Lipp Service: Green Spaces in a Dusty Summer City
Text Linda Lippner
Like many of you, I spend most of my summertime in Moscow inside and around the Garden Ring. Dusty, noisy and hot city sidewalks can get old quickly if you don’t have an air-conditioned car to tool around in or if you decide to walk to your destination to avoid all that traffic.
For surviving in the city, I have found several green areas in which to take a rest and get a bit of fresh air when I can’t take the hot, hard sidewalks one minute more. Most are free of charge and waiting to welcome you into their lush green spaces where you can rest up before getting back to your Moscow trekking.
My little oases in the city are not the grand parks that also help replenish the oxygen in Moscow with their thousands of trees, but the small spaces that still let you hide from the noise and dust. If I can manage it, I always try to walk around the center of the city via the Bulvar [Boulevard] Ring. This park-laced thoroughfare is what I imagine the Garden Ring looked like before the Soviets transformed it into the 8-plus lanes of cars racing around in perpetual circles.
Along the bulvar sit on a bench, watch the dog walkers, take in an outdoor art exhibit, and breathe in the treefreshened air. Though you can still hear and watch the traffic zoom by on either side, you are somewhat insulated from it all behind the iron fences that keep you safe from the whizzing cars.
There is a spot that I have never read about but discovered on my own. I ventured across the glassed-in footbridge that leads to the east side of the Moscow River away from the Kievsky Vokzal and the Evropeyskaya Ploshchad mall. It is near the docks for the river boat tours. Leaving that frantic area behind, I crossed the river and turned left onto Rostovsky Pereulok, walking high above the water on a strip of greenery that aff orded a spectacular view looking west across the city. On a sunny day, the giant apartment buildings and the train station shine amazingly clean and white in the sunlight. You can stand or sit on the grass and feel like a bird about to take flight.
In addition, there are three small parks that I especially seek out in the summertime heat. Hermitage Park on Karetny Ryad contributes to my relaxation even though it is being built up with restaurants, theaters, and outdoor concerts that sometimes block free access to some of the park areas. But the flower beds and nice benches make up for any crowded conditions, especially in the late evening when it is finally dark but entirely safe to be walking or sitting among the many strolling people. The Botanical Garden on Prospect Mira is like being in Kensington Gardens in London — an Englishstyle “natural” garden with plantings, vine-covered arbors, and tree alleyways for strolling. Recently they started charging an entrance fee of 50 rubles, but I will gladly pay to have the managers of this special place keep the flowers growing and the bushes and trees trimmed.
Amazingly, there is a small garden in the Kremlin that I have never read about in all the grandiose descriptions of that historical place. The last time I was there, it was 100 rubles to enter the Kremlin territory’s churches, and instead of using the ticket to do that, I headed past the giant cracked bell and across the street to a park with giant trees, formal flowerbeds, and benches where you can imagine the Kremlin powerbrokers taking a break from their powerbrokering. You can walk over to the edge of the park near the hedges and trees and look down onto the Kremlyovskaya Embankment and out over the river to the south. When I was there, a giant hawk on a leash tended by his soldier handler really added to the glamour of being in the Kremlin park.
The best green hideaways in Moscow are the hundreds — if not thousands — of hidden courtyards between the old apartment buildings in the center of the city. Most seem friendly and welcoming to a passerby who might join the locals using them to visit their courtyard neighbors, exercise their dogs and kids, and enjoy the trees and fresh air. Try it on a summer evening after your work day to enjoy the best of Moscow’s summer.