Summer in the City
Photos by John Bonar
Moscow is freezing and snow covered during five months of Winter, but when summer comes along, surprising quickly, temperatures rise; clothing gets skimpier; the city is awash in outdoor terraces erected on the pavements outside restaurants and bars, and people are enjoying concerts in the parks and swimming in the many lakes and rivers around the capital.
When temperatures start pushing the 30 degree Celcius barrier you have two options – head for the dacha or make the most of light weekend traffic and revel in the delights of town. The city takes on a Mediterranean atmosphere.
Now is the time Muscovites, and residents of all nationalities, to really enjoy the outdoors, soaking up as much sun as possible, eating al-fresco and swimming and sailing around the city’s lakes, rivers and reservoirs.
Passport brings you their recommendations of what’s hot!
Al Fresco Dining
If you are lucky enough to have a dacha, a town house, or live in one of the burgeoning cottage communities springing up all over Moscow, this is barbecue season. Hunt around your neighborhood stores and you’ll find plenty of gastronoms and supermarkets selling ready-marinated and prepared shashlik. Just skewer it with tomatoes and onions and get the barbecue going.
Podosinki restaurant terrace
No garden or patio?
Don’t try lighting up on your balcony, that’s going to bring the militia pounding on your door before the meat is ready. Instead pack up your edibles, a disposable barbecue kit (use once and throw away) available in all the supermarket chains and load up your car. No car? Then use a taxi, the metro or suburban rail lines, but get out to the suburbs and a park to chill out just like the locals. Head for a forest clearing, a pond, lake or river bank and enjoy. Where? Just about anywhere. For a super picnic, head up Dmitrovskoye Shosse to the Holiday Inn Vinogradova (or take their free bus from Tverskaya St., opposite the Central Post Office) and pick up a picnic basket containing all your salad ingredients, lavash bread and marinated beef, pork or chicken shashlik and fresh fruit from 600 rubles a person. Head down to the lake and cook it on one of the barbecues laid on by the hotel.
Some of our favourites are the forest and lake at Malakhovka, just south east of Moscow (elektrichka from Kazanski Vokzal and stations along the way including Vykhina) where the Moscow elite traditionally had their dachas in pre-revolutionary times; Savelovskaya, a two hour train ride from Kievskaya offers a tranquil setting where the Moscow Canal flows into the Volga River, and you could visit the Akhaltekinets stud farm, where there are around 200 of the famed Turkmen horses; Istra, also known as New Jerusalem, is where the 17th Century Patriarch Nikon thought to build a new Jerusalem, recreating some of the ancient sites of Jerusalem, including an underground church. Drivers should take Volokolamskoye Shosse; alternatively the train from Rizhsky Railway Station (Istra or Novy Ierusalim stations, then by bus).
If all this is too much bother then head for your local barbecue restaurant or ubiquitous beer tent, and let someone else do the cooking! One of our favourites is the Podosinki Restaurant at the corner of Oktyoberski Prospekt and Krasnaya Street, in Lubertsi, just outside Moscow city boundaries. Drive out Ryazanski Prospekt, otherwise take the Metro to Ryazanski Prospekt or Vykhina stations, and then one of the many Marshrutka services. Get out before MacDonald’s and cross the street. The barbecue chef here dishes up a mean succulent reindeer steak with fried forest berries for 355 rubles as well as the usual pork, beef, chicken and lamb shashliks and grilled fish. It is the best value reindeer meat south of the Arctic Circle and well worth the trek. Sibirksi Korona at 70 rubles a half litre is not bad either. (Telephone 558 64 44 – Russian only)
Too far to go even for such wonderful fare?
You’ll find open air shashlik restaurants on patios or tents all over the city, or try the back patio at Doug and Marty’s Boar House opposite Atrium Centre on Zemlonya Val.
For more upscale dining al fresco two spots near Pushkin Square are perennial favourites. Scandinavia Restaurant at 7, Maly Palashevsky Pereilok, just through the arch at 19, Tverskaya street is famous for its Swedish chefs and cuisine and you have the choice of the ground floor open-air cafe or the second floor outdoor terrace. Goodman’s, probably the most renowned steak house now in Moscow, has an outdoor terrace accessed through the restaurant and where sometimes live music is played. What we like about Goodman’s is the attentive service and the steak knives that would make Jim Bowie proud.
There’s a cool garden attached to the Prospekt Mira branch of our favourite Chinese restaurant, Kitaiski Kvartal (Pr. Mira 12, Metro Sukharevskaya) which serves up Chinese shaliks and wonderful Uigur grills from the Xinjiang region. See the listings section for price guidelines for these three restaurants.
This month (July) we are looking forward to the opening of the newest Mexican restaurant in town, La Hacienda, which is bringing a Mexican chef to Moscow to ensure the authenticity of the cuisine. Located at 13 Komsomolskaya Prospekt it is slated to have the largest patio in town at 750 sq metres. Target opening date is July 15th. The venture is the latest from Doug Steele Restaurants, so expect some stupendous margaritas and tequila shooters.
Summer is a great time for hanging around the city at weekends. You can enjoy beer and shashlik at many tents sprung up outside the Moskva Hotel construction site on Ploschad Revolutsii and along the outside of the Okhotni Riyadh Shopping Centre, facing the Kremlin walls.
Music in the Outdoors
Galina and Alexander dancing to a jazz band in Alexandovsky Sad
Don’t just stick to the cafes. Get down into Alexandrovski Gardens and take in the changing of the guard at the eternal flame memorial to the unknown soldier, enjoy the jazz band playing on the gardens side of the artificial canal, or the military orchestra which strikes up outside the Kremlin walls in front of a kind of grotto. The chances are on most Sundays you will find some pensioners, led by Alexander and Galina, waltzing and doing the foxtrot to the music. Alexander, a retired naval officer, speaks charming English. He graduated from Moscow’s institute of foreign languages by correspondence course while he was in the navy. “We love dancing, and I love my Galina,” he confided to me while taking a breather.
Keep an eye on the ‘What’s On’ section in Passport and you will spot listings for up coming open-air concerts in venues such as the Hermitage Gardens and Gorky Park. Some of the old country-estate museums such as Kuskova run summer programmes of classical music performances.
Swimming and Sunbathing
Usually some five to seven beaches are approved by the Moscow sanitation authorities as safe for swimming. In other words, you are not going to catch anything nasty by accidentally swallowing a mouthful of the water.
The most famous is Serebyanniy Bor which is reputed to be the cleanest in the city and is located in an area where many diplomatic missions have their dachas. There are many cafes and shops around the beach and two volleyball courts. The beach also has an area set aside for nude sunbathing and swimming, and it's rumored that they are happy to see new faces — but au natural. Take the Metro to Polezhaevskaya, then trolley bus 20 or 21.
In theory, the Strogino beach is connected by waterways to Serebyanniy Bor. It is a very clean and beautiful sand beach with many trees and bushes nearby. Cars are not permitted near the beach, so the air is cleaner than at any other Moscow beach. The place is quiet and divided into three separate beaches: regular, nudist, and gay. This is a popular spot for windsurfing and there is a cycle track running alongside the banks. Go to Metro Schukinskaya, then take bus 231, 238, 687 or 277.
Belye Ozera is an attractive clean lake just over the MKhad from Vykhina. It has a boating centre with sailing dinghies and rowing boats for hire, and a lakeside church that looks great from the beach. There is a great open air cafe, but plenty of spaces to set up your own barbecue. The Emergency Situations Ministry has a boat station and there’s an ambulance post. This beach is very popular and can get crowded. The lake has clean water due to a spring inflow. There are numerous cafes, beach volleyball, football field, and a fishing center where you can also rent a boat. Get out at Metro Vykhino, turn left through the tunnel under the railway then take bus 602, 722 or 744.
Make a day of it with a picnic and friends and take a boat up the Moscow Canal from Rechnoy Vokzal to Radosty Bay, on the Klyazminskoye Reservoir. There you will find an exceptionally clean beach and fewer people than on the city beaches proper. You need to be self sufficient however, as it has been reported there is nothing to buy to eat or drink at the beach.
General sightseeing is great in the summer. The hot days, long evenings, and relaxed atmosphere in the city means you can get around and enjoy all the sights of Red Square, the Novodevichy Convent and Christ the Savior Cathedral.
When it rains, and it surely will, head indoors to the Tretyakov gallery national art or the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum.
For a bird’s eye view of Moscow, take a Ferris Wheelride in Gorky Park (Metro Park Kultury or Oktyoberskaya) or in the All-Russia Exhibition Centre (VDNKh metro).
For an alternative view of Moscow take a boat trip along the Moscow River between landings near Kievskaya mainline station and Novospassky Most, near the Novospassky Monastry, one km west of Metro Proletarskaya. You can but a limited range of drinks on board, but no one seems to mind if you take along your own bottle of wine… or two!
It’s truly a joy to be in Moscow in the summer.