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The very first Stone of the Bolshoi Kamenny (or Big Stone) Bridge of the C17th took over 40 years to build. The amount of people involved was extremely large, the expenses and the prices paid for materials went through the roof; in the end a saying took on: “pricier than the Stone bridge”.
Back in the old times the Stone Bridge looked very different to what it’s like today. Each offtake support of the bridge was partnered with a water mill equipped with dams and drainage gates. The bridge itself was a base for the stone chamber of the Predtechinsky monastery and the four smaller chambers that belonged to Prince Menshikov, one of the closest associates of Peter the Great; there also was a tobacco customs office and a free-house. Towards the end of the bridge, almost on the Bersenevskaya Embankment, you would see another pub.
The older Stone Bridge served not only as a means to cross the river, but as a marketplace, too. Portable stands and stalls were scattered all over both of its sides. The Southern end of the bridge housed six gates and some chambers made of stone. These were the chancery for state-controlled wine trade – and the prison for those caught secretly producing wine. A little down below one would see a gallery-type structure that was used by the Muscovites to get together and have a drink or two. A wooden ramp led from the galleries towards the embankment. A special beer basement was located under the very bridge: it was gradually filled up with ice cuttings during winter to ensure that in summer the place would be a real fridge. That is how tsarina Anna received the bridge as part of her newly inherited empire. In 1731 she ordered the mills to be demolished and the supports to be freed up to ensure that free water access was provided between them.
Long ago the Stone Bridge served not only as a transport artery, but as a means of shelter for the poor and the disabled – the old Russian expression for those was “the Lazarus singers”; tradesmen, procurers, and people simply having a walk were also a frequent sight. Back in the reign of tsarina Catherine it was also the route for the so-called “whistlers”: they were convicts prepared to tell on other criminals to have their punishment reduced. Those “whistlers” would point fingers at anyone in an attempt to save themselves. You can guess people didn’t really fancy bumping into a whistler. Their information was never investigated, so just about anyone could end up on a rack.
For a long time the Big Stone Bridge across the Moscow river served its city well. But in 1783 it got badly damaged by an overly powerful spring flood. In order to reinforce the bridge a decision was taken to divert the waters of the Moscow River to the drainage Water Overflow Canal. These works took 4 years to complete, but once the waters returned to their original route, it was less than a year that another flood in 1788 started to undermine the structure again. The repairs were needed once more. In the later years the bridge regularly demanded this reconstruction or the other, and the water had to be diverted away again and again. Finally, Alexander II came to power. By that time bricks were regularly falling out of the arches, which was an obvious symptom that the whole thing might finally collapse. The slope of the bridge also started to seem too steep. It was decided to knock it down and build a new one.
It took a lot of effort and just as much money to demolish this two-centuries-old bridge. The Muscovites took to gathering up at the demolition site and observing in total awe the coming undone of what used to be considered an engineering miracle and a landmark, not just of Moscow but of the whole of Russia. The new bridge stood firm, supported by three cast-iron arches and two stone offtake supports; it was built by colonel Tannenberg, a qualified engineer. The status of a miracle or a landmark, however, was lost. The bridge was consecrated and opened for traffic in 1859.
The territories of historical district Zamoskvorechye lie on the right (southern) bank of the Moskva River. They joined Moscow in the 14th century when Russian lands used to suffer from the Golden Horde raids. The settlers mainly were soldiers, handicraftsmen and merchants. Their life was organized in a patchwork sloboda system. In 1591-1592 during the reign of Feodor I the fortified wall on the site of the present-day Garden Ring was built. Even now, one can easily understand from the street names what occupation the residents had centuries ago. For example, royal garden attendants (садовники, sadovniki) settled in the beginning of present-day Sadovnicheskaya Street from 1495 until the fire of 1701; tanners specializing in sheepskin (oвчинники, ovchinniki) gave their name to Ovchinnikovsky Lanes; royal mint workers (монетчики, monetchiki) – to Monetchikovsky Lanes, Court translators (толмачи, tolmachi) to Tolmachevsky Lanes. Bolshaya Ordynka Street was named after Orda, was the road to the Golden Horde, and was initially home to the Tatar community.
During our tour we are going to tell you about famous historic buildings in Pyatnitskaya Street, the main walking street of the district. We will walk around the State Tretyakov Gallery and listen to the story about the Tretyakovs, famous Russian businessmen, collectors and patrons of art, and the history of their collection and Gallery building.
There is also the house and museum of another famous Russian businessman and patron of art - Bakhrushin museum of theater, built in 1896.
Famous Russian writer Alexander Ostrovsky also lived in Zamoskvorechye, in Malaya Ordynka street. If you like his works you can visit his house-museum.
Zamoskvorechye is famous for its churches: Church of St. Sophia Of God's Wisdom on Gardener's Island and its belfry, Church of St. George the Victorious in Endova, The Church of the Ikon “the Joy of All Who Suffer”, The Church of St Nicholas at Pyzhakh, etc. Each of them has its own history and mystery.
With Your Audio Guide you will go through all the streets and lanes, get familiar with some interesting yards, explore the legends and myths and find out the truth. You will relax on the benches of Bolotnaya square; take pictures of the Kremlin domes, Giant Peter the Great statue, river embankments, learn about the former Mamontov Hotel and super deluxe Balchug-Kempinsky.