Magical Winter Wonderland

Moscow may not be a city one would normally associate with the word beautiful, with its beat up infrastructure, aging apartments and general grimy feel, but come winter things change.   If there are two things Moscow does exceptionally well they are firstly winter, Moscow has a mortgage on winters and secondly parks, so it goes without saying that a Moscow park in Winter can’t be beaten.

So you can understand the enormity of the extent of parks and forests in Moscow City, I have found the following excerpt from which gives the numbers;

There are ninety-six parks and eighteen gardens in Moscow, including four botanical gardens. There are also 450 (174 sq.mi) of green zones besides 100 (39 sq.mi) of forests. Moscow is a very green city if compared to other cities of comparable size in Western Europe and America. There are on average twenty seven square meters (290 sq.ft) of parks per person in Moscow compared with 6 for Paris, 7.5 in London and 8.6 in New York.

Stars in Ice
Stars in Ice Exhibition

We are lucky enough to have two parks within a 5 minute walk of our apartment, both offering a range of activities that can be enjoyed in the cold winter days and evenings.   After work we can choose to either slap on our ice skates and cut a few shapes on our virtually private, 24/7 floodlit ice skating rink right at our door, or put on our Nordic Skis and take a lap of either of the nearby parks.   Actually one good aspect of the Russian beligerance to not change clocks to winter time like the rest of Europe is that you do get an extra hour of daylight in the evening, giving you till about 6:30pm before it gets dark,so you can get out for a spin around the park in the evening after work (although that is offset by a sunrise somewhere around 9:30am).

Beyond our immediate neighbourhood there are numerous other parks accessible via the Metro with Voryobovy Gory nature park being 2 stops down the line, Gorky Park, 5 stops and about 50 minutes away on our line is Sokol’niki Park.    These parks are destination locations in winter, as I imagine they also will be in summer for different reasons, with a wide range of attractions from skating rinks and tracks, nordic skiing trails, snow boarding parks, huge snow slides, fun parks, ice sculptures, restaurants and cafes among numerous others.   Families descend on these parks in huge numbers on good weekends as they are a great place to while away the day and don’t cost the earth.

Sokol’niki Park

Last weekend we decided to take in the faraway location of Sokol’niki Park as there was a Stars in Ice exhibition on there.   This is a fifty minute ride on our Red line of the Metro, so is easy enough to get to.   As you enter the park you cross the huge ice skating track that weaves its way around the park teeming with people skating by, families having fun, lovers holding hands and kids hitting hockey pucks  back and forwards.   Further in the park you find the ice skating rink with its huge outdoor screen and light show, beside which is a huge slide where you hire one of those big inflatable rings, climb up to the top and go shooting down to the bottom, sort of like a ski jump without the jump….great fun for young and old.   We eventually found the ice sculpture park and for the equivalent of about $NZ 10 got a family pass to go and check it out.   This is a pretty amazing piece of work with a huge number of ice sculptures on display with the feature being the rock and movie stars, who had been immortalised (temporarily anyway) in ice.   The sculptures had a picture of the stars head frozen into the ice then their bodies carved out around this.   After taking in the ice park it was off for a quick chocolate blinni for the kids and gluhwein for us at one of the numerous food outlets doted around the park, of which I counted 11, ranging from the small food stalls selling donuts, blinnis and other Russian staples to a range of proper sit down restaurants.  Then it was time for a blast around the park behind a snowmobile before wandering back to the station and finding the nearby Dekathlon store to stock up on Nordic Ski equipment for Angela and the kids.

Troparevsky Park

With the newly purchased Nordic Skiing gear, this weekend we went off with one of Angela’s friends to Troparevsky forest park just inside the MKAD to do a lap.   Molly and Jimmy have both just taken to the Nordic Skiing and can’t get enough of it, even though he is only 6, Jimmy is right up there determined that he won’t be left behind and even more determined to be the one who leads the way.   It is difficult to comprehend at times that parks such as this exist within the confines of one of the world’s largest cities.   The park is a true forest park, covered in Silver Birch trees and Fir trees of some sort and when in the middle of it you feel as though you are in the middle of nowhere.    It is home to all sorts of wildlife and birdlife so will transform into another place in the summer.   These are great places to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and there are generally these sort of parks within a 10 – 15 minute drive of any part of the city.

Leader of the pack

With another 2 months of winter forecast, we are looking forward to covering some miles in these parks and maybe even a mid-winter BBQ one afternoon in the “wilderness”.

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Tony Fitzpatrick
Architect, Dad, Traveller & Head Rover at Around Rock 3
After a brief flirtation with Japan in the early '90's, and some occasional trips to Australia since, I have had an unrequited love affair with Japan and general desire to explore the world for the next 20 years while reality prevailed and I found myself pretty much stuck in my home country of New Zealand (not that is an entirely bad thing...).After a chance opportunity arose in mid 2012 to relocate our family to Moscow, Russian Federation I finally set off on my OE with my family in tow. It has been an amazing journey that has seen us experience life in Russia, Japan and now Finland, as well as visiting around a dozen countries so far in our adventure to date.While my family situation has changed along the way, I am continuing to explore the world with my tri-lingual son and enjoy sharing the adventures we have had with my followers.

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