On the Edge of My Seat at VDNKh

Me at the VDNKh park/complex in a much warmer time of the year.

Not what you expected to see? 😉  Me at VDNKh during a much warmer time of the year.

VDNKh is one of those Moscow places I do not particularly enjoy yet keep going back to over and over for various half-baked reasons.

What is VDNKh? Good question. Vystavka Dostizheniy Narodnogo Khozyaystva, (Exhibition of Achievements of the People’s Economy) is Moscow’s enormous exhibition complex and is one of those grand Soviet relics that seems more like a fictional set piece than a real place. VDNKh was constructed in the 1930’s to showcase the agricultural achievements of diverse and multinational USSR. In the 80’s and 90’s many of the buildings have fallen into disrepair from neglect, but since then VDNKh — now renamed as VVTs (Vserossiyskyj Vystavochnyj Tsentr = All-Russian Exhibition Center) — has been resurrected as one of the top recreational complexes in Moscow.

For my taste, the place is overstuffed. The complex is larger than the entire principality of Monaco. There are roller coasters and amusement rides, ponies and carriages, mini-trains and rickshaws speeding around, countless eateries, popcorn and cotton candy stands on every corner, fountains and monuments, and several dozen pavilions housing everything from historical exhibits to fur shops. Oh, and thousands of people, particularly children, congregate there every single day.

In wintertime VDNKh also adds a giant ice skating rink to the list of its attractions. It was that rink that brought me back to VDNKh this time around. A friend told me that is was absolutely spectacular this year, and I absolutely must see it. Now, I don’t skate or generally engage in any sports that require tricky things like balance. BUT. I am easily seduced by all things pretty and especially “spectacular,” because they give me a chance to whip out my new fancy-cam and take a few hundred shots for the blog.

Looking to incorporate some kind of exciting activity into my outing, besides just snapping photos, I decided to ride the Ferris wheel that’s right at the entrance to park. Fun fact: the wheel is called Moscow 850, and constructed to mark the 850th anniversary of Moscow in 1997, and at the time was the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe.  Ticket clerk asked if I wanted an open and a closed cabin. Thinking that the “opened” version is just like it’s closed cable car-like counterpart just without plexiglass in the windows, I went for that option — clearer photos and all that.

Boy, were they ever. Because this is what my “cabin” looked like when it rolled up:

Rides at Moscow 850 Ferris Wheel at VDNKhDid I mention is was -10C, snowing and windy as hell? Well, it was. I was perched up 230 feet above ground on a little plastic seat with nothing but a metal bar in my lap holding me in place while bursts of wind violently shook the wheel and piles of snow flew in my face. Brilliant.

For the first couple of minutes I weighed the pros and cons of screaming, but by the time I decided that I really wanted to get down NOW I was way too high up and it looked like screaming wouldn’t expedite the process. So I started taking photos instead.

View 1 from Moscow 850 Ferris Wheel at VDNKh View 2 from Moscow 850 Ferris Wheel at VDNKh View 3 from Moscow 850 Ferris Wheel at VDNKh View 4 from Moscow 850 Ferris Wheel at VDNKhMoscow 850 Ferris Wheel at VDNKhBelow are some more photos from my wandering around VDNKh (including some from past summers).

Though I am not an ardent fan of the place from the recreational point of view (too noisy, too many kids, and not enough green space), it is really fascinating from the historico-cultural one. First of all, it oozes communist glory days, with USSR regalia everywhere and even a statue of Lenin at the end of the main alley. It is a little disorienting to see palatial pavilions dedicated to regions of Russia — like Karelia in the north — alongside those of the former Soviet republics, like Armenia and Ukraine, which for most of my life had been separate countries.

Another element that I love is the over-the-top agricultural theme. Statues, buildings and fountains are dripping with painted and carved fruits and vegetables, fish and livestock, pine cones and flowers. And of course the happy and proud Soviet collective farm workers tending to all this nature’s bounty! Very much “a feast for your eyes.”

The entrance and the main alley of VDNKh

VDNKh entrance, tractor driver and collective farm work-woman at the top VDNKh entrance details Even the street lights are shaped and gilded like grain stalks.

Main Alley of VDNKhTurkmenistan Pavilion

Turkmenistan 1 VDNKh Turkmenistan 2 VDNKh Turkmenistan 3 VDNKhUkraine Pavilion

Ukraine pavilion VDNKh 1 Ukraine pavilion VDNKh detail 2 Ukraine pavilion VDNKh detail 3 Ukraine pavilon VDNKh detail 1

Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Karelia Pavilions

Karelia Pavillion VDNKhThe fountains in particular are probably some of the most unique you’ll encounter anywhere in Europe, including “the Stone Flower Fountain” and “the Friendship of the People Fountain.”  The Great Flower Fountain VDNKh

Friendship of people fountain VDNKhFountain of Friendship of the People VDNKh 1Fountain of Friendship of the People VDNKh 3The Space Pavilion + the Olympic Rings (we are still “in the spirit”)

Space Pavilion VDNKh…and some more VDNKh amusements, out and about and all around…

lenin frescoe at VDNKh

VDNKh attractions VDNKh attractions 2

PS That skating rink? Totally blah.

PPS I now have a new half-baked reason to return to VDNKh: while writing this post I Googled the map of the complex and realized that at most I have walked through a third of it. Brace yourself: next VDNKh post is coming up soon …. well, maybe in a year or so  😉

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27 thoughts on “On the Edge of My Seat at VDNKh

    • Nice! How cold was it? Was it shaking like mad? I’ve read that there are only 4 open “benches” – 1 for 8 gondolas or something. Not a lot of crazies like me 🙂

      • A balmy -10 C and windy, and yes those gondolas were swaying around in the gusts like you wouldn’t believe. I was actually looking at those bench seats and thinking, “man you’d have to be some kind of crazy to hop on one of those in weather like this..” 🙂

  1. Ha, I remember going on a fairly calm day and the wheel shook like crazy. Oh VDKNh, I can’t believe you don’t love it. It’s just so ridiculous I’m not sure how you can’t love it!

  2. Oh man, I’m not afraid of heights but add wind and snow to that and I would’ve screamed like a baby. Also, I want my money back, I kept scrolling for a picture of that promised skating rink! 😛 Anyway, it looks really nice, I’d love to visit. In the summer, ofc. 😀

    • I didnt promise any photos of the rink _ said I went there with a promise of a spectacular rink! And it was totally meh. I took 2 photos and they were way too boring for the blog 🙂

  3. Wow!! This place is huge. I have never heard of it, maybe because the name it “too short and easy to pronounce” oh my!
    You are brave, I could never go out the way up only with a metal bar… I am too scared of heights! Thank you so much for doing this for us and taking these amazing photos ❤

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