Gorky Leninskye Estate: Lenin’s Dacha

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With the early morning sun during the summer come the reluctant early rises, we are two of them. Today’s reason? An early morning haircut appointment. To make the most of the day, plans were afoot to dare to travel outside the Moscow city limits, trusting only our temperamental GPS, our Russian map book and a misplaced trust in our own sense of direction.

It took a little over an hour by car to get to the neighbouring settlement, including one wrong turn, a pit stop and being pulled over for not having our headlights switched on during the daytime. After reaching the settlement of Gorky Leninskie and finding no clear signage to the estate, we pulled over at a nearby grocery store to do what no real man would do – ask directions. Armed with our Russian map book and the word “G’diea” (meaning ‘where’), we approached a shelf stacker, showed him the map, pointed at where we wanted to be and unleashed our Russian word. He looked puzzled, said he spoke English a little bit but seemed unable to point; gesticulate or help in any way. This seems odd in hindsight as Lenin’s museum was in plain sight, had we turned around – it was, in fact, like asking where the Kremlin was whilst standing in Red Square.

Once parked, we walked to Lenin’s museum; a large mausoleum-like structure in the middle of a field of green and yellow – now known as the Political Museum of History. The interior was dark and a throwback to soviet days. It is now used as a conference center although houses a daunting statue of Lenin and other photos and artifacts; but sadly nowhere to buy entrance tickets (we later found the ticket office at the ‘New House’ next to the Dacha at he opposite end of the estate).

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We followed the signs to the Dacha and walked along paths though meadows and along the edge of a woodland enjoying the breeze to the main gate. A short walk through what appeared to be an orchard bought us to the main houses: the Dacha and the New House. As we entered the New House, we found a souvenir shop and the elusive ticket office. As in the majority of internationally known attractions within Russia, no one spoke any other language other than Russian. Equally no foreign language signage (except the one proclaiming “Souvenir”). A clumsy dialogue followed – we believe the gist seemed to be that in order to enter you needed to be part of a group and that groups were only allowed at certain times during the day.

Disappointed but not beaten, we went to enjoy the sun, the gardens and the view down to the lake. Although there was a walk down to the lake, we paused at one of Lenin’s favorite spots to contemplate and to enjoy just being away from the city, in the countryside. Listening to the birds, watching out for woodland creatures and swotting mosquitoes. All whilst tying to remember what exactly a tick looked like if they bore encephalitis, where they would be and if my inoculation was up to date.

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We made our way down to the far end of the estate to a freestanding house, envisioning how horses use to trot along the very road we were walking on, transporting one of the most historic names in history. Pausing for a few moments we enjoyed the beauty of the green whilst appreciating the generous shade of the very large trees in the very hot weather. Slowly making our way back to the main entrance, we passed the very large museum at it’s rear, and were amused watching a bus trying to maneuver out of the car park whilst avoiding the only car that was parked on the whole of the estate; parked with, apparently, the sole aim of preventing the coach from leaving. Quietly amused by the to-ing and fro-ing, we stopped en-route back to our trusty Russian automobile at a vendor selling semi firm, over sweet, ice creams on the way out, we desperately reached for a hundred Roubles to help quench our thirst on the journey back on what were surely the most expensive ice creams in Russia!

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Radisson Royal Flotilla River Cruise

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With the recent arrival of our guests, we finally had an excuse and opportunity to hop on board the Radisson Royal’s Flotilla. These beautiful, sleek, super-yachts travel along the Moscow River all year round and offer the most stunning views of Moscow. In the summer they have open decks and in the winter are billed as ‘ice breakers’ and literally keep the Moscow River from freezing completely.

The tickets are very reasonably priced and food items served on board from the menu are delicious and their prices comparable with most restaurants around. Although  first-class tickets for the upper deck are available, we were seated on the lower deck right up against the large panoramic windows. We were very fortunate to board the yacht whilst it was still light, although raining slightly, and enjoyed the view of the lights twinkling in the dark on our way back to the dock.

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Our boat began its journey at the Ukrainian Hotel (now the Radisson hotel – but old habits die hard, so Ukrainian Hotel it remains!)  and lasted about 90 minutes. Our winter coats were taken by friendly staff as soon as we stepped on board as we filed on board in an orderly and relatively patient queue. A waitress dressed a sailor appeared almost immediately at our table to take drink orders, it would have seemed rude not to have tried a vodka. – and when in Moscow! Another yacht came in to dock just  as ours was pulling out giving us something to watch. The we set off in the direction of the Kremlin. The place mats were A3 maps showing the route and some of the landmarks along the way. Had this expat been organised, and a lot more technologically minded we would have linked up our iPhone or iPad to the ships wifi system on board and would have had live feeds and info of your surrounds whilst sipping away on a sundowner, having a bite to eat or simply just in awe of some of the sites.

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Some really impressive landmarks we passed on the way (and yet to be investigated – expat style) included Novodevichy Convent, Luzhniki Olympic Complex with its big ski jump to nowhere, Lomonosov University, the space shuttle replica ‘parked’ at Gorky Park and this expat’s favourite, the Red October Chocolate Factory. Just after we passed the Kremlin for the first time, the massive yacht we were on slowed down, jet-like pumps were switched on and in the middle of the river, this amazing boat turned around one hundred and eighty degrees and began its slow cruise home.

No-one on board, even the ‘sailor’ men and women who plough up and down the river daily, could have failed to be in awe of the amazing view all around them as we were once again presented with the stunning view of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin. Mr Expat quickly dashed upstairs into the open air to grab a few more pictures before the camera’s battery life ran out.  Enjoying the magnificent view of the moon and with the lights reflecting in the water, we sailed off into the darkness of the night with the stars in our eyes.

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