away from Moscow. A return ticket on the train costs just 52 roubles and the journey is often enlivened by vendors and buskers.
It is particularly appropriate to reach Peredelkino by train since this is how Pasternak himself usually travelled. In Russia he is celebrated as a poet, one of the most influential in the twentieth century. The title poem of Pasternak’s 1944 collection, “On Early Trains”, describing his wintry commutes to Moscow from Peredelkino, is full of his usual sensory richness. On the train, with its “stuffy heat” and smell of “floral soap and honey cakes”, he admires his fellow passengers and “gazed on Russia’s unique face/ in silent awe and wonderment”.
Take the steps near the back of the train down from Michurinets platform and walk straight ahead along a little lane, following a sign to the Bulat Okudzhava Museum. Passing icicle-hung dachas and snow-bowed fruit trees, cross over Ulitsa Lenina. Walk a few steps left along Ulitsa Karla Marksa to find a lane with a striped barrier and carry on along this to arrive on Ulitsa Dovzhenko. Two doors to the right, at number eleven (2) is the wonderfully cluttered memorial dacha of the bard-poet Bulat Okudzhava (open 11-4 Thurs to Sun), best known to most foreigners in Moscow from his slouching bronze statue outside Moo Moo on Stary Arbat. Tours of the museum (slightly pricey at 300 roubles) include a moving video about Okudzhava’s life and work with renditions of several of best-loved haunting ballads.In the tiny study, you can see his collection of little bells with more of them hanging from the ceiling of the exhibition hall.
Before you explore the rest of the village, you might like to have a short stroll through the woods, which surround the dachas. Walking back along Ulitsa Dovzhenko, turn right along the first little lane, which soon becomes a path through the fir trees. Walk straight ahead and turn right at the first junction. The tract of forest is quite big, but this little loop gives you just long enough to listen for Pasternak’s footsteps in the snow as he walked to the station:
“And through the forest darkness echoed forth
The crunching echo of my tramping feet.”
You emerge onto Ulitsa Lermontova and turn right along the red brick wall of the mansion belonging to the sculptor, Zurab Tsereteli (3), who was responsible for the giant statue of Peter the great in the Moscow River. A huge bear and a mosiac structure are visible over the fence. Turn left along Ulitsa Karla Marksa and continue to follow it between trees and cottages, even when it turns into a little path by the fences until you reach a junction with two roads and turn left again (not sharp left) along Ulitsa Seraphimovicha. Eventually, towards the other end of this long, dacha-lined lane, you reach the memorial house museum of Russia's best-loved children's author, Kornei Chukovsky (4).
Open 10-5 except for Mondays and Tuesdays, it is well worth a quick look inside (100 rubles). A 'wonder tree' in the garden covered in shoes, a motif from one of Chukovsky' verse-tales, sets the tone; behind the house is a small forest path leading to a stage and campfire site for visiting school groups and next door is a children's library.
Going on to the junction with busy Ulitsa Pogodina, the fence has panels painted by children, illustrating Chukovsky's stories. Across the main road, slightly to the right, is Ulitsa Pavlenko, where, at number 3, you reach the Boris Pasternak house-museum (5). It is open 10-4 Thursday to Sunday and entry also costs fifty rubles. The interior of the white-trimmed brown dacha, jutting into its snowy garden like the prow of a boat, is markedly austere. In the bare bedroom and study are his boots, coat and hat, just where he left them. The beautifully light conservatory, laid out with samovar and cups, looks out onto the overgrown orchard.
Return to the main road from Pasternak's dacha and turn left along it. The pathway on the far side is preferable and has the added advantage of passing the restaurant, “Dyeti Solntsa” (6), along a driveway to the right, inside the old Dom Tvorchestva (“House of Creativity”). Decor and prices reflect the aspirations of the prospective clientele; if your budget won't stretch to it, there is a cheaper café near Peredelkino station.
Follow the main road over the River Setun and then cross the road to the cemetery. The main pathway leads up the hill to emerge near the lovely Transfiguration church in an old orchard. If you turn left along the fence at the top, inside the cemetery, you reach Pasternak's white, pine-shaded gravestone (7). Chukovsky’s tomb is lightly to the left and a little down the hill. The ornate buildings beyond the cemetery gates are the Summer Residence of the Russian Orthodox Patriarch, including a colourful chapel (8) and Russian revival style turrets. Walk past the palace and follow the road and you will soon see Peredelkino Station ahead of you.
Landmark of the Week – Kornei Chukovsky House Museum, Peredelkino
If you haven’t come across Chukovsky’s fairy tale poems yet, look them up. They are perfect for people trying to learn Russian.
The friendly guides in the museum can tell you stories about Chukovsky’s impoverished early life, when he worked as a roof painter while simultaneously teaching himself English. He went on to become one of Russia’s most celebrated translators; in his eighties, Oxford awarded him an honourary degree and the academic gown hangs on his study door. In the library, there is a portrait of Chukovsky, which was painted by the radical poet, Vladimir Mayakovsky, using a cigarette dipped in black ink.