The village of Izmailovo dates back to the 14thC when it would have been on the edge of a thick forest that stretched to the east. It reportedly took its name from a boyar family – Izmailov – who owned the village at the time. Sometime in the early 1600s, Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich decided to build a model economy in this village and more than 700 families were moved there in just six months. Parks and gardens were developed, exotic crops were introduced – melons, cotton, grapes and orangeries, a menagerie of rare birds and animals was built, and large ponds were dug out for fish farming as well.
The market was the thriving centre of this village and is still located near the ceremonial gate house and the bridge tower near the town’s cathedral. So much amazing architecture in Moscow – it was actually the images of these building that enticed me to come see these markets.
The Izmailovsky Markets (aka the Vernisazh Markets. I don’t know why… I’ve given up trying to figure out why everything has more than one name?!), are contained in a crazy, eclectic, remarkable collection of old timber buildings with a very alpine feel to them…
The Izmailovsky Markets are Moscow’s largest flea markets. With plenty of permanent vendors selling all the usual tourist offerings – dolls, furs, scarves, ceramics, wooden wares – right along side part-time or one-off vendors, selling collectable coins, military paraphernalia, tools, lapidary supplies, Soviet era memorabilia, gemstones and bayonets and spare magazines for your AK47.
So many dolls!
The markets are very heavily patronised, particularly on weekends – though I was told that if you visit in winter, it is often the case that there will only be a couple of die hard vendors set up, so it’s really a ‘summer must do’ for Moscow.
After our visit to the market, we decided to take the trains to Gorky Park, aka The Central Park of Culture and Recreation (TSKKiO) that was named after the famous author and philosopher Whatsisname Gorky. Built in the 1920s, the 219.7ha site is now a favourite place for Muscovites to come meet friends, participate in community activities and enjoy the rare sunshine in the summer. Today there was water ski jumping activities, a hot rod and car show going on, a retail expo seemingly aimed at young people as well as all the usual activities, including a mini Luna Park and lots of people enjoying cafes restaurants and sunbathing on the lawns.
The car show was unexpected. Lots of fancy looking hotted up cars – all dropped to the deck, very flashy paint jobs and obviously lots of time and attention lavished on them. The locals were loving it – taking their photos in front of the cars, and some of the young girls even managing to convince the owners to let them drape themselves on the bonnets. 🙂
Not far from Gorky Park and the Oktyabryskya metro station is the Muzeon Park of Arts (aka the Park of the Fallen Heroes, or the Fallen Monument Park. It surrounds the Krymsky Val building which houses the modern art division of the Tretyakov Gallery. The Muzeon Part of Arts is a large open-air sculpture museum which has over 700 pieces of sculpture on display throughout the open space, which was once a military site. Being right beside the important Krymsky Bridge, this space was used to house military hardware and anti-aircraft weaponry during WWII (or the ‘Great Patriotic War, as WWII is known in Russia). After that, the vast empty space was laughingly referred to as ‘snow storage’ until the ’60s when all sorts of proposals for the site were put forward. The Central House of Artists was started in 1965 and a thriving artists’ community has been here since.
Around the Central House of Artists are a number of these large pavillions where local artists are exhibiting and presumably selling their paintings. The artistic genres and styles vary as much as the subject matter, and it is a great place to see how Muscovites are interpreting and representing their experiences here. The artworks were very impressive, if they were not so annoying to transport home, I would have loved to have delved in and chosen a special piece.
The Muzeon Park and the fallen monuments themselves turned up here in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union in October 1991. Statues of Soviet leaders, representations of social realism, and unidentified workers and peasants, were removed from their locations and pedestals and brought to the park left literally fallen on the ground. They were later re-established though without their original pedestals and they were the start of the sculpture gardens. Now, with many modern art sculpture pieces added, the Soviet monuments are only a minority part of the collection in the park.
After this, we decided to head back into the city (via a small nightmare on the buses… Why so many number 4 buses? All we want is one number 1 bus?) to pop into the Kremlin Museum shop to try and find some English catalogues of the collections. Some had English translations but many did not. Russia is a little behind on this front, most European museums have their collection catalogues available in a multitude of language – we have found so far that Russia seems reluctant to publish this way.
Already it had been a long day – we have walked 15kms each day since we got here and were well on target to exceed that today, was feeling mighty footsore, though pleased to have been able to walk around on grass instead of pavement for quite a bit of the day. We had planned to hang around Red Square until dark to see these amazing buildings lit up at night. So we found ourselves a bar (actually we were looking for the Beluga Caviar and Vodka Bar, but the one in the GVM doesn’t have the same menu as the others *sad face*) and had an early dinner and a few drinks and enjoyed some people watching. Moscow Mules, chicken Kiev with mashed potato and pureed beets, and layered honey cake for the people!
Over dinner, and waiting for nightfall, we spent some time discussing Russian Weirdnesses – little things that are different from home that you notice when you travel, and came up with the following list:
Dining out is fairly cheap compared to home.
There is always lots of staff everywhere, and lots of older people in cleaning jobs.
Nothing opens until 10-11am but shops and museums are open until really late.
Free caviar tastings in the delis and markets are amazing!
Soft drinks and water bought from cafes and shops are never cold (what’s with that?)
Even when it’s stupid hot and the sun is scorching, locals are not wearing hats.
Public bathrooms are super clean (well, compared to China, Greece, and Turkey!)
No ice in your cold drinks unless you ask for it.
Men wear wicking work out shirts as everyday wear with jeans.
Women seem to wear whatever the hell they want – no obvious fashion trends.
People don’t smile much – and apparently, won’t unless there is something to smile about.
The toilet paper is rough everywhere – airport, hotel, cafes, public bathrooms.
Brand label tracksuits, fitted t-shirts, bright white sneakers are a stereotype for a reason.
Man bags are totally a thing here… every guy has one.
Children are remarkably well behaved here, I did not see one screaming nightmare of a kid in a shop or public space.
One thing we both noticed was the lack of any major security presence. We don’t know why, perhaps it is because we both grew up with the ever present propaganda associated with the Cold War in the 80s, but we both had a sense that there was something menacing about Russia. It wasn’t until we actually entered the Kremlin complex yesterday that I realised I was expecting a sense of impending menace. Mr K said he was surprised not to see security guards with machine guns in the street – and come to think of it I have seen this in the last few years in places like Rio and Barcelona and Rome, but there was none of that here. We haven’t seen even any regular cops here carrying side arms. Everything feels calm, relaxed and safe – and we weren’t expecting that. Perhaps these expectations weren’t helped by the Australian Government’s current travel advisory:
Overall, I have to ask… ‘exercise a high degree of caution’. Yeah. Why exactly? We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here and are looking forward to seeing St Petersburg in a few weeks on the way back too.
It was getting dark so we found ourselves a space to sit in the middle of Red Square and watched the crowds taking their last selfies in front of St Basil’s and the Spasskaya Tower before nightfall. Saw some German guy taking photographs of his heavily pregnant wife/partner in front of the Cathedral – I did my good deed for the day and offered to take some photos of the two of them together. He was thankful but obviously not expecting much, but when I handed the camera back, and he looked at the results his jaw dropped and he was near tripping over himself with gratitude. He was shooting in the wrong mode for those lighting conditions, and I altered a few settings and framed some nice off centre portraits of the two of them… I hope they made for a nice souvenir.
I am just in love with this building. It is simply spectacular.
So I got some night pictures and was very happy with my wash. Another big day. Off to the hotel with us after that – we have an early start tomorrow to transit to Stockholm… and I was now officially ‘trudging’ all the way there. My poor feet!