Stalin’s Underground Bunker
Having visited a fair share of ‘must see’ landmarks on the first day you can now go off the beaten track and explore places that most foreign visitors to Moscow miss. One such place is a former soviet secret military facility located in an underground bunker below the streets of the capital. It is not a free experience, but it is well worth the $40 entry fee.
Underground bunkers are among the world’s most fascinating structures and they are usually off limits to the general public. Think: Cheyenne Mountain nuclear bunker or Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. These structures are designed to withstand a nuclear blast and total annihilation of life on the surface.
Bunker 42, located near Taganskaya Metro station is a former Spare Long-Range Aviation Command Post. It is located 65 meters underground, deeper than Moscow Metro network, and requires walking down 36 flights of stair down to level -18.
Above ground the entrance to the bunker is protected by a faux building that is completely hollow inside, though during the time the bunker was operational the lights and a radio were turned on inside to maintain the illusion of an occupied residential building.
To continue on the theme of Stalin’s Russia, take Metro to Mayakovskaya station and walk down Bolshaya Sadovaya Street to Patriarch Ponds. This small city park surrounded by Stalin-era apartment blocks is the famous location for the opening scenes in Bulgakov’s novel Master and Margarita. The novel, that is centered around a visit by Satan to the feverently atheistic Soviet Union is considered by many critics to be one of the best novels of the 20th century. Everyone who red the book should visit Patriarch Ponds and those who haven’t could take this opportunity and read a few first pages. And make sure not to miss the sculpture garden based on the characters from the famous fables of Ivan Krylov.
Not far from Patriarch Ponds, back towards the Metro along Bolshaya Sadovaya Street is another corner of Bulgakov’s legacy – the house where the writer lived in the infamous flat No 50 prominently portrayed in the book. In the forecourt of the building there is a bronze statue of the two characters from Master and Margarita – Korov’ev and Behemoth, the talking cat.
The flat itself is located on the top level of the building and can be reached via three flights of stairs. The walls of the stairwell are covered with patches of graffiti left by the fans of the book. Bulgakov wrote a number of novels, though Master and Margarita is most loved by the Russians.
The last echo from Bulgakov’s era can be found a block up the street towards the Metro. It is the court of the Mossovet Theatre on Bolshaya Sadovaya Street. The entire forecourt in fact brings to mind images of Massolit, the society of writers and literary administrators thrown into chaos by Satan’s visit to Moscow in Bulgakov’s novel. The garden in the court is known as Aquarium and its center point is the Satire fountain, with Satire depicted as a devilish figure. The garden has the same tranquil air to it as Patriarch Ponds and features an adorable open air cafe.
From here you can take a walk down the well-known Tverskaya Street towards the Red Square. Turn left on Teatralnyy proezd and walk past the Bolshoi Theater to Lubyanka – former KGB headquarters.