The next three wintry walks are full of contrasts, with deep forests, lakes, museums and churches mixed up with smokestacks and factories. Yet, they all have one thing in common: they end at famous shops or markets where you can do a little bit of early christmas shopping. This week's adventure in eastern Moscow seeks out Stalin's secret bunker, hidden under the city's biggest clothes' market; discovers the island where Peter the Great's grandfather had his palace; and the Izmailovsky Craft Market, full of fur hats and matryoshkas. Turning right out of Cherkizovskaya metro, you will see a large "Prokhod" sign indicating where you need to walk under the main road and up the steps on the far side, to cross over the railway. From this unlovely road bridge, you can see an incredibly varied skyline. Behind you to the left is the huge ‘Lokomotiv' Stadium with its trademark red and black steam train; to the right the colorful towers of the Izmailovo "Kremlin," the wooden palace, church and windmill that have been built around the souvenir stalls. On the far side of the bridge, take the steps down to visit the AST Clothes market. Increasingly, these lively outdoor markets are being converted into sterile shopping malls, like the one being built nearby. Pay a visit to the bazaar where you will find fantastic fur coats and high-heeled boots, before continuing down the street away from the main road.
Turn left just after the turreted red brick wall and follow the little lane past more clothes stalls, through an archway. Go right. The incongruous tanks and grassy bank mark the entrance way to Stalin's Bunker. The stadium was built at the same time as a distraction and disguise. You can only visit the bunker as part of a tour (although you might be able to join a group if you see one going in) and it is an expensive experience, costing 300/1000 rubles for Rus sians/foreigners.
The bunker, technically known as the "Reserve Command Post of the Supreme Commander in Chief of the Red Army," is a branch of the Museum of the Armed Forces. It contains an office, modelled on Stalin's Kremlin bureau, the central domed meeting hall and a dining room, where there is a small exhibition, which may be reserved for parties and businesses in search of novel venues. To contact the bunker, have a look at their website, www.fop-izmailovo.ru
The double doors opposite the museum entrance lead to the start of a seventeen kilometre tunnel to the Kremlin, part of a secret "second metro" that some people claim runs under the entire city. Going back through the archway near the bunker, turn immediately left along a little alleyway past a row of food stalls, popular with local workers. The smoky grills help to add to the air of Blade-runner-esque secrecy.
At the far end, cross the lane and keep going towards the five blue spires. You can usually get into the craft market here through a back gate marked with a matryoshka doll. If you can't find this entrance, simply turn right along the fence and then left along the road until you come to another way in. This end of the market is more like an encampment than a craft fair, with murals, little gardens and workshops among the stalls and winter trees. Across a wooden walkway, you come to the Izmailovo Kremlin, containing a fantastical reconstruction of the imperial palace and five different museums. These include the "Museum of Vodka" (open every day, 11am-9pm) where you can trace the history of this quintessentially Russian drink from its origins in medieval Moscow.
Entry costs 50/100 rubles for Rus sians/foreigners and includes a free shot of the warming spirit. The kremlin-izmailovo.com website, which has a user-friendly English-language version, will tell you more about what is on offer in this area.
Going out past the little playground and pond through an archway, you can follow another walkway all the way across the market, above the roofs of the stalls, to the ‘viewing platform' on the far side, where you can look across the lake where Peter the Great might have sailed the boat that launched the Russian fleet to an island where the imperial palace used to stand.
Doub ling back and coming down the stairway brings you out near the barbecue cafes in the Craft Market, an excellent place to pause before or after shopping. This well-known market sells all kinds of traditional Russian crafts from palekh boxes and laquer trays to patchwork quilts and embroidered shawls. The upper level at the back, beyond the model of Peter the Great's boat, tends only to be open at the weekend and specialises in paintings and antiques.
When you've finished, head away from the steps, out through the front entrance to the market and along a little supplementary arcade where bears are often kept for the amusement of visitors. Opposite the wooden church-like cafe, turn left across two small, but crowded roads and walk along an unpromisingly rubbish-strewn path which begins near the green and yellow tent-cafe-bar, "Peter's Boat." Cross over the bridge and turn left round the shore of the island, admiring the views of the market.
At the far end of the island is a ceremonial gateway in the wall of the whitewashed barracks which used to contain the palace. Nearby is a statue of Peter the Great, looking suitably maritime and the imposing seventeenth century Intercession Cathedral, decorated with peacock's eye tiles. These are the distinctive work of Stepan Polubes, the master ceramicist, so it is appropriate that the red-brick Bridge Tower behind the cathedral has recently reopened with a display of Moscow's ceramic tiles. This small museum is open 10am-5.30pm Tues-Sun and costs 50/100 rubles for Russians/foreigners. There are free tours of the area (in Russian) every Saturday at noon and 2pm.
The return path along the south side of the island runs between a birch grove and the lake, a tiny urban nature reserve where overwintering gold finches fly among the burdocks. Crossing back over the bridge, take the path diagonally left.
When you reach the road, turn left again and simply follow the crowds heading for the metro through the gate with the silver peacock on the top.