Driving on the Ring, a road that circumnavigates Moscow, watching on all sides for traffic that could damage your health – and there are a lot of them and then taking the clover leaf off an overpass to the road below we checked our GPS and it said 3.3km; the traffic so jammed the estimated length of journey (based on current speed) was about 56 minutes – this expat began to wonder whether we were really heading to the idyllic surroundings of Kuskovo. But then, as quickly as the traffic built up, it was gone and, as we turned off the busy main road into a quite lane, you suddenly find yourself driving through the relative silence of a beautifully maintained deciduous woodland, hard to imagine we were on the edge of the hustle and bustle of Moscow. Once we parked our car in the small car park, we crossed the road, lined up with white wedding stretch Hummer-limos and proceeded to the ticket booth. After trying to decipher yet another large Russian sign board, we concluded that there is more than one museum which you can enter within the estate and if you wanted to take photos or require filming, there would be a charge (this expat got caught out and told off at the Hermitage). Charades ensued whilst we tried explaining to the cashier lady that we wanted 2 tickets for everything within the estate and would like to purchase a pass that would enable us to take photos. What we ended up getting in return was the opposite, with a wry smile, a re-assuring nod about the photos, we were supplied a single piece of paper that gave us entry into the estate and its park, but, as we later found out (when a reasonable walk away from the ticket office), it offered no entrance to other museums and seemed only to rile those ladies who jealously guarded the entrances to various sites who, we guessed, thought we were trying to blag our way in.
The estate features beautiful large gardens, the Kuskovo Palace as the main building once you enter the main gate, the Grotto, which is adjacent to the Dutch House; and the Orangerie at the far end of the estate, declared as the State Museum of Ceramics in 1919.
It was when we tried to enter the Palace we found out the ticket we bought at the main entrance was only valid for the park/garden areas. Luckily the official spoke some English and invited us in to buy a ticket. After purchasing a ticket and becoming licensed to take photos we got down to some serious sight seeing with our self tour around this large wood and plaster structure once owned by the Sheremetev family. Each room had a sign on the door describing what we would find inside and a little about the history and artists who contributed to the rooms’ ambiance and beauty.
Standing in the room, the Ballroom, we turned towards the view of the gardens outside and took in the last few views of the Palace ballroom before making our way to the ‘Grot’ (Grotto). The building was situated behind a small pond and all that was inside represented an underwater, sea-like theme. The initial idea was a cooler, tranquil spot for the family to entertain in the hotter summer months. Walking through the smaller interior,enjoying the coolness after the hot sunny walk through the avenues of trees, the walls sparkle as light is reflected off the tiny pieces of glass in the concrete. Everywhere you look, walls, ceilings and artworks are a combination and symphony of thousands of small shells and pieces of mother-of-pearl. The detail and delicateness in each of these is incredible.
Leaving the Grotto behind us and making our way slowly through the confusing maze of a garden, we came across the Dutch House which looked very neat and quaint. Eager to go inside, we were shoo’d away by a short, annoyed looking, babushka (Russian for grandmother, but is often used for an officious woman of a certain age) after she asked us for our tickets, which of course we didn’t have thanks to the lady at the main gate. We tried asking if we could buy tickets from her (as we had done in the Palace and Grotto), but soon realized it’s probably best to make our way to the Orangerie before the whips out a broom and starts chasing us with it.
When me made it down to the Orangerie on the opposite side of the estate, it was under renovation and we turned to the American Conservatory (next door) where all the porcelain was temporarily being housed. Sadly no photography was allowed here. The collection included some of the most precious of Western porcelain in Eastern Europe, all collected by the Sheremetev family over generations. Also included are collections assembled by Empress Maria Fedorovna before the Russian Revolution. Some of the most creatively hand crafted items with the most intricate details are embellished with gold. Some pieces create the illusion of containing engraved gold. It was interesting to see how designs and fashions changed and evolved between the 18th an 20th centuries.