By Ross Hunter, Headmaster ESS Lefortovo; and with data from David Gilmartin, Troika Relocations. Illustrations and photos by John Harrison
Editor’s Welcome: This fourth part of our introduction to the best central residential areas takes us across the river. A different perspective on the city.Do join the project, and share your opinions: we will incorporate your knowledge, which is always welcome. – JH
Key Features in Cameo:
A Unspoiled, natural, haphazard and very much at people scale
B The only part of Moscow where walkers are more important than cars – no underpasses
C The river and the Vodootvodny Canal frame the area, most agreeably
D Lots of small, local play areas and green spaces as well as the great Gorky Park and the sculpture gardens;
E Handy for the centre, trams and trains – especially Paveletsky and so the Domodedovo airport express
F More sensible prices for shopping, eating and drinking, and maybe for rent;
G Ever-changing, charming views, plus the two world class Tretyakov Galleries
Z But can get very congested in a car; and some views blighted by Tsereteli’s monstrous statue.
One of Moscow’s more enigmatic attractions is the area ‘beyond the Moscow River’ – literally Za-Moskvo-Rechye. It would be my top choice. Before the modern age, it also escaped the regular disasters by fire that razed many city centre areas, maybe because development was limited by regular flooding, at least until 1786. As a result, just one bridge away from Red Square, we have a charming old town with a delightfully random street pattern, lots of old buildings and remarkably few high-rise landmarks. This is Moscow for people not machines: pavement cafes abound, many roads are car-free and within the bend of the river there are no underpasses – cars wait for walkers, the way it should be. With it having no straight thoroughfares, views are intimate and varied, and every few steps suddenly opens, then closes another charming vista or undiscovered building.
This is a place made for living in, and more family-friendly than most. Often not on newcomers’ radar, it is certainly popular with the long-term adoptive expats: the old stagers who know Moscow best have bought their flats here.
South of the river, bounded by it and the Garden Ring: from Park Kultury to Paveletskaya by way of Oktyabrskaya and Dobryninskaya. Famous avenues and overblown skyscrapers are not here; traffic is slow (a mixed blessing!).
Zamoskvorechye is best explored on foot. Once you are out of the Metro or over the bridge, even the main streets are narrow and irregular, and with cafes and a whole variety of historic buildings: the most European feeling part of Moscow. It has missed reconstruction forced by fire, Stalin and the current blue-glass craze (until you hit the Garden Ring business centre.
There are agreeable pedestrian zones. Two favourites: from Novokuznetskaya Metro head west to the original Tretyakov building, then north along Lavrushisky Pereulok towards the Kremlin, and over the canal footbridge to be welcomed by Ilya Repin himself, in statue. Or start at the sculpture gardens, and follow Krymsky Val past the new Tretyakov along an embankment adorned with street artists selling their works, and to Gorky Park. Only the bustling Garden Ring disturbs the peace but even that is can be missed thanks to an art-embellished underpass.
The two Tretyakov Gallerieshave between them an astonishing collection of wonderful Russian art, and also serve as a history of the Russian people and their culture. After that, the great thing about Zamoskvorechye is its old city charm, without flash or tourist spectaculars – it is a walker’s area, full of street life, perfect for people watching.
Streets:Polyanka, Yakimanka, Pyatnitskaya and Ordinka are the main streets, replete with all shops more watering holes. One side street behind and you can be looking for your ideal apartment. Most of the island is quiet, and with some attractive new residential developments. Being on the emblankment is best, and any view over the river is great. Cafes, bars and eating places, indoors and on the pavement, abound with a particular concentration of ethnic restaurants to suit every taste and budget.
Buildings & Statues:too many to list! The original Tretyakov Gallery (with statue), the Church of St. Clements – beautifully restored, Repin in his park, the largest statue of Lenin in Moscow at Oktyabrskaya, the sculpture park in the grounds of the Central House of Artists, the statue of Peter the Great (if you need a macabre laugh), and the concert hall at Krasnye Holmy. The newly-weds bridge over the canal, decorated with love trees and bedecked in ceremonial padlocks is best at the weekend, when it is frequently full of wedding parties as they tour the city. To view the whole thing, the bar at the top of the Swiss hotel is brilliant (at a price).
The Best Metro Stations:Tretyakovskaya/ Novokuznetskaya and Paveletskaya are without doubt the most imposing and attractive, and all four nearby Brown Circle line stations are in early 1950s post-war celebratory style.