We opened the curtains to find that there had been heavy snow overnight, covering all the surrounding roof tops with a fluffy white blanket. After a leisurely breakfast we took the metro to Komsomolskaya station which was absolutely beautiful with its painted yellow ceilings and its platforms lit by chandeliers.
The station was designed in Imperial style featuring baroque motifs to create a grand impression for visitors arriving by train. The concourse is located under a large transport hub serving three railway terminals and as well as being elegant is also one of the busiest stations on the network.
From there, we moved on to the Prospekt Mira station which opened in 1952 and is located close to the Botanical Gardens of Moscow State University. The station’s floral theme of white marble pillars contrasts with its dark red marble walls. The chequered patterned floor made of grey and black granite adds to its charm. Although the stations are busy with commuters, we found that crowds dispersed quickly giving us approximately 20 seconds to take photos before the next train arrived.
Our journey on the metro took us to the VDNKH station to the north of Moscow as we wished to visit VDNKH which is also referred to as the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy. This vast park, which is even larger than the entire principality of Monaco features more than 250 Soviet era pavilions, fountains, a Vostok rocket and a Soviet aircraft. The park is set out in a series of grand avenues, squares and gardens and covers 20,000 square metres.
The fountains had been turned off for the winter but surrounding them was the biggest ice rink I had ever seen. This skating rink circles around the main avenues and can cater for a staggering 4,500 people at any one time, and is thought to be the largest in Europe.
Even though it was only about 11.00 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, there were numerous people out enjoying the ice and we had some excellent skating views from the top of a bridge crossing the park.
Unfortunately, many of the pavilions and grand archways were covered in scaffolding whilst renovations were taking place ahead of the FIFA 2018 World Cup tournament to be held in the city.
After a lengthy stroll through the grounds we popped into a cafe for some hot drinks and a snack before returning to the metro station by monorail. The monorail comprises 6 stations and is the only monorail operating in Russia. It is officially known as Metro Line 13 being a ticketed part of the metro but is generally referred to as the monorail.
The separate carriages seat 8 passengers with a large standing area between the seats. It was very quiet when we travelled on the system, so different from the usual hustle and bustle of life on the Moscow metro.
Despite our journey being short, we enjoyed some good aerial views of the park and of the statue outside the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. We got off at Timiryazevskaya which is located 50 metres from the metro station on Line 9, the point at which we had started our tour of the park earlier in the day.
Continuing, we took the Red Line to Sportivnaya as we wished to visit the Novodevichy Convent located 500m from the metro. This convent is a UNESCO World Heritage site and contains many churches and other buildings enclosed within its walls. Sadly at the time of our visit the entire complex resembled a construction site. Most buildings were under polythene wraps and covered in scaffolding, presumably in preparation for World Cup visitors next summer, but not at all photogenic for us.
Because of this, we decided to postpone our tour of the convent until a future visit to Moscow and instead walked through the thick snow to the convent’s southern wall to access the Novodevichy Cemetery. This cemetery was inaugurated in 1898 and the remains of many famous Russians are buried there. It holds the tombs of Russian authors, poets, musicians, political leaders and scientists.
At the entrance, we rubbed snow off the cemetery plan using our gloves. This listed famous people and their plot numbers and on looking through the list, we decided to search for the tombs of Chekhov, Yeltsin, Kruschev and Raisa Gorbachev. Having made a note of their numbers we set off to try and find some or all of these graves but as the plot numbers were blanketed in thick snow our task proved impossible. Instead, we just wandered around, admiring the headstones, the cemetery feeling very atmospheric in the blizzard conditions. Apart from one Chinese tour group, there were few people around as it wasn’t really the weather for a tour around a graveyard.
Leaving the cemetery we decided to lift our spirits with a visit to the nearby Gorky Park which was just two stops away at Park Kultury station on Line 1. This well known park was named after the author Maxim Gorky and to reach its entrance from the metro we crossed the road bridge over the wide Moskva river. Here, we were welcomed into the park by its beautifully illuminated, imposing Soviet entrance gate whose towering columns bear hammers and sickles.
The park was founded in 1928 and houses a huge skating rink with separate zones for figure skating, dancing, children, ice hockey and general skating. The paths through the park looked gorgeous with their simple yet stylish lighting effects. In 2011 Gorky Park underwent a major re-construction programme with monuments being renovated and old fairground rides demolished making it a more attractive green space within the city. The park stretches along the banks of the Moskva river and on reaching its southern end we crossed the river by the Andreyevsky pedestrian bridge. From this glass covered bridge we had some good views of the river and the illuminated buildings surrounding it.
We walked back to Port Kultury metro station passing the huge headquarters of the Ministry of Defence on our way. Snow had continued to fall all day and roads were constantly being cleared by convoys of snow ploughs whilst large numbers of street cleaners with shovels tried their best to keep footpaths clear.
Back on the metro, it was interesting observing other passengers who appear to act the same the world over. One lady was trying to solve a Sudoku puzzle, another was reading from a Kindle whilst most were glancing at their phones.
We returned to the hotel for a rest and a relaxing visit to the sauna before heading back to Red Square to eat dinner once again in the GUM department store and then enjoy some of the festivities in the Christmas market.