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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Masses Skate With Music At Gorky Park




To some people, Gorky Park may still be the sinister place of Martin Cruz Smith's famous novel, where frozen bodies lie buried in snowbanks and frightened passersby whiz past one another in the dark.


What remains of this Cold War image is the cold itself and people whizzing past each other -- on Moscow's biggest ice-skating rink.


Joyful music pours out of loudspeakers as rosy-cheeked skaters glide on the ice, drink steaming mulled wine and eat shashlyk. Ice-skating is, no doubt, a rejuvenating experience.


A few years ago, virtually each large Moscow courtyard had its own skating rink shared by future Katya Gordeyeva and Pavel Bure. It was the place where teenagers would go on dates. Later, with the post-perestroika buying-and-selling frenzy, many of them were turned into marketplaces or became so run down that people stopped using them. The three interconnected rinks in Gorky Park, along with Patriarch's Ponds and Luzhniki Stadium, remain.


Masha Makeyeva, 23, pulls on her worn white skates as her friends wait in line to rent them for 10 rubles an hour. Fifteen minutes later, they're out on the large elliptical rink where stirring Soviet sports songs inspire even the clumsiest beginners to move more gracefully.


Soon, they tire of the fast showoffs who seem to fly over the ice, effortlessly meandering between slow beginners and couples holding hands, and move to a smaller circle with a decorated Christmas tree in the middle. The atmosphere here is slightly nostalgic, with a few aging couples gracefully waltzing to the music of old Russian romances.


At the third rink, there is an ice disco with pounding techno beats. Teenagers dressed in bright snowboarding coats and funny hats compete in jumping over an artificial bump. Others slam dance, race in chains and often fall onto one another, giggling like crazy. Makeyeva's friends spot a girl with long, bright red hair who is licking ice-cream, and they start complaining that they're hot and their ankles are tired.


They sit by the kiosk, order shashlyk and mulled wine and watch the skaters, nicely exhausted and feeling like happy 6-year-olds.