This is the perfect time of year to wander through the forests of Izmailovo, where the brilliant leaves of maples, oaks and weeping willows are reflected in the many ponds. Moreover, markets on either side of the park are bursting with autumn produce: the last baskets of red currants and rosehips are piled high in the late sunshine. At the heart of the park is an apiary where bees have been kept since Peter the Great's grandfather, Tsar Alexei, established a model farm here in the seventeenth century. The apiary has an open day on the third Saturday of each month. Izmailovskaya Station is one of Moscow's few overground Metro stations from which it is actually possible to exit the station and walk directly into the woods. If you need a bit of sustenance first, the covered market on the other side of the station from the woods has a bakery specializing in apple pies. Nearby is a kiosk where you can buy traditionally strong ‘hot-sand-brewed' Turkish coffee. A stall closer to the station sells charcoal-baked bread and khachapuri. Going back over the steps into the woods, turn right past the tunnel at the far end of the station and then turn left along the tarmac track into the woods near an information board, welcoming you to the forest-park.
This track winds through trees and clearings until it crosses a little bridge and reaches another track. Turn right along this, crossing another bridge over the Serebyanka ("silver") river. Turn left over a third bridge and go straight along the side of a pond. This is one of more than twenty ponds that Tsar Alexei had dug out along the course of the rivers that run through the forest where he built an agricultural utopia. He constructed watermills, dams and fish-farms. The royal palace itself was built on an artificial island in the Serebryano-Vinogradny Prud ("silver-grape pond") on the northern edge of the woods and Peter the Great learnt to sail on the ponds here in a small boat.
Passing a second pond on the right, keep straight on along the tarmac track until you reach a third pond, known as the Krasniy ("red") pond. From here, turn left for a short cut which reaches the apiary in five minutes, but if you want to explore the wilder southern part of the park and the Entusiast Market, go straight on instead round the far end of the pond. Cross the ditch then turn right going roughly parallel to the stream which is visible to the right as a marshy area and keep going in this direction until eventually you reach a ditch and embankment on the far side of the park. Turn left along it. Follow the fence or wall on your right all the way round onto Entusiastov Chaussee and then go right again along the main road until you find the gateway to the market. You can buy sweet pistachio halva or dried fruit and nuts here as well as fresh produce. You can also buy all sorts of kitsch: if you ever dreamed of owning a Vladimir Putin rug, well, now's your chance.
Coming out of the market again, retrace your steps into the woods, but this time turn right along the embankment to pick up a broad and popular track which leads due north (away from the road) straight to the Tsarskaya Paseka or "Imperial Apiary", through an archway next to a wooden playground. The monthly open days offer free forty-five minute tours of grounds from 11am to 2.30pm. You might get someone to open the gate for you at other times too. In the middle of the garden is the beautiful nineteenth century bee-keepers cottage with elabourate wood-carvings. Behind this is a small aviary including long-eared owls; to the left are the bees and a selection of elaborate ‘royal' beehives in an orchard next to the pond. The centre also runs bee-keeping courses on October-April weekends.
Go back to the main track on the south side of the apiary and turn left for more than a kilometre to reach the Lebedyansky Prud ("swan lake"), the largest pond in the park. Turn left along the edge of the water and then right along the end of the pond. Keep following this tarmac track in a wide loop until, just after crossing a stream, you fork left. Turn right round a playground to come out of the woods in the corner of a long narrow park with another playground at the far end. Head towards the playground and, when you have nearly reached it, turn right through the houses and go straight on along Parkovaya Ulitsa to reach Pervomaiskaya Metro Station.
The Museum of Izmailovo, a little treasure trove of old photographs and artefacts relating to the Romanov family, is just round the corner beyond the metro. To reach it, go straight on past both entrances to the metro and then turn left along Izmailovsky Boulevard, with trees and benches in the middle. The museum is inside apartment block 30 with a barely noticeable plaque beside the door; it's open from 10am every weekday and some Saturdays. If you ring the bell someone will usually let you in (admission 20 rubles). Don't miss the sketch of Peter's Little Boat ("Grand father of the Russian fleet"), the paintings of the area as it was in the seventeenth century and the carved wooden chest. As well as the delightfully random permanent display of things asscociated with the Russian Imperial Family, there is also an exhibition about the First World War.
If you return to Pervomaiskaya Metro Station, cross the road and go through the shop in the corner of Block 38, you will find a cheap and popular local canteen, serving homemade soup from 30 roubles.
The island where Tsar Alexei's palace stood is two stops away on the metro back into town, near the Izmailovsky craft market at Partizanskaya. You can also find several cafes in this area as well as an incredible 'kremlin' with churches and palaces.
There are nice playgrounds near the apiary and at the Pervomaiskaya exit.
There are also lots of ducks to feed. You can easily shorten the route by looping back through the woods from the apiary to Izmailovsky Metro.
We tested the route with a group of nine- to eleven-year olds who walked it all and had energy left to play in the playground.