The Polenova Estate
Text and photos by Tanya Shorova
With the busy life we lead we often get stuck in the city for many long weeks and weekends, surrounded by huge buildings, by noise and fumes from cars, with little greenery to mitigate the urban experience. I feel myself lucky when I get a chance to escape from the city’s “pleasures” into the countryside. My recent discovery of such a place is the Polenovo estate in Tula Region—the home and residence of the famous Russian painter Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov.
My friends and I traveled to Polenovo by car on the Simferoposlkoye highway. We were glad to find a large parking place right next to the museum complex and were surprised to see that it was almost full. Another nice surprise was a neat café, where we immediately ordered blini and tea after the long ride. The café is in the same building with a booking office and some souvenir shops by the entrance, so you won’t miss it.
It might be a little harder to get to the place if you choose to go by public transport: the closest rail way station, Tarusskaya, is 2 hours away from Moscow and then a 15-minute taxi ride to the estate. The train departs from Kursk railway station. You might need to depart early if you are planning a day trip to make sure you have enough time both for walking around the estate property and the museum.
Please note that there are no good hotels in the vicinity to stay overnight. The only real option is to rent a room or a whole house in one of the recreation centres nearby, which is what we did, but be prepared to find Soviet-era buildings and service. We got a 3-room cottage, with a shower and equipped kitchen. Everything was pretty old, but clean and in working condition. The house was about 20-minute walk from the river, where we found a nice small sandy beach and three other small groups of tourists having picnics.
The Polenovo museum is hidden in dense woods near the village of Strakhovo, on the hill above the Oka river. It has a really large, nice territory to walk around. The museum is open during the week, except for Monday and Tuesday, from 11am- 4pm in winter, and summer hours are 11am-5pm. Tickets to the museum are 550 roubles, including permission to take photos. There is no charge for walking in the estate park. We spent about 5 hours there, including morning coffee and a small beach picnic.
The museum complex includes the Big House where the family lived, the Abbey house which was used as Polenov’s workshop and as a studio for theatre activities, and a diorama showing the history of the estate workshops. I have to say I didn’t expect to find Scandinavian architecture instead of typical Russian style all round the place.
What I liked about the Polenovo estate was that it gave a feeling of being a real, livable place—as if the hosts have just left somewhere for the weekend. One of the reasons for this is the original cheerful interior design of the rooms, which are enhanced by Polenov’s paintings, some hand-made craftwork by family members and friends, as well as graphics and sculpture belonging to Polenov’s family. There are many original photographs, household appliances and of course Polenov’s library. Or maybe it is the idea of preserving some of the family traditions; Polenov used to organize a New Year party for local children with a theatrical performance by young actors. This idea still lives, and every year the “Children’s Theatre of New Year Tree” involves 25-30 local school pupils. The Abbey is still used to store costumes and other settings of this children’s amateur theatre.
I believe the early winter is still a good season to go there: besides the museum, you can also enjoy stunning views of the Tula Region, which is quite hilly and picturesque.