Touring Around Town

Spring is coming to Moscow! The crocuses are peaking up, the snow is finally melting, and the days are rapidly getting longer. As the colder temps disappear, it’s a great time for touring the city.

Last weekend, I organized a tour with Bridge to Moscow for a group of friends. The tour took us from Patriarch’s Pond (of Master and Margarita fame) to the Gorky House, an Art Nouveau dream residence near Moscow’s Garden Ring.

Built at the turn of the 20th century by Fyodor Schechtel, the Gorky House has been on my bucket list for years.

Commissioned by the wealthy Ryabouchinsky family, the home was gifted to the writer Maxim Gorky by the Russian government in 1931, as a ploy to bring him back from “exile” Sorrento, Italy. Honestly, this house might convince me to leave Capri, too.

Moscow’s treasures never fail to surprise me. Considering the strife of the 20th century, it’s amazing that these gems still remain intact.

I checked another item off my bucket list just yesterday – the Novodevichy Cemetery. The second most famous cemetery in Moscow (Red Square being the first), Novodevichy is the final resting place of over 27,000 former Moscow residents.

Notable entrants include Anton Chekhov and Boris Yeltsin, among many others. Bulgakov and Brezhnev. Gorbachev and Gogol. You name it, they are resting here.

We had a beautiful day for it and our guide (also from Bridge to Moscow), Lena, was a treasure trove of information. Interspersing love stories, military triumphs, and tales of the gulag, she eloquently explained the Russian mindset. Championing contributions of science and the arts, while acknowledging the historic truth (“he did a lot of good for our country but also a lot of terrible things”), she took us on a journey through time.

A interesting note about Khrushchev. It’s said that he despised conceptual modern art and once went head-to-head with Ernst Neizvestny, the famous Russian sculptor, debating its lack of merit. Years later, both the sculptor and Khrushchev’s son were living in New York City and became acquaintances. When Khrushchev died, his son sought out Neizvestny to design his father’s gravestone. Seems that art (and Khrushchev’s son) got the final word.

We toured the cemetery for nearly two hours as the skies turned from bright blue to grey marble. As a chilly snow began to fall, we took our leave. Moscow’s cultural treasures are endlessly engaging and there are so many more to explore. Until next time…