We spent the final night of our trip at an airport hotel at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO). This wasn't cheap, but it had a significant advantage: it gave us somewhere convenient to leave our luggage for what we fully expected to be a frenetic few hours running around the family parks of Moscow. It also meant that we could have a relatively relaxed start; our day began at 9:15am with a two minute walk to the AeroExpress train, where an English-speaking vending machine supplied us with round trip tickets to Belorussky (Белорусский) for ₽725 (~€9.89) per person.
On arrival we handed over an additional ₽235 (~€3.20) apiece for all-day metro tickets. We could probably have saved a few rubles by paying for each journey separately, but the flat rate cost was sufficiently low that that seemed like more trouble than it was worth. I'd prepared for the day by laboriously copying out the Cyrillic names for the metro stations we expected to use, but I'm glad to report that this wasn't necessary; the Russian-only signage in the metro on my previous trip has been replaced, making the navigation process straightforward.
1st September 2019
Cosmic (Космик) is a family entertainment center located on the seventh floor of the Evropeyskiy (Европейский) Shopping Center. It is for the moment at least the logical first stop for coaster enthusiasts working their way around the minor credits of Moscow, as it opens at 10:00am, a full hour before any of the city parks. The easiest access route is via Kievskaya (Киевская) metro station, which has an exit into the mall at basement level.
The center has arcade games, bowling, a children's climbing structure, laser tag, and a roller coaster. Steel Turns (#2811) is a standard Double Coaster with blue and white coloured mountain structures in both helices. We paid ₽495 (~€6.75) for two people, including the required smart card.
1st September 2019
Sokolniki Park (Парк Сокольники) is one of the largest parks in Europe, with a footprint in excess of fifty million square metres. It was established in 1931, and has been overhauled many times since, most recently between 2012-2014 when most of the amusement rides were replaced. It has its own eponymous metro station (Сокольники) located a short walk from the main entrance.
The official web site makes a big deal about twenty Italian-made attractions that meet quality standards (I should hope so...) and the Air Race with a loop which it describes as an analogue of one of the most visited attractions in Central Park in New York. This comparison, though interesting in a geopolitical sense, is fundamentally wrong; the park in question doesn't have an Air Race. My guess is that the author of this content was thinking of the Luna Park at Coney Island, a somewhat less salubrious destination than midtown Manhattan.
We handed over ₽300 (~€4.89) per person for Corsair Coaster (#2812). The ride is a production model Zamperla Speedy Coaster, and the eighth example I've seen, though only my sixth tick on the type as I missed out on the units at Al Montazah Amusement Park and Happy Valley Tianjin due to maintenance. We had to wait a few minutes for every seat to be taken, but in due course we were given a three lap cycle that was exactly as expected.
1st September 2019
When I first visited Russia back in 2013 there were two amusement areas inside Izmailovsky Park: an adult section in the north-western corner and a family section located roughly fifteen hundred metres to the south. Our group spent half an hour trekking between the two only to discover that our target coaster was under maintenance, resulting in a few choice words spoken with emphasis. The prospect of repeating that expedition today wasn't massively appealing, and as such it was a relief to discover that it is no longer necessary; since October 2016 it has been possible to take the Moscow Central Circle to Sokolinaya Gora (Соколиная гора), a newly constructed station located opposite the western entrance to the park. That gate is just five hundred metres from Little Playground.
The weather was absolutely glorious, and perhaps unsurprisingly the park was quite busy. Nowhere was this more obvious than at the two ticket desks, both of which had a five minute wait. George's first attempt to buy the right amount of credit ended up a few rubles short for reasons unclear, but a second attempt after rejoining the queue was more successful; those retracing our steps who don't fancy exploring their command of invective are encouraged to make sure that their swipe card has been loaded with ₽200 (~€2.72) per person before leaving the desk for the first time.
Shark Coaster (#2813) was a standard model Double Coaster identical to the machine we'd ridden a few hours earlier at Cosmic. The track was in need of fresh paint, and one of the seventeen drive motors was leaking oil, but it was open, which was at the end of the day all that really mattered. We were treated to five enjoyable laps.
1st September 2019
It is not difficult to travel from Little Playground to Perovskiy Park using public transport, as the park is a short walk from Perovo (Перово) station on the Kalininsko-Solntsevskaya line, but we figured that we could save the better part of an hour by using Gett and that we might as well take the opportunity to get ahead of schedule. This decision was not expensive, especially when divided two ways; the fifteen minute journey set us back just ₽332 (~€4.52).
The Perovskiy Park of Culture and Rest dates back to the middle of the eighteenth century, when the Empress Elizaveta Petrovna gifted the nearby village of Perovo to her favorite Count Aleksei Razumovsky. Much of the original area was repurposed for industrial use in the nineteenth century, though a portion was preserved as green space. In 1938 it was renamed to the Culture and Leisure Park of the Perovsky Car Repair Plant, a branding that lasted until the mid-1960s when the whole site was comprehensively overhauled and the village was redesignated as a suburb of Moscow.
Today the park is a 461,000 square metre facility with a coffee shop, a playground, a skate park, walking trails, a volleyball court, and a small collection of family rides – including a Pirate Ship, a Tilt-A-Whirl, several inflatables, and a family coaster. We paid ₽150 (~€2.04) per person for a three lap cycle on the Caterpillar (#2814), a standard model machine that was almost certainly of Turkish origin. The apex of the lift hill had the structure of an apple but no covering, giving it a rather strange appearance; that said, one doubts that the average visitor cares very much.
Luna Park "Carousel" on Poklonnaya Hill
1st September 2019
Luna Park "Carousel" on Poklonnaya Hill, near Park Pobedy (Парк Победы) metro station, was another park that we'd missed out on during our 2013 trip. The site was fenced off at the time, and while we were unable to glean any useful information from the lone security guard it was obvious that the place was inactive from the fact that weeds were poking through the footpaths. I've since learned that the gates were closed in early 2013 for an eighteen month long renovation project that ran until 1st May 2015. The various attractions were given a military theme during the extended shutdown, swapping the bright colours of the past for camouflage paint and images of tanks and aircraft. The result can only be described as striking.
Our first hit was Faces of War (Лики войны), a tracked haunted house themed to the Great Patriotic War. The exterior showed a naval battle on one side and tanks on the other, while also proclaiming Победа (Victory). The interior showed a great deal of attention to detail, and there were some surprises en route, particularly at the end when we were about to return to daylight. While I don't intend to give away the specifics readers should definitely stump up the ₽200 (~€2.72) to see it for themselves. George was ready with the camera, and in this case my face really does say it all.
We were very amused at the sight of Second Front (Второй фронт), an inflatable slide with a tank on its front. This was labelled in English with a pair of profound observations: "Tailgating? If you stop short and I hit you, you'll find out what Road Rage is really about!" and "My output exceeds my accuracy". The safety instructions on the side were also in English, and while my pictures were not sharp enough to identify the manufacturer I'd be almost certain that it was imported from America.
Our first coaster was Victory Transport (#2815), a rebadged Caterpillar priced at ₽200 (~€2.72) per person. The station had a series of classic military posters mounted in the spaces ordinarily occupied by illuminated flowers; soldiers in patriotic poses were badged with phrases like Отстоим Москву (Defend Moscow), Ты Вернул Нам Жизнь (You brought us back life), and Краснои Армии Слава (Red Army Glory). A child-sized military vehicle labelled with the word Победа (Victory) was installed on the roof of the operator booth. Some hours later I discovered that the ride was my 2600th steel coaster, and I can think of many worse rides for that landmark.
The final coaster of the trip thus became Armored Train (#2816), a ₽300 (~€4.89) clone of the machine we'd experienced a day earlier in Syzran. This installation, formerly known as Asteroid, was in far better physical condition than its brother. It was also noticeably faster, and while I didn't think to GPS either top speed it wouldn't surprise me at all if the difference was as much as twenty percent. The operator insisted that we should sit on the right hand side of the train, which was probably the correct call given that the layout is mostly left turns. The right at the highest point of track was not improved by the hard seat divider, but I'd figured out how to brace by the end of the second lap allowing me to enjoy the rest of the cycle without pain.
1st September 2019
We decided to stop for some Traditional Russian Cuisine before catching the train back to Sheremetyevo, and this proved to be an inspired decision as it provided the sustenance required to deal with the stresses of the airport. Retrieving our bags from the hotel was quick, but check-in definitely was not; I ended up waiting almost ninety minutes to deposit my large case at the Aeroflot counter, and a further half hour in the queue for exit controls. Boarding started just minutes after I arrived at the gate, making me very glad that I'd allowed a lot of extra time.
The flight itself was very good indeed, though the service after landing was somewhat less so. It took the better part of an hour for baggage delivery to start, and perhaps twenty minutes after that it was apparent that my suitcase hadn't made the flight. Mild annoyance turned to extreme irritation when it the staff at the help desk told me that they already knew that my bag was still in Moscow; why they didn't feel the need to page me is anyone's guess. It was two days later when it finally arrived at my office; fortunately the contents were undamaged.