Three centuries ago, Peter the Great gave the estate at Kuzminki to Grigori Stroganov as a reward for the latter's help in funding the embryonic Russian Imperial Navy. The noble Stroganov family (who gave their name to the dish Beef Stroganoff), were influential members of the eighteenth century Russian aristocracy. Another famous family, the Golitsyns, took over the estate in 1757 when Grigori's granddaughter, Anna, married Prince Mikhail. The buildings that remain from those days, together with the ornamental ponds and lime-tree avenues, make Kuzminki a beautiful place to stroll and enjoy the last moments before the arrival of snow. In wintertime, visitors can ski, skate or even travel by horse-drawn troika. There are plenty of ways to roll, ride or glide through this historic Moscow park.
Volzhskaya Metro Station is one of those rare delights: a place where you exit the station and enter a forest (Exit near the front of the train will bring you out by the gates to the park). Across the road, behind the kiosks and cafes are the gates to another park, the neighboring historic estate of Lyub lino. There are several routes from the metro to the cascades at the foot of the lower pond. Simply bear left and follow the right hand side of the little Ponomarka River, along the top of a wooded cliff. Once you have located the river, stay between it and the fenced residential area and follow it as it winds through the woods. Alternatively, you can go right inside the park to reach Ulitsa Zarechye. Turning left along this brings you to a free museum of old cars which is open on weekend afternoons. Just beyond the museum, you reach a path leading left into the woods where you can pick up the main route again.
Walk along the edge of the lake, past the boat hire, and then turn right along the path at the far end which leads away from the water to a small playground. Turn left just before the playground, passing a pink building, to come out on the bridge between two lakes. To the right is the magnificent Music Pavilion with statues of horses rearing up in front of it. The complex now houses stables, a cafe and an exhibition of old carriages. Straight ahead, across the bridge, is situated the remaining eighteenth century buildings from the Stroganov/Golitsyn estates. The white and gold Vlakher nitsa church is famous for its revered seventh century icon, brought from Constantinople. The original is now in the Tretyakov Gallery.
The reconstructed manor house, used for the last century as a Veterinary Research Institute, is opposite the church behind griffin-guarded gates. One nice thing is that the information boards are shown in both English and Russian.
In the old servants' quarters, a little further on, is the "Russian Estate Culture" museum, open 10-5, Tues-Sun. This branch of the "Mu seum of Moscow History" has a number of pleasantly laid-out rooms and a walled garden. There is also an exhibition entitled "Get to know the Golitsyns" and a relief map of the entire estate.
From the road behind the church, you can catch a bus or marshrutka to Ryazansky Prospekt Metro Station.
A visitor to one of the Prince's parties here describes how "coaches and carriages stretched out in rows" along this road, now marked with leaf-covered archways, bordered in season by colorful flowerbeds and still prone to traffic jams. This is an excellent place to get a view of the aristocratic entranceway, still almost as the visitor described it: "wrought iron railings and, behind them, another gateway with bronze decorations, sculptures and the prince's coat of arms..." You can go on to explore the more formal "French-style" old park behind the church where paths radiate out from a central flower bed. Entering near the wooden sledge on Kuzminskaya Ulitsa and then taking the fourth path on the right from the central circle will lead you back to the lake, emerging near a nineteenth century cattle shed that looks more like a manor house.
Continuing around the far end of the lake, walk back along the far side to admire the views across the water of other remnants of the old estate. Lovely scenes in a woodland setting have delighted centuries of city strollers, as you can see from the old watercolors in the museum. Go past the Music Pavilion and the Millhouse on the Bridge, which has become another traditional place for engaged couples to padlock their love tokens.
The path along the lakeside starts immediately next to the information board for the Millhouse near a cluster of seasonal cafes. Continue along the left hand side of the middle lake, with its pleasantly overgrown island, turning right at the far end along the embankment between the two lakes and then left along the side of the lower lake. From here you can retrace your steps to Volzhskaya metro or turn right up the hill, past fairground attractions towards Kuzminki Metro Station. Beyond the rides and go-karting stadium, take the straight paths along an avenue and through a wooden archway near a sculpture of a golden bird.
When you reach the cinema and ice rink on the edge of the park near the statue of Lenin, cross Yunikh Lenintsev Ulitsa and go straight on past the market until you reach the metro station. You did it!
Kuzminki park has its fair share of playgrounds and attractions, plenty of open space and even some fallen conkers under the chestnut trees near the church. The historical museum has an exhibition of childhood on a Russian Estate.
Best of all, Father Christmas has an ornate wooden house and post office beyond the end of the upper lake. The area includes animal sculptures and little bridges in the woods, a blini stand and picnic table. It is open weekends until December when it opens every day. From outside the nearby hospital, a marshrutka will whisk you back to Kuzminki Metro in ten minutes for 20 rubles, making this a good place to end the walk with kids at any time of year.