It is not the first time that we take you on the Old Arbat street, but this time, we have a particular reason: our school is moving there, right in the heart of Moscow, a few hundred meters from the Kremlin and the old area of Kitai Gorod. And since our students will spend some time here, let's make a guiding tour in Moscow's most famous street.
The Old Arbat is one of the oldest streets in Moscow and one of the favourite walking places for Muscovites and tourists. Paved, planted with trees, illuminated with old-style street-lamps, this pedestrian street lined with trendy caf?s and souvenir shops is a delight for everybody.
Nostalgics will regret the time when the tramway used to pass through the street, when poets and bards were filling the place with their art. The street became pedestrian in 1986, and since then the Old Arbat welcomes rock musicians, street dancers, portraitists and secondhand booksellers.
We will start our tour from the metro station Smolenskaya, and the unmistakable Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of the seven Stalinist buildings. It is said that this building was the first one to be finished because Stalin could check the progressing work of construction from his car everyday on his way from his dacha to the Kremlin.
But Stalin was not the only one to take this way to enter the Kremlin. In 1812, Napoleon entered the city by the Old Arbat and took a few days rest at the Kremlin before beating a retreat all the way back to the French capital.
The MacDonald caf? which stands on the left hand-side of the street was the second one to open in Moscow. You still can see a sign on the outside wall stating that payment can only be made in Rubles. I'm not too sure whether the sign was put on because Russians wanted to pay in dollars or because Americans thought they could pay with Uncle Sam's money! Back in the 1990s, Russians would queue up for hours to have a taste of a burger. It was common to have romantic diner or wedding parties there.
A bit further down the street, the statue of Pushkin and his wife Natalya is faсing the lovely turquoise-blue house where the couple lived happily for few months in 1829, just after getting married. Unfortunately, Pushkin was not only one of the greatest poets of all times, but he was also addicted to card games and the couple had to moved back to Saint Petersburg in a hurry after the poet had lost too much money. Later, the house was occupied by Modest Tchaikovsky, brother of the famous composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. At the end of the of Soviet era, the house went under renovations and became the literary museum Pushkin.
N° 42: in this house lived Ekaterina Ushakova. This name doesn't sound familiar to you? Ekaterina was very fond of Pushkin, and his wedding to Natalya affected her so much, that she agreed getting married only after the poet's death.
Further up the street, on your right, you will recognise the statue of Bulat Okudzhava, a Soviet bard who got famous for his songs talking about simple things of life, the horror of the war, the love for his birth place (Okudzhava was born in Moscow near from the Arbat).
Here you can see the Vartangovo theatre. It might look a bit old and tired from the outside, but the inside is really worth a visit, and if you come here to watch a play, offer yourself a treat with a glass of шанпанское (Russian champagne) during the entr'acte!
Read the second part of this article.
It is not the first time that we take you on the Old Arbat street…