Going on a tour of the Tsaritsyno Museum-Reserve in Moscow, Russia is a welcome change of pace. The Tsaritsyno Estate was built in the 18th century as a country residence for the Queen Catherine the Great. Now Tsaritsyno is situated in the southern part of Moscow and had become one of the largest museums in the capital. A beautiful and splendid park reserve, it is a favorite of Moscovites and tourists alike. The palace and the park ensemble was founded in 1776 by the order of Empress Catherine the Great. The estate and park sprawls over 406 acres with lush gardens, orangeries and architectural ensemble in neo-gothic style. It was originally designed by famous Russian architect Ivan Bazhenov and later by his student Matvey Kazakov. The estate also encompasses two ponds (upper and lower) and multiple ravines with massive bridge structures connecting different parts of the complex. The estate has gone through quite a transformation through its history, once housing communal apartments, but has recently been carefully restored to its originally intended glory to become a museum and a park.
As I enter the gates, I see both the upper and lower ponds connected by a dam bridge. I also see turquoise and golden peaks of the Grand Palace visible over tree canopies. As I make my way toward the Grand Palace, I come under the Ornate Bridge, one of the few preserved structures of early Tsaritsyno. It is built like a small fortress with towers and lancet openings, constructed with red brick with white accents. It stands a grand structure against lush greenery.
Passing under the bridge and steep hillside, I come to the main square. The Grand Palace stands as a main feature. The front façade comprised of four towers with central gallery, raised arches and lancet windows with Gothic details. The proportions and symmetry of the building as well as patina roofs set against red brick are very appealing. The Grand Place design was changed from the original vision of the architect Vasily Bazhenov, who fell out of favor with the Empress. The current structure was redesigned by Bazhenov's student and apprentice architect Matvey Kazakov. The Palace is a great example of Russian classicism in architecture.
To the left of the Grand Palace, stands the Bread House (Khlebny Dom), which served as kitchens to the royal residence. It was constructed in a shape of a bread loaf with rounded corners. The design of the building was meant to be in harmony with the palace structure. It is now part of the historical exhibition.
The Bread House is connected to the main palace by a gallery with a large ornate gate where horse-drawn carriages delivered supplies to the kitchens and the rest of the estate.
As I walk through the gallery gates, a newly build museum building glimmers in the morning sun. To the left is the monument for the architects of the complex Vasily Bazhenov and Matvey Kazakov. They stand there as if admiring the product of their creation.
A short stroll through the park takes me to the Orangery buildings. 250-year old orangeries - total of four - are large greenhouses separated by the gardens. The orangeries came into fashion in the 18th century and were built to house exotic and tropical plants. These buildings came to almost complete ruin during Soviet era, but were rebuilt in 2008 based on their original plans. The greenhouses are about 50 meters (150 feet) long positioned to get the most sun exposure, with windows on the south-east side.
A walk through the park brings me to the back side of the Grand Palace with a large meadow surrounded by mature trees. This is the Grand Palace Meadow. On the other side of the meadow, there are two more palace buildings. The first one is the Middle Palace, also called the Opera House. Adorned with a royal crest - two headed eagle - the Opera House is a two story building with a main and a side hall. The second one is the Small Palace. It is a rectangular building with a sun-shaped ornament at the top with a an "E" monogram in the middle. Separating the park and the Palace buildings, is the Grape Gate. It reminds me of a mini-castle with two towers and a decorative arch. Past the gate are miles of walkways through the park with mature trees, wild life and local plants.
A short walk further, is a yellow Milovida Pavilion - used as a resting place for the visitors of the estate. Set atop of a hill and overlooking the upper pond, a bright yellow building with an impressive center arched hall adorned in Greek motive frescoes on the ceiling. The Pavilion is a nice and secluded spot to rest after a long walk through the park.
To complete my visit to the park of Tsaritsyno Museum-Preserve, I make my way back through the Palace square. Beyond the Figured Bridge I see a brilliant blue Church of the Life-Giving Spring Icon of the Mother of God. The church itself was built long before the estate and contains a small chapel on its grounds. Architect Vasili Bazhenov preserved the original church as an element of the estate ensemble. Further toward the lower pond stands a beautiful Big Bridge over the Grand Ravine also known as Gothic Bridge. The lower pond area contains the island with the "singing fountain" - a one of a kind light and music installation. It is connected to the main area by an elegant east bridge.
The fresh air, shaded walkways, soothing sound of the water, beautiful sights and wildlife made it a prefect day to take a break form the current reality. If planning a visit, you can find a full map here as well as latest news and operation hours on Tsaritsyno Museum-Preserve official website.