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Three parks

Three parks
 
 
   
   
 
 

THE LAND now occupied by cities at some time in the distant past was natural forest or grassland, completely wild and natural. At some point small settlements sprung up in these natural places clearing away the land for human habitation. Many of these settlements expanded, some eventually into large cities. Exploring most cities, it is always fascinating to discover that despite the almost total destruction of the original habitat to make way for the high maintenance humans, there are often pockets of how the land originally looked in the most unlikely of places.

Denkmal for Peter I

Denkmal for Peter I

We followed the grey paving along the side of the Moskva River. Pavel mentioned we were entering three different parks, the first being modern, the second being a traditional garden, and the third being native forest.

Denkmal for Peter I

Denkmal for Peter I

The first of these parks was Gorky Central Park. It ran past the huge black monument I had seen earlier. It was a sailing ship standing on a high tower, with a disproportionately high mast and large man standing near its bow. This was the Denkmal for Peter I, a 98 metre high monument to Peter the Great.

Victim statue

Victim statue

Pavel didn’t seem too impressed by this statue, mentioning this had been voted as one of the ten ugliest monuments in the world. It was designed by Zurab Tseretelli to commemorate 300 years of the Russian navy, established by Peter the Great. The Muscovites didn’t like it because Peter the Great moved the capital of Russia from Moscow to St Petersburg. It was accepted though as the designer was a friend of Moscow’s mayor at the time. Upon the mayor’s death, the City of Moscow offered to relocate the statue to St Petersburg, but the city refused. A story says the statue was based on a design of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus discovering the Americas. No customer wanted to sign up for the Christopher Columbus statue, so it was altered with a Russian theme.

Victims of totalitarian regimes

Victims of totalitarian regimes

The path widened before diverting a little inland towards a very large white rectangular box building. Pavel said this was the Tretyakov Gallery on Krymsky Val, a museum. Before the museum though were a large number of stone and wood statues. These statues were created by an author in 1998 donating them to the City of Moscow. He called these the Victims of Totalitarian Regimes. They were set up here as a memory of the victims of political repression.

All the statues had tortured facial expressions and awkward positions. One statue was a large wire cage with around fifty heads peering through the bars. Others were of a parent hugging a child. Every statue had an oppressiveness about it, drawing their viewers perhaps back to the days of the Soviet regime.

Victims of totalitarian regimes

Victims of totalitarian regimes

They were just as depressing as the earlier sculpture I had seen about childhood oppression. Clearly Russia hasn’t gotten over the scars of socialism, even though it was trying to move forward into the future.

The sculptures were scattered around the grass on either side of the path, but as we approached the museum, there were large numbers of these sculptures all petrified in some kind of Soviet purgatory.

Victim statue

Victim statue

We approached the river getting back on the other very wide Krymskaya nab pathway. Going around the museum it turned out to be a lot larger than I thought, with it extending quite some distance passing the front entrance.

Across the river were some enormous government buildings, the first being the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation and the next being the Ministry of Education. Seats were positioned looking over a concrete wall across the grey river to these enormous buildings. There was little sign of life apart from the occasional passenger boat chugging along the grey water.

Russian Ministry of Defence

Russian Ministry of Defence

The park ended in a large corporate display by some large Japanese car companies, showing Russia is moving on from the Soviet days. Heading across Russia I had noticed most cars were Japanese. The Russian made Lada cars were few and far between. Pavel explained the Japanese cars are a lot more reliable than the Russian ones.

We were about two kilometres from the start of the park now. It abruptly ended turning into traditional gardens with large fountains and enormous urn pots. We had reached the start of Neskuchiy Garden, the second park.

Neskuchiy Garden

Neskuchiy Garden

Here the setting was more natural with deciduous trees turning orange and yellow with the onset of the early autumn. The grass was very green, perhaps watered from the summer rains. Everything was very much in place, except on the other side of the fountain where some construction work was going on perhaps preparing the gardens for the coming winter.

Neskuchiy Garden

Neskuchiy Garden

Most of the garden was situated away from the construction. We stopped near a café before reaching a large pond Golitsynskiye prudy surrounded by trees and gazebos. Ducks of several species were swimming in the ponds. Several spectacular pots were set in the gardens.

Neskuchiy Garden

Neskuchiy Garden

We eventually came back out along the river, where the wide path followed the river course at the start of what was now the bottom of a hill. We stopped at the river for a little while watching the boats go by before leaving the main path heading up some spectacular stone stairs with statues on either side.

Urn

Urn

At the top of the stairs a path drew its way around a natural lagoon, above which were tall deciduous trees, hundreds of years old and somehow untouched from Moscow’s history. We were now in Vorobyovi Gori, the third park now four kilometres from the start of the first park.

River and Ministry of Education

River and Ministry of Education

The paved track gently rose to the top of the hill drawing us away from the modern city, back into a time when this part of Europe was covered in this forest. Before civilisation the deciduous forest would have covered most of the European continent. The climate here was a lot warmer than Siberia, so there was a noticeable absence of the silver birch trees that covered the entire Siberian plains.

Vorobyovi Gori

Vorobyovi Gori

The ancient trees solemnly looked over us as we peregrinated its dark forest floor, now being decorated with the brightly coloured leaves dropping off the branches overhead.

Vorobyovi Gori

Vorobyovi Gori

We approached a junction where an old man in a bowler hat and khaki jacket had a hand held up next to him. A chestnut and grey coloured squirrel sat on his hand eating the food he was holding. Its ears and tail seemed disproportionately large.

Local feeding a squirrel

Local feeding a squirrel

Continuing through the forest, we followed a track running roughly parallel to the river, reaching a clearing with a small white gazebo and a fountain. From there the track re-entered the forest following an avenue of very tall trees. Part way down the avenue we saw a little box with another squirrel sitting inside it eating nuts. With the winter coming soon it would have been fattening up and finding and storing as much food as possible to get it through the hibernation. They are very small creatures so they are unable to sleep off the winter like bears. They need to store up enough food to last them through to spring.

Squirrel in feeder

Squirrel in feeder

We continued following the avenue until reaching another path heading towards the river, but rather than head down to the river, it headed towards a busy main road heading across a bridge. It was a bit of a culture shock suddenly being back into the noise of the major city after the peaceful forest.

A subway led under the very busy road before following it back a short distance to the Leninskiy Prospekt metro station. There we climbed down the stairs into to head through the sprawling city of human excess and the obliteration of nature towards our next destination.

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28 September 2016

 

Moscow

Russia

 

55°45'N
37°35'E
151 - 163m ASL

 

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