Where, in relation to The Kremlin (from which, ultimately, all Moscow directions are given), will we find the neighborhood of Zamoskvareche? The clue is in the name. Za-moskva-reche. Translated, it means “across the Moskva River.”
It is not immediately apparent, when we traverse the bridge from one bank to the other, we have entered one of the city’s oldest districts. Zamoskvareche was originally settled in the 13th century. It largely weathered attacks by Napoleon and Hitler and also escaped the worst ravages of the Communist city planners. It remains to be seen if it can keep modern Moscow at bay.
We walk on a sidewalk beside the wide highway that brought us across from Red Square. For a short stretch, the road is fringed by modern, uninspiring architecture. But then we reach another bridge across the canal built to protect Zamoskvareche from flooding. The canal’s southern banks are lined with beautiful, pastel-painted buildings. Here we are.
Turning right after the canal, we reach the 17th-century Kadashi Church, which has been the focal point of a recent battle for the future of the neighborhood. Surrounding historic buildings were demolished four years ago to make way for luxury apartments. The magnificent Baroque church, topped with golden onion domes, survives.
Deeper into Zamoskvareche, the heritage is better preserved, with plenty of other picturesque Baroque churches and Neoclassic mansions, especially along Ulitsa Bolshaya Ordynka. On the parallel road, Ulitsa Malaya Ordynka, tucked away amid a verdant garden, we find the 19th-century wooden home of the playwright Alexander Ostrovsky. Preserved as a museum, it offers an atmospheric window into another age: sheer curtains, creaking floorboards, ticking clocks. For the duration of our visit, modern Moscow seems very distant.
Zamoskvareche’s star attraction is undoubtedly the Tretyakov State Gallery, which incorporates several buildings at the heart of the neighborhood (the New Tretyakov, devoted to contemporary art, is located at Krymsky Val on the banks of the Moskva, a 10-minute walk away). Admission to the “old museum,” located on Lavrushinsky Lane, is approximately $13.50. Other buildings require separate tickets.
The Tretyakov contains the world’s greatest collection of Russian art, with more than 130,000 items spanning 1,000 years. Highlights include 15th-century icons by Andrei Rublev and 20th-century work by Kandinsky and Chagall (some of their paintings are housed in the New Tretyakov). The collection includes many evocative portrayals of old Moscow. Zamoskvareche is one Moscow neighborhood in which the past still lives.
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