Green parts – south west
With the long summer evenings, head towards the sunset and help us explore inner Moscow’s green area. Cross the Third Ring and head along Kutozovsky Prospect. A pause to enjoy the very splendid Borodino Diorama display is well worth the effort, and then you are at Park Pobedy and, next door, Fili. Both are easy to reach by car. Usually I recommend cycling, but the trudge up along Kutosovsky under pedal power is noisy and anything but relaxing. Alternatively, of course, the Metro does the job perfectly, and at weekends you can take a bike with you. Each park has its own Metro station, on the Dark Blue and Light Blue lines respectively.
Text by Ross Hunter
Illustrations by Julia Nozdracheva
I was comparing notes about Park Pobedy with a friend, and we discovered that despite having three favourite parts each, they did not overlap at all. So: enjoy at least six separate parts of a park. Like most of inner Moscow’s dense green spaces, Pobedy can absorb a phenomenal number of people, all doing their own thing.
First and foremost, it is a memorial to the unimaginable sacrifices made by the Soviet peoples in the Great Patriotic/ Second World War. This alone makes the park unique and makes for equivocal emotions. Dominating the area is the obelisk which is ostensibly devoted to peace but has a disturbingly triumphalist and domineering air. Behind it is the memorial building, which is a model of dignity. The upper amphitheatre is dedicated to the Heroes of the Soviet Union, listed in humbling number. Below it is a wholly dignified and realistic memorial to the Soviet and Allied war effort: frank, comprehensive and balanced. Both make for emotional visits.
Back outside, a long line of fountains sits opposite tributes to each of the eleven main fighting areas on (what we call) the Eastern front. Views of Moscow, souvenir sellers and throngs of people doing what people do with a bit of free time and space all compete for your attention. Here is the equivocation. Is skateboarding and lolling over a tribute to war dead disrespectful, or a celebration of the freedom so to do, so expensively and tragically fought for and won? You decide.
Below and behind the main edifices, the park offers much more still. To the right, near the main road, is the original children’s adventure area. Old tanks make great climbing frames and fantasy armies for little generals. Further round, the lawns open up and provide niches for the great Moscow wedding sightseeing parades, picnics and shashlik lunches, refreshments of all sorts and space to stroll and play. Around the southern flank you find an assortment of military hardware museums. Navies, air forces and armies of assorted ages, nations and states of preservation are represented in very hands-on accessibility. Some parts require a modest admission fee, others are free to view or climb over. There is a good representation of front line scenes, with both pre-battle preparations and living conditions, and wrecked equipment to show the ensuing destruction. It is a museum that will keep the attention of children of all ages, for ages. Take a few and prove it. You will return.
Only a little further from the centre and back towards the river again lies Filjovsky (Fili) Park. Just a healthy stride from the Metro (Bagrationovskaya is the better choice), the forest looms large. The entrance archway gives the game away: it is surrounded by cycle hire stands. Fili is a park for those with wheels. A short stroll with a pram is fine, near the entrances and the commercialised quarter, but otherwise, the paths through the woods invite mobility. Between the maples, firs, pines, poplars, willows, occasional oak and of course birches, you have every chance of getting lost. The sylvan richness reduces vistas, and impairs navigation. Rollerblades, scooters or bikes allow exploration, as well as error and recovery. Fili is bigger than it looks, and even then can be extended by heading further along the river banks. Not so good for those seeking a sun tan or watching the clock, but a good place for the energetic and the nature lover. Explore and enjoy!