“Oh, this is nice,” I remarked as we walked into Kolomensquoye Estate, just a short drive from downtown Moscow. I had spent the whole previous day sick in bed, and though I was still feeling under the weather, the refreshing crisp air filled my lungs with strength.
But soon, I would discover it was more than just ‘nice’. As we walked down the stone-paved path, I saw trees with twisting, winding branches. And when I took a closer look, I exclaimed, “They’re apple trees!”
Over forty apple tree species are spread around Kolomensquoye Estate, together with plum, cherry, and pear trees that total over six thousand. They were originally planted in orderly orchards, but over the centuries they have become wild and free.
I had never seen an apple tree before, and I watched lines of them going on and on with wide eyes. Many round, green apples dotted the trees and the ground, producing a sweet aroma that I sucked in eagerly. How I wished that I could pick one and eat it! But I knew the September apples would be quite sour, so I simply enjoyed the sight.
The Estate, in addition to the fruit trees, was covered with towering beeches, pines, and some of the oldest oaks in Russia. Oh yes, those trunks were wide! Among the trees, I felt right at home, like I was stepping into the land of all the stories I have read.
A bit further on, past a stone wall was a hill overlooking the Moskva River, more forests, and the bustling city of Moscow beyond. This scenic place was topped with a white, tent-shaped church, the Ascension, also called the White Column, a shining pillar above the lands.
But what drew us to the overlook in the first place was the chiming of bells, which signaled the third hour of the afternoon. You know the typical hour chime? Ding dong ding dong, ding dong ding dong. Well, this bell-tower was operated by a man, who was really into the music.
After the typical chime, he continued composing a series of melodies that lasted twenty minutes or longer. The chimes echoed far and wide, rippling down the hill, over the river, and through the woods. I imagine the people all the way in Moscow heard the catchy tunes!
We walked (actually, ran) down a steep staircase to the banks of the wide river, swatting gnats away from our faces. But the beautiful view was worth it. Darkening storm clouds over the glassy river produced a dramatic effect that overwhelmed me with beauty.
We hiked up a trail into the forest, and got splattered by rain, but I thought it was so cool to be totally surrounded by nature: trees, wildflowers, little streams, and sprinkling rain. The path winded up, and often I half-expected to see a magical creature peep out at me from behind the bend.
We made it up the hill, and the view of the dark clouds over the city, forest, and river was…mysterious, in a foreboding way.
While we continued, it started to rain heavily, but fortunately we were prepared. Each of us whipped out an umbrella (though Micah would have been fine to walk in the rain without one), and we marched on.
The rain gave the valley a reminiscent look, not quite sad, but simply thoughtful. As I walked through the curtains of rain, the melody from one of my piano pieces, Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven, undulated through my head. A soothing atmosphere, providing calm after the struggles of sickness.
I really could not feel a bit ill when a moment later Mama walked off the pavement and plunged into the woods, exclaiming, “Look at the plums!”
A few minutes later, Micah’s backpack and pockets were full of soft plums, hopefully sweet. That would have to be determined after they were washed at the apartment.
We walked on, slower then because we forged paths into the forest to pick the delightful fruits. There were so many, green apples speckling the trees and ripe plums melting into your hands. Truly an autumn harvest.
Finally, we arrived at the Wooden Palace of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, a stunning example of ancient Russian architecture with its thick logs and craftsman style. Unfortunately we were not able to go inside due to a wedding taking place, but we circled around admiring the colors and detailed frames.
Maybe an hour later, we arrived back at our apartment. I still had a cough, but my head was no longer throbbing and I felt so much better, especially after I stuffed myself with the plums that turned out to be deliciously sweet. Yes, fresh air and natural surroundings is the best antidote to any sickness.
If you ever find yourself visiting Moscow one day, I would highly recommend stopping by Kolomensquoye Estate. The endless apple groves, hidden streams, and royal trees provide a charm that you simply cannot resist. Yes, grand palaces and lofty domes are magnificent and worth visiting, but at the end of the day, a simple walk through an ancient forest will always be sweeter for me.
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