Where to Go: Rostokinsky Aqueduct

On Google Earth, it is just a dash -- a hyphen beginning nowhere and ending nowhere, with no apparent purpose.

From space, the Rostokinsky Aqueduct makes no sense amid the Soviet logic of apartment complexes and the gardens of VDNKh.

But the aqueduct was one of the earliest efforts at civic planning and improving life in Moscow. Before the aqueduct was built, wagons carted water into the city. Foreign observers marveled at the great ice-covered wagons coming into the city carrying less than half of their cargo, most having slopped out on the way.

Built between 1783 and 1784, according to a plaque on the newly restored structure, a series of aqueducts brought water from the Mytishchi district, just northwest of Moscow, to the center, ending in public fountains.

Today, the Rostokinsky Aqueduct, the only remaining segment of the 20-kilometer construction, stands in a series of pretty, white arches cutting through a small park near the VDNKh metro along Prospekt Mira.

The white stone absorbs and radiates the heat of the afternoon sun, as couples sit on benches scattered through the park, listening to music on their mobile phones.

The aqueduct was originally built from the white stone recycled from the destruction of the walls surrounding the Bely Gorod neighborhood, in the center of Moscow.

Commissioned by Catherine the Great, engineer Friedrich Wilhelm Bauer was tasked with building the edifice. Both died before it was completed, over budget and some 25 years late, overseen by Tsars Paul and Alexander I and Colonel Ivan Gerard.

The project ended up costing around 2 million rubles, according to the Moscow Water Museum, giving it a second name -- Millionny Most, or Millions Bridge.

The rebuilt segment stretches 356 meters, arching 19 meters over the narrow Yauza River. There are 21 arches, each spanning 8.5 meters.

The structure was replaced by a less romantic iron pipe in the 1850s.

The system was finally closed in 1937, replaced by the more efficient Moscow Canal project.

The aqueduct is now an unexpected historical curiosity in the leafy, concrete jungle of Moscow's suburbs.

The reconstruction seems to be popular with pedestrians. The white stone is finished, and in the broad canal where water once ran, a covered pathway has been built.

The reconstruction has been tastefully completed, save for the glass windows set into the floor of the walkway, spaced out along the expanse. Beneath the glass are square tanks filled with water and lit with pink and blue lights at night -- to remind visitors of the structure's original purpose.

The Rostokinsky Aqueduct is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Tours can be taken between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. but must be arranged in advance by calling 632-5807.