A place in Moscow, Russia that was given a permanently bohemian reputation by a novel

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Anyone who’s ever read Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita will want to see Patriarshy Prudiy, just off the Garden Ring and not far from Tverskaya Ulitsa (the city’s main drag). Anyone who hasn’t should; there’s no better guide to Stalinist Russia and the surrealism that, in some sense, still pervades Russia.

This patch of green in central Moscow is a great getaway from the buzz of nearby Tverskaya Street and the Garden Ring, and an unmatchable spot for lazy people-watching. Mikhail Bulgakov made the neighbourhood famous and gave it a permanently bohemian reputation with his novel Master and Margarita, in which the devil meets the protagonists next to the ponds. There’s actually just one pond now, which serves as an ice rink in winter and shelters a few swans in summer.

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Great detail: there is a street sign that shows three main characters from Mikhail Bulgakov’s classic novel “The Master and Margarita” above the warning, “Don’t Talk to Strangers” – the warning is actually the title of the first chapter.

The three figures are recognizable as Professor Woland, an incarnation of Satan, and his assistants the demon Koroviev and the oversized black cat Behemoth, who wreak havoc in 1930s Moscow.

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In that chapter, Woland materializes and engages two writers in a debate about the existence of Christ. The scene ends with one of the writers being beheaded in a freak tram accident.

 

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