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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Visiting the Tolstoys

For MT
Golden autumn" is the best time to visit estate museums: thoughtfully planned-out parks take on their dramatic colors while tour groups thin out after the summer. Take a walk in Leo Tolstoy's residence before the cold months hit and visit the nearby ancient city of Tula.

The state of Yasnaya Polyana today is arguably more faithful to its original rustic atmosphere than it was in Soviet times, when the elegant alleys had neither underbrush nor the occasional mushroom pickers. The park doesn't feel overcrowded, and the grounds are so large that you can get lost. Museum workers eat their lunches on the grass, tourists pick apples, geese bathe in a trough -- if you were to go back in time 150 years, you'd probably see a similar picture. You might even encounter old-time gardener Alexander sharpening scythes and philosophizing about Tolstoy's anti-Russian ideas.

The memorial house of Leo Tolstoy, where he spent 50 years of his life, is at the end of the main alley and to the right. The Tolstoys moved here after marrying. When the family was too big for the original structure, it was enlarged for the first time by appending a closed-down tavern taken from the main road. Tolstoy moved into it to work on his "War and Peace" manuscript.

Objects inside the house are genuine -- something most museum estates can't boast about. Because of the efforts of Tolstoy's daughter, the estate became a museum as early as 1921, and the most precious objects were evacuated during the German occupation.

The site of Tolstoy's tomb is peaceful and austere. There are no signs or sculptures, only a grassy knoll in a clearing on the edge of a ravine. When he was 12, Nikolai Tolstoy, the writer's older brother, made up a story that a magical green stick had been buried there by "the ant brothers," and it held the secret to love and peace among all people. "We called it a game, however everything is a game in life except this," Tolstoy wrote. He asked to be buried there, without any ritual.

How to Get There

By bus: Buses and mini-buses leave for Tula from Domodedovskaya metro station; the 2 1/2 hour trip costs 160 rubles. Opt for the bus since the mini-bus offers quite a bumpy ride.

By car: Take the M2, or "Krym" highway, all the way down. Tula is 175 kilometers away, Yasnaya Polyana is 204 kilometers.

By train: Frequent suburban and long-distance trains from Kursky Station go through Tula. There is a 9 a.m. express to Yasnaya Polyana that takes just under three hours and has an evening return at 6:30 p.m.

To get to Yasnaya Polyana from Tula by public transport, take the No. 216 mini-bus from Prospekt Lenina straight to the estate.

What to See in Yasnaya Polyana and Tula

Maria Antonova / For MT
The Tolstoy family house at the Yasnaya Polyana Estate Museum in Tula region.
Yasnaya Polyana Estate Museum: Entrance to the park only -- 20 rubles for adults, 10 rubles for students. Guided group tours (1 1/2 hours) are 100 rubles -- it's the only way to enter the museum-house and other buildings.

Tula region, Shchekinsky district (48751) 76-1-25.

Tula Kremlin: The small 16th century Kremlin in Tula has recently been tiled and pruned, but unexpectedly charges an entry fee of 20 rubles to the grounds. Visitors can climb on top of the walls and see the torture chamber in the Spasskaya Tower.

8 Ul. Mendeleyevskaya, (4872) 36-27-45

Museum of Arms: Various arms are on display, arranged historically starting with medieval killing devices. Tula was an arms-production center since the 16th century. On the second floor, there are Makarovs, Kalashnikovs and curiosities like a real flea "horseshoed" by a craftsman from the nearby town Aleksin in 2002. Every horseshoe has three nails, but they are so small that you can't see them even by squinting at them through a magnifying glass. The museum is housed in the Bogoyavlensky cathedral on Kremlin property. The entry fee is 60 rubles for Russians, 90 rubles for foreigners. Guided tours for groups under 20 are 400 rubles.

8 Mendeleyevskaya Ul., (4872) 31-24-06

Samovar Museum: The museum houses the collection of 92-year-old Tula schoolteacher Yakov Basin. During his life, he managed to acquire more than 200 samovars of various forms and sizes, including one made entirely of sugar. The most interesting items are on the second floor.

8 Mendeleyevskaya Ul., (4872) 31-2538

Where to Eat

Pro Kofiy: Like any other respectable provincial town, Tula proves that excellent lattes don't have to cost 150 rubles. This coffee shop is the place to get one for 35 rubles. Sandwiches are 80 rubles, and decent soups are all under 50 rubles. There is also a wide choice of teas and pastries in this cozy but somewhat dim basement venue.

12 Prospekt Lenina, (4872) 36-22-55

Prokofyeva Kharchevnya

Their hearty Russian cuisine includes pelmeni in a pot, pickled cabbage shchi and other classics in this cavernous restaurant. Most main courses cost less than 300 rubles.

68 Sovietskaya Ul., (4872) 36-33-66