After the previous morning’s disappointing egg order, I managed to achieve success by showing the chef a photo of some fried eggs on my iPad. She seemed to understand, smiled, and then served up some delicious, runny yolks for me to dip my toast into.
Eventually we were ready to embark on a day’s sightseeing and instead of taking the metro we decided instead to take a tram to the VDNKh Park (the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy). Tram rides are included in the 3 day travel cards and we just needed to tap onto the reader as we boarded the service. It was a pleasant journey as the tram weaved its way through the woodlands of Sokolniki Park, passing several small lakes which had signs to forest walking trails that would be pleasant to follow during warmer weather.
The tram terminated at the VDNKh Park and we started off by taking a look at the Monument to the Conquerors of Space just outside the park gates. This 100m tall titanium obelisk was constructed in 1964 to commemorate the launch of Sputnik and creates the impression of a rocket soaring into space. Adjacent to the monument stands the Museum of Cosmonautics containing the first rocket engine and the moon river Lunokhad (museum closed each Monday).
Entrance to the VDNKh Park is free of charge with access through a large arch above which is a sculpture of a tractor driver and a peasant woman. The entrance arch was built in 1954 and for the festive period was surrounded by some subtle gold and silver decorations making the approach even more appealing.
This vast park contains numerous palatial pavilions all designed in a unique style to represent each Soviet republic and its industries ranging from agriculture and space exploration to coal mining. The Park was established in 1939 and designed as the main showcase of socialist economy and lifestyle.
Information boards with English translations were positioned outside many of the pavilions explaining the purpose for which they were originally constructed. Entering several of the pavilions we found them to be quite confusing as their uses today bore little or no resemblance to their plaques. One seemed to have been turned into a bank, another contained some small shops whilst another one focussed on public services such as obtaining passports.
A huge ice skating rink which is the largest in Russia winds its way through the park and can accommodate a staggering 5,000 people at any one time. Although it was a weekday morning, numerous people were taking to the ice, skating along to music blasting out over the loudspeakers. Interspersed between festive songs were popular British and US tracks from the ’80s and ’90s and we had fun trying to recall the title of the songs and who sang them as we explored the park.
In the centre of the park we came across an arched bridge over the skating rink which we found to be an ideal spot to take photos of the park and its skating tracks.
Towards the rear of the park lies the Industry and Aerospace Technology Square where a replica of the Vostok space rocket and a Yak-42 aircraft were on display.
After taking a look at most of the exhibits we were feeling quite cold and ready for a sit down so we found a cafe on the edge of the park for some warming drinks. We had really felt like mugs of hot chocolate but as these were unavailable we had to settle for cappuccinos which did the trick, helping us to warm us up.
Our plan had then been to take a ride on the monorail to Timiryazevskaya station but after going through the barriers and reaching the platform we discovered that we had just missed one by two minutes and the next wasn’t due for a further 28 minutes. Waiting on a draughty platform for half an hour wasn’t very appealing so we exited the station and made our way to the VDNKh metro station instead and admired its painted arches as we waited to board our train.
It was then time for us to visit a few more of the most beautiful stations on the Moscow metro network. To do so, we caught a train along to Prospekt Mira on the Circle Line 5 (Brown) to admire its platforms. The design and theme of this lavish station reflects the nearby Botanical Gardens of Moscow State University. It would have also been nice to have visited these gardens but decided against it as there would have been little to see in December. The Prospekt Mira metro station opened in 1952 and features white pillars decorated with pretty floral friezes, grand chandeliers and a grey chequered floor.
From there we just travelled one stop on the Circle Line 5 (anti-clockwise) to explore the stunning Novoslobodskaya station which is noted for its 32 stained glass panels. These were produced in Latvia as at that time Russia lacked expertise in the production of stained glass.
Six of the stained glass panels depict people from different professions including a musician and an architect. The remaining 26 panels contain intricate geometric patterns and stars creating giving the platform a church-like appearance.
Yet another beautiful station was just one stop away on Line 9 (grey) so we whizzed along there to view the Tsvetnoy-Bulvar station which also featured stained glass panels. These differed from Novoslobodskaya as the stained glass panes were much smaller, with a large stained glass panel at one end of the concourse. This station is close to the Moscow Circus and its proximity is reflected in the green stained glass above the stairs featuring images of clowns.
After taking delight in viewing these stunning stations we took the metro along to Borobitskaya station to try and re-visit the Moscow State Library (National Library of Russia) as we had been turned away the previous day due to a fire alarm evacuation. Thankfully, all was quiet on this occasion and we were able to collect visitor passes from a small office at the main entrance on the right just before the security screening. Visitors are warmly welcomed to the library with enquiries made to our nationality which was noted for their records.
Coats and large bags need to be handed to the ladies at the cloakroom desk who were extremely efficient and able to take care of hats, gloves and scarves without them going astray. Just beyond the cloakroom we mounted the grand entrance staircase which leads to rooms lined with traditional wooden bookcases and off to one side, some beautiful reading rooms.
Please note that none of the library signage is in English and as plans of the building are unavailable, it’s a bit of a mystery wandering around but we discovered that the main points of interest seemed to be located on the first floor. We gently opened heavy oak doors, peeping inside to see what was behind them and came across some exquisite reading rooms. They were all beautifully furnished with traditional leather chairs, oak desks and illuminated by brass lamps with green shades.
The main reading room is not to be missed as it features a galleried landing containing black and white photographs of how the library has evolved over the years. If you share an interest in libraries then spending a short time visiting the Moscow State Library is a splendid idea. It’s easily accessible by metro or on foot from Red Square as it is located just behind the Alexander Gardens.
We rounded off the afternoon with a short stroll through the Red Square Christmas Market before returning to our hotel for a short rest and a reviving cup of tea and some biscuits.
Later we ate dinner at a cosy pub called Kolbosoff just across the road from our hotel in Sokolniki. The service was friendly and our dishes of grilled chicken and pork ribs were well presented, of a good size and most importantly tasted very good. We accompanied these with a half litre of lager each which hit the spot nicely. The bar staff were attentive but unable to speak English so we used Google Translate to work out what was on the menu and order our dishes.
By the time we had finished our meal it was around 8.00 p.m. and after a little discussion, decided to take the metro to Park Kultury. This station was conveniently located on Red Line 1 being just a couple of stops further on than Red Square. On leaving the metro station we crossed the river to enter Gorky Park through its illuminated main arched entrance. Surprisingly, the huge park was exceedingly quiet with very few people about. There was an ice rink running through its central section but we couldn’t see much activity due to a large fence obscuring our view.
As little seemed to be happening in the park, we strolled along the embankment where several pleasure cruise boats were slowly passing by and glancing across the river we could see the headquarters of the Ministry of Defence.
Our evening stroll continued as far as a covered footbridge where we crossed the river and headed inland a short distance to a metro station at Frunzenskaya for a train to take us back to our hotel. The end of another fun filled day exploring Moscow.
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