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An Unexpected Afternoon

April 27, 2009 at 6:12 am
By Jennifer Hightower

Bitsevskii Park

(image courtesty of Vladimir Viktorovich Vesnin,

Sunday afternoons at Carleton normally consist of doing one thing: homework, homework and more homework.  Needless to say, this is not the most enjoyable or relaxing time of the week.  But this Sunday I had a very different experience.  The Moscow Program group decided to have a picnic at a park.  When I think of parks, I usually think of green grass and a few benches – nothing more, nothing less.  But the park we visited went completely against all my expectations.   Located on the outskirts of the city, in fact the last stop on one of the metro lines, Bitsevskii Park spans 10km long and 1.5-4km wide.   It is complete with fields seemingly made for frisbee and soccer, alongside beautiful wooded areas perfect for walking and jogging.  The large expanse of space was welcome after one too many cramped metro rides.

Weaving along the paths with Charlie and Nikki, I suddenly felt relief from the atmosphere of a busy city.  Muscovites were strolling with their pets; some were reading in the sun, while others were simply sitting and quietly chatting.  I wished I had discovered this place sooner!   Exploring the woods, I was reminded of the Arboretum – friends from Carleton no longer seemed so far away.

We came upon what we found out to be a natural spring, having been confused as to why a wooden hut with stairs leading down into the ground was situated in the park.   We peered in to see a man hunched over collecting the pure, clean water via a rectangular cut-out that gave access to the spring.  He filled several jugs.  More people followed.  Looking at the spring, I was amazed at the beauty of nature.  It is called the Great Outdoors for a reason.

Hustle and bustle is what seems to make cities so appealing.  They are lively; they are where the action is.  Important things are going on and there’s sure to be excitement.  Yet alongside this often comes a sense of superficiality, the feeling that one is just another face in the crowd.  Bitsevskii Park revealed another side to Moscow – a side that is not so caught up in image and wealth but presents a more humble, down-to-earth feeling.  As we are learning through our course readings, Moscow is a city of strong contrasts.  They are present everywhere and in everything, even a simple trip to a park.