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Summer palace, 17th c. Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich
Ravine of mystery, Kolomenskoye

Sometimes the least traveled places can be the most interesting, even in tough conditions.

On a dark, bitterly cold day, we went to Kolomenskoye Park at the outskirts of Moscow because of the ravine. The ravine, we had chanced to read, contained many mysteries, including odd sandstone features worshipped by ancient native tribes and more recent legends of time travel. A troupe of soldiers went into the ravine during an early tsar’s rule, and emerged 50 years later. Or so the story goes.

World Heritage Church of the Ascension, Kolomenskoye

What we found, beyond the ravine, was a huge park distinctive for several man-made features.

The most important was its World Heritage church, one of the earliest stone churches in the country. The Church of the Ascension was designed with a distinctive mash-up of Renaissance, Gothic and Byzantine styles.

Summer palace gates and Ascension church

According to another legend, its construction in 1532 honored the birth of the first Russian Tsar, Ivan the Terrible. The single tower aspires skyward from its stolid stone base. high above the Moscow River.  So many later Russian churches modeled themselves on this one.

We savored a number of other structures remaining from the summer home here of the later Tsars, beginning with the early Romanov, Alexsei Mikhailovich, through Catherine the Great. The best were several other churches and the grand summer palace gates from the late 1700s. Transported here as well was a wood house that Peter the Great inhabited even earlier.

1685 pine log church, northern Russia

We huddled against the wind while wandering far afield through Kolomenskoye’s outdoor museum of wooden architecture. These included wooden fortifications such as walls and tower gates, as well as old wood churches – all brought here from other parts of Russia.

Moscow River from bluff

During our visit in that sub-freezing chill, we saw dozens of hardy local residents walking along the paths, including many with baby carriages, either up on the bluffs where the church sat or along the riverside.  The park is free to all.

Summer palace, 17th c. Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich

Nor was this an easy place in which to warm ourselves, as only two cafes were open at the remote ends of the park. Fortunately, one was in the fanciful palace of the 17th c. Romanov Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, reconstructed near its first location from the original, disassembled pieces. If there was any magic in Kolomenskoye park, we thought, this Disney-esque palace should contain it. But a warm cafe and hot soup was enough.


(Also, for more pictures from Russia, CLICK HERE to view the slideshow at the end of the itinerary page.)

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