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Behind the cast-iron railings and gates we find the Aquarium Gardens. Despite their old appearance the railings were only put up in the 1970s, and now display posters for the Mossovet Theatre. “Mossovet” meant “Moscow City Hall” in soviet times. The entrance to the theatre is by way of the gardens – but anyone can stop by to take a look. A haven of tranquility on the noisy Garden Ring Road, the Aquarium Gardens offer a quiet garden space with benches, fountains, statues, and an authentic all-American Diner.
This spot looked very different in the mid-C19th, when it was parkland and fishponds belonging to the New Maiden Convent. Later railway workshops and a smithy opened here – the Malkiel Brothers then bought this up and opened a light engineering factory here. By 1891 the owners decided such a prime location was wasted as a factory, and they reopened it as showrooms for their wares. The showrooms slowly changed use into a permanent exposition, and then into an Exhibition Pleasure Garden named “Chicago” - in honour of the World Industrial Exhibition that had taken place in Chicago in 1893.
The Chicago Pleasure Gardens included a theatre, several performance stages, and a huge iron pavilion with a tower and illuminations. The former fishponds were made-over into an attraction called “The Stone Grotto”. By 1898 the impresario baron Charles Aumont – future owner of the “Bouffes-Miniatures”, where the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall now stands - took over the management of the Chicago Pleasure Gardens. This Algerian Frenchman desired to be known by moscovites by the Russian name “Mikhail Grigorevich”, replanned the gardens entirely, and had them renamed as The Aquarium Gardens.
By the turn of the C20th the Pleasure Gardens had largely mutated from an amusement park into a theatrical venue. First the Private Opera performed here. Much later in 1959 the former Winter Theatre of the Aquarium Gardens was demolished, and replaced by the new Mossovet Theatre with 1100 seats - “Mossovet” meaning “Moscow City Hall” in soviet-speak.
The present appearance of the Aquarium Gardens only emerged in the 1970s – when there appeared cobbled pathways, fountains, and theatrically-themed sculptures. The best of the sculptures is of Apollo, strumming his lyre – and behind him, a fantasy Ancient Temple Of The Nymphs. Nearer the entrance to the theatre we find a bronze satyr with a rustic flute. Meanwhile at the Aquarium you can also get a very decent burger in glam surroundings – at the Starlight Diner (which is under authentic American management). Incidentally, the building behind the diner is the University of the Ministry of Defence.
We would like to offer you a very interesting tour in the centre of Moscow – around Patriarshiye Prudy or Patriarch’s Ponds. For the last 200 years, there has been only one pond known to the public, although, the name of Tryokhprudny Pereulok (lit. Three-Pond Lane) suggests there used to be more. It is known that in 1683-1684 Patriarch Joachim ordered to dig three ponds for drainage of wetlands and fish farming to the patriarchal table. So, such ponds were fishponds.
The area is named after the seventeenth century Patriarch's Goat Sloboda located on the Goat Marsh. This marsh once was connected by a brook to the Presnya River in the west; by 1739, when the first topographic map was compiled, the brook disappeared and the marsh separated from the Presnya. People considered the swamp as an anomalous zone; apparently this caused a proverb ("Thomas has hastened, but made people laugh - he sticked in Patriarshy").
The pond acquired its present shape and was cleaned up in 1830-31 in the frames of the plan to rebuild Moscow after the Fire of 1812.
At the beginning of the XX century the area around the Ponds was actively built up. Among the buildings appeared at this time, you can see the mansion of Tarasov. In 1924, the Soviet government in the fight against religion renamed the Patriarch's Ponds in Pioneer Ponds. In 1945 in Ermolaevsky Lane a house for senior military commanders of the USSR was built.
Near the Ponds you will find a monument to Ivan Krylov. The fabulist sits surrounded by animated characters of his works: a monkey in front of a mirror, barking pug after the elephant, crow with cheese.
This district is, directly or indirectly, connected with Russian poets: Karamzin, Zhukovsky, Pushkin, Gogol, Baratynsky, Krylov. Not far from the Ponds lived Vladimir Mayakovsky. In Tree-Pond Lane Marina Tsvetaeva was born.
The novel by Mikhail Bulgakov “Master and Margarita” begins at Patriarch's Ponds. During the tour you will see the Museum-Theatre "Bulgakov's House". The district has a number of museums: Yermolova Museum, State Museum of Oriental Art, Anton Chekhov’s Museum, Svyatoslav Richter Memorial Apartment, Alexey Tolstoy Memorial Apartment, Maxim Gorky Memorial House, etc.