Ask the Swan Specialist
Date: 20 August 2007
The sun has finally started to break through the clouds, but it is still raining sporadically. Nikolai is taking me to both Patriarch Pond and Gorky Park today. Although, as a photographer, I wish I could have sunny skies, the mood for both of these shots is even better in the rain due to the history behind both of these areas.
Patriarch Pond is a famous pond, located in the heart of Moscow. The pond is situated around the corner from Pushkin Square, named after the famous Russian Poet, Alexander Pushkin. One of Pushkin’s best-known works includes Tsar Sultan, a children’s classic with swans as the major storyline.
The Russian Orthodox Church owns Patriarch Pond, specifically Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia, hence the name. However, the pond is most famous for Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel, “The Master and Margarita.” The pond served as the inspiration for Bulgakov’s masterpiece that involves the devil visiting the atheistic Soviet Union. There is a huge sculpture of Bulgakov at the far end of the pond surrounded by a park.
We find two young cygnets at the other end of the pond. It is raining lightly and Nikolai runs to grab some bread while I try to entice the two young Mute Swans closer. The Moscow skyline looms over the park while a family of four takes pictures nearby.
Nikolai has made it back with the bread and I get all of the photos just in time before the next rainstorm. He suggests that I make a quick dash to the statue of Bulgakov, to get a photo to include in my photo essay. Jumping over mud puddles, I grab several shots before making it safely back to the car. The rain is now coming down in buckets.
We look at the nearby skyline and make the decision to head for Gorky Park. I only need one or two shots and we decide that even with an umbrella, we can make this happen.
Gorky Park was founded in 1928 and a movie was made in 1983 regarding a spy thriller that became quite famous. The park has a giant Ferris wheel, numerous lakes and ponds and exhibits including the Russian version of our Space Shuttle. The park is also used for special concerts and other events attracting both young and old visitors. It sits alongside the Moscow River.
As we pull up to the front of the park’s entrance, I spot an old Merry-go-round that has a swan for a seat. As I take photos, Nikolai grabs the tickets so we can find the swans before the next downpour.
Inside, we ask for directions and are led to the far end of the park where the swans are supposed to be located. And, when I say the far end of the park, I mean the far end of the park! We have walked for about 10 minutes and still no swans. We ask again, and are told to keep walking!
We finally spot them through an opening under an arched bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge has been fenced in, so it’s not quite the shot I had in mind. But, at least the swans are cooperating. As Nikolai feeds them bread from the bridge, I move closer to the shoreline to capture both the bridge and swans. Like the rest of the swans we have incurred thus far, these two Mute Swans are more than happy to get a free handout.
Statue of Alexander Pushkin
Statue of Mikhail Bulgakov
Gorky Park Emblem
Dr. Nikolai Puchkov feeds the Gorky Park Swans
Moscow River and the old Soviet Pentagon Bldg
Temple of Christ The Savior - Once the fall of the Soviet Union occurred in 1993, the church was rebuilt as an exact replica of the one destroyed. It is the tallest Eastern Orthodox Church in the world, under Alexis II