On a hot day, Gorky Park is teeming with visitors

Natalia Antonova, The Moscow News, 19.08.2012
Парк культуры им. Максима Горького

Gorky Park, immortalized in a Scorpions ballad that now seems at odds with the park’s trendy new image, was a wasteland associated with rickety rides and drunken paratroopers just a couple of years ago.

Located on the bank of the Moscow River, across the street from the Central House of Artists, Gorky is now a symbol of an evolved urban consciousness – the idea that Muscovites indeed do deserve to spend their leisure time among flowers, hammocks, smiling children, fountains choreographed to music, and other delights.

Now another famous destination, Sokolniki Park, located in the northeast of the city, is following in Gorky’s footsteps. Two brand new open-air pools opened in Sokolniki over the weekend – and more changes are coming.

“We’re trying to attract a more progressive crowd – people with an active outlook on life, who are fashionable and stylish,” Denis Tsukanov, head of public relations at Sokolniki, told Afisha.

If Tsukanov’s insistence on a fashionable crowd sounds a little odd, one must consider the fact that beyond the city center, Moscow’s parks are traditionally associated with anti-social people whose main pastime is imbibing alcoholic beverages. Not all residents of the Sokolniki neighborhood, however, agree that the current crowds in the park are altogether “unfashionable.”

“I’ve rented an apartment in this neighborhood for a number of years,” Svetlana Maslova, a student, told The Moscow News in an e-mailed comment. “I’m glad that the park is being improved – but I’m a frequent visitor there, and I certainly consider myself progressive.”

To the delight of astronomy nerds, among Sokolniki’s upcoming projects is the reopening of the local observatory in September – following extensive repairs. Vladimir Chichmar, a leading scientist at the Moscow Open Education Institute, told Izvestia that such observatories are needed to “raise the bar for culture” in the city.