Weekend walks around Moscow
January 1, 1970
by Olga Kamkina
Moscow is one of the most famous destinations for tourists in the world. It has a lot of places of interest. But today I will offer you three options for a quiet weekend: Kolomenskoye Park and Estate, Poklonnaya Hill and Bulgakov’s House.
Kolomenskoye. Secrets of old Moscow.
There are a lot of places in Moscow associated with mysterious myths and legends. Perhaps Kolomenskoye is one of the most mysterious. When visiting this place not only do we hear a lot of controversial pieces of information, legends and stories of eyewitnesses, but also see everything with our own eyes. We are unlikely to get into the time-machine or feel the magic power of these places, but let’s not bust myths … Sometimes we just want to believe that the mystery is somewhere very close.
So let’s go to Kolomenskoye. It would be useful to look through the map of the park in advance when going there. It will help you to orientate yourself among the sights of the park and the museum complex.
Even the formation of Kolomenskoye has several versions. The first mention of the village of Kolomenskoye was in the will of Grand Duke Ivan Kalita around 1336. According to one version the name of the village is derived from the Slavonic word “kolomen’” – the neighborhood, and according to another version – from the word “kolomishche” – the cemetery. There is also a legend that Kolomenskoye was founded in 1237 by the inhabitants of Kolomna, who fled from their native city during the invasion of the hordes of Khan Batu. All the architectural monuments here are united into a museum complex. It includes several churches, a bell tower of St. George the Victorious, a water tower, a stone entrance gate, the wall of the Sovereign courtyard and Sytny yard.
And The Church of the Ascension, built in 1532, stands on the high bank of the Moskva River. It is one of the first churches of tent-like variety in Russia. In 1994, along with the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square, the church was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Kazan five-domed church was built in Kolomenskoye instead of a dismantled wooden church in 1649 and in 1651 a tented bell tower was added to it. Inside the church, you can see two columns with a lowering – the places intended for the thrones of Tsar and Tsarina.
The monuments of Russian wooden architecture are exhibited on the territory of the Ascension garden; the holy gate of the Nikolo-Karelian monastery (1693), the tower of the Brotherhood from the Ostrog fortress (the middle of the 17th century), Peter the Great’s house from Arkhangelsk (1702), the 18th century mead brewery. These are the man-made history of Kolomenskoye. They are the monuments that reflected different periods of the capital’s life. But we’ve come here in search of a mystery …
Mysteries are hidden in the ravine.
There is another special feature here. Not man-made but natural. It’s about the famous Golosov ravine. And it seems like there are more legends about this place than about the rest of the relics of Kolomenskoye.
The ravine symbolically divides the reserve into two almost equal parts. One of them is well maintained. The other part is “wild” – grassy hills, small groves and an old orchard. A small stream flows at the bottom of the ravine. It is made up of numerous springs. According to a legend, the springs are footprints of the horse of St. George the Victorious. After the victory over the serpent, he rode along the bottom of the future stream. The water in the stream is always very cold because of the springs but does not freeze even in severe frosts. They say that its temperature is plus 4 degrees throughout a year. The ravine received its name after Volos or Veles, a pagan god – the master of the underworld and patron of domestic animals. The legends associated with this place confirm the name of the ravine. It’s impossible to retell all of them: they are so numerous, but there is a greenish fog (as if from under the ground) in every legend. Is it the underground tsar who is letting it out? I’ll tell you from the start that all these legends are connected with the disappearance of people and even the whole cavalry of the Tatars. But the most surprising thing is that many of the missing people suddenly appeared in the ravine after a few years! Especially did I like the story about two villagers who decided to get down into the ravine in order to take a short cut from one village to another. They had a rest on a huge stone (I will get back to that stone later) and came to their village. But only after 21 years… They were still remembered in the village so the police investigation was conducted. One of the police officers went missing during the experiment but has not returned yet… The investigation was stopped at this point.
The strength of stone or the faith in a miracle?
So what about the stone which the unfortunate villagers were sitting on? This is one of the two famous boulders of the Golosov ravine. The Stones “Goose” and “Devi” (Maiden) are also mysterious landmarks of Kolomenskoye. Most of these boulders are under the ground. Only small peaks emerge above the surface. The history of these stone giants goes back to the time of paganism. They were worshiped by tribes who lived here about one and a half millenniums ago. The”Goose” patronized men, giving soldiers strength and luck in battle, the “Maiden” gave beauty and love to women. There is also another version – witches came to the stone to gain magic powers. But this is not surprising. There is not a witch who does not want to be beautiful, is there?
The surface of the stones resembles giant bubbles. People still believe that the stones have not lost their magic power. Touch the wavy surface, make a wish, tie a ribbon on the branches of a nearby tree and the stones, which, according to the legend are still the spirits of ancient gods, will help your dream come true. Sometimes you need to believe in miracles because they exist only if they are believed in. So if you have a wish, visit Kolomenskoye. What if it does come true?
The Holy Poklonnaya Hill.
Poklonnaya Hill is a popular place of walks of Muscovites and tourists. Here you can feel the unity of all generations. On Poklonnaya Hill on Sunday, you can see both veterans, walking through the alleys of the Park and happy boys on roller-skates, and entire families taking their children here to learn about the history of the Great Patriotic War. Newlyweds come here to bring flowers to the Victory monument. Poklonnaya Hill has an amazing atmosphere, where sorrow, joy and pride are mixed.
Poklonnaya Hill! One of the most sacred places in Moscow. This is an upland in the interfluve between the Setun’ and the Filka rivers at the end of Kutuzovsky Avenue. The Poklonnaya Hill made it into history in 1812, when Napoleon was examining Moscow from here, awaiting the keys to the city, and Field-Marshal Kutuzov made a difficult decision about the destiny of Moscow. To commemorate these events “The Battle of Borodino” panorama was opened near Poklonnaya hill and the Arch of Triumph was restored in 1968. The very name – Poklonnaya hill – reminds us of the ancient custom. In the old days, when starting on a journey, a traveler cast a last glance at the city from some hill and, bowing, begged God for a safe journey. On arrival they did the same thing – they bowed down to the ground, thanking God for the successful completion of the journey. So there were several ‘bowing hills’ – on each of the big roads leading from the city. But only “Poklonnaya Hill” has kept this name up to now.
History of the creation of the memorial complex.
The idea of creating the memorial complex on “Poklonnaya Hill” to commemorate the victory over the Nazi troops in Moscow region dates back to the years of the Great Patriotic War 1941 – 1945. The grand opening of a modern complex that includes the Victory Park, Victory Monument, Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War of 1941 – 1945, St. George’s Church took place on the day of the 50th anniversary of the Victory on May 9, 1995. Fifty-six presidents and leaders from all over the world were present at this event.
The centerpiece of the entire ensemble is the Square of Victors. The square is dominated by The Victory monument which has a shape of a triangular stele towering 141, 8 meters, symbolizing the 1418 days of the war. The author of the monument is the famous sculptor Zurab Tsereteli. All sides of the stele are covered with bronze relief images of the main battles of the war, and at the height of one hundred meters there is an obelisk with a winged statue of Nike, holding a shining wreath of Glory. At the feet of Nike there are two angels with trumpets proclaiming the Victory. At the bottom of the stele there is the symbol of Moscow – the equestrian bronze statue of St. George slaying the dragon.
Behind the Square of Victors the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 is situated. The exposition of the museum reflects the history of the Great Patriotic War objectively and in full. The exhibits of the museum are genuine weapons, military equipment, uniforms, decorations, photographs, documents, letters from the frontline, posters and many other relics of this terrible war. The Memory Hall of the museum is dedicated to 26 million 600 thousand heroes who died and were reported as missing in action. The ceiling of the hall sheds crystal tears suspended on brass chains. Six museum dioramas dedicated to the largest military operations of the Great Patriotic War are absolutely unique. Dioramas have been created by famous masters of the Military Artists Studio named after M.B. Grekov. These are the dioramas “The Counteroffensive of Soviet troops off Moscow in December 1941”, “The Battle of Stalingrad. The Joining of the Fronts”, “The Blockade of Leningrad”, “The Battle of Kursk”, “The Forcing of the Dnieper” and “The Storming of Berlin”.
Under the peaceful sky.
The building of the museum is adjoined by an art gallery. On its rectangular elevations stand equestrian statues of the “Messengers of the Victory” (by Z. Tsereteli). Each statue weighs 12 tons. One of the most important parts of the Memorial complex is an open-air exhibition of military equipment and engineering fortifications “The Weapons of Victory”. The exhibition spreads over an area of about three hectares and exhibits more than 250 different models of military equipment and weapons. The main place among these exhibits belongs to the famous and legendary tank T-34, storm trooper Il-2 and, of course, “Katyusha”. The memorial complex on Poklonnaya Hill amazes you by its monumentality, immensity and variety of structures included in it. The central alley of the park “The Years of War” consists of five terraces (joined together with paving stones), symbolizing the five years of the war. The avenue has fountains on both sides. On summer nights they are especially beautiful because of their red glow.
Bulgakov’s house: hidden and evident.
Everyone who has read M.A. Bulgakov knows the house number 10 in Bolshaya Sadovaya street. If you have read “The Master and Margarita” you know what this house is famous for. It is the place where the mystical apartment number 50 is situated. That’s where the fans of the novel used to come for many years to experience the spirit of mystery which penetrates the novel. But this is not the only place of interest in this famous house. In the first entrance of the historic building the cultural and educational center, the museum “Bulgakov House” is located.
For those who love the works of M. A. Bulgakov and crave for everything mystical and unusual, the “Bulgakov House” offers a unique opportunity to experience a magical journey into the mysterious world of the heroes of the great master’s works.
The “Bu” theater.
A theatrical area is opened in the “Bulgakov House”. The theater with the unusual name “Bu” is part of the museum. The actors of this theater give unusual, mystical and exciting performances during the excursions, events and holidays. At these moments the actors become something like guides to the world of Bulgakovs’ works and members of the public become ‘actors’ in this world.
The performance called “Doubles” begins right in the house but you never know where this trip will take you. This is not an excursion or a play. Here the audience itself becomes a participant in mysterious action, meeting Azazello and then Gella on their way; the jacket left after the unfortunate Prokhor Petrovich … And no one will explain what is happening here, after all. It seems like you’ve been taken for someone else by mistake. And if you have the courage to ask where on earth you should go, you will be sent … where do you think? To the claims office, of course. But it’s not that simple, because there they will issue an order that you go on a business trip to Poltava and off you will go. Into the bargain, you will have to wander in almost total darkness. And only occasionally at the end of the corridor a spark of a candle flashes or someone passes, holding a lantern…
What do Bulgakov’s characters want to tell you? Why are they so restless? And the thing is that they lead you through the night halls of the House directly to the “Ball of the Hundred Kings”, where all scores are paid off. You will go down to the basement for this purpose. There you will be met by the Queen of the evening – Margarita. And at the very moment when Behemoth the Cat screams: “Ball!”, you will understand that you are not the only guests of this great celebration. And not the main ones … After all, this is the “Ball of the hundred Kings”!
This is the adventure of a lifetime. In one word – “Schizophrenia…as it was said…”.
Excursions play an important part in the work of the museum. They involve amazing walking or bus tours. For example, a walk through “the Master and Margarita places” begins from the House of Bulgakov and introduces guests to the most famous places of Moscow that were described in the novel. These are Patriarch’s Ponds, the Aquarium garden and house of Margarita, MASSOLIT (abbreviation coined by Bulgakov, meaning something like ‘cooperation of socialist writers’), the House of Gogol, the cellar where the Master lived, the Sparrow Hills – the place which the characters of the novel started their journey from. The audience will meet the sunrise there. During the tour, you will hear not only excerpts from the novel but also the touching love story of the author himself.
The last project of the “Bulgakov House” is unique and simply has no analogs. This is an excursion on the “Tram 302-bis”. This is a «Time tram” (sort of time machine) – from its windows you can see modern Moscow, and inside – on the big screen – photos, pictures, fragments of films about Moscow of the 1920-30s. And all the interior decoration of the tram will be telling the guests about those times. The authentic objects of Bulgakov’s Moscow – photo documents, interior items … even the signal bell of the tram will make up the original exposition of the museum on wheels.
But this is not all the surprises for the passengers of the tram to experience. Because the ‘Tram Museum’ will also become a ‘Tram Theater’ during the tour. The actors will also play historical personalities. You will have an opportunity to meet Sergei Yesenin and Isadora Duncan, Ilf and Petrov, the master M. Bulgakov himself, his wife and other famous people.
Surprisingly, despite of constant dynamics and spectacular events held in the “Bulgakov House”, there is always a touching and carefully preserved atmosphere of traditional art evenings. Remember the literature lounges of Russia of the past centuries: musical evenings, chamber performances … These parties attracted the most creative intellectuals – artists, musicians, poets, writers. Coryphaeus taught the beginners, shared experience, helped and supported them. This is what the evenings in the Bulgakov House are like.