Bolshaya Yakimanka (literally - 'Big Yakimanka') in central Moscow is a street where past meets modernity. It was formed out of the huge road to Kaluga, an ancient Russian city located to the south-west from Moscow. Bolshaya Yakimanka got its name from Annunciation Church, or Yakimanskaya Church, in the name of Saint Joachim and Saint Anna, parents of Saint Mary, mother of Jesus. It was demolished in 1969 during the renovation of the neighborhood. Today, this street breathes with history and is considered to be a perfect route for an enjoyable stroll.
Road to Kaluga was formed in this area between the 14th and 15th centuries. It started close to the water, there was a small pond, being a part of Moskva River. Later, Vodootvodny Canal (literally - ‘water bypass canal’) was constructed. Back then, many craftsmen and archers had their houses on this street. Besides, there also was a neighborhood inhabited by Poles and the area where foreigners lived.
The former territory of Bolshaya Yakimanka suffered from regular floods. That is the reason for not having many buildings but vegetable gardens mostly. In the 18th century, during the reign of Emperor Peter the Great, the situation changed, and, after the Church of St. John the Warrior was erected at Bolshaya Yakimanka, merchants and officials started settling down in the area. Some wooden houses with gardens were built.
The fact that historically there were not so many buildings at Bolshaya Yakimanka helped the street to survive the 1812 Fire of Moscow, during Napoleon’s invasion. Also, French troops used Bolshaya Yakimanka as a road to Kaluga, while retreating after the defeat. At the end of the 19th century, Bolshaya Yakimanka was a street similar to the ones in the suburbs: without tense traffic or active trading. It reminded of a village. But soon it started changing, and the first buildings made of stone appeared. One of the brightest ‘stars’ of Bolshaya Yakimanka is Igumnov House, a historic building in the pseudo-Russian style, looking like a fairytale Terem (living premises in Old Russia). Today, it serves as the residence of the French ambassador to Russia. Also, some educational institutions and a public charity house were built at Bolshaya Yakimanka Street.
At the beginning of the last century, the street welcomed multi-storeyed residential houses where apartments were leased. Unfortunately, almost all the buildings on the western side of Bolshaya Yakimanka Street were demolished in the 1970s. Today, one can see there typical Soviet-style buildings and constructions which appeared much later. So, this side looks pretty eclectic and attractive nowadays with many eateries located on the first floor. The eastern part of Bolshaya Yakimanka has a lot of side streets connecting it with Bolshaya Polyanka, another well-known street in the neighbourhood. From there, you can also reach the State Tretyakov Gallery, the most important one for Russian art. You can also find Malaya Yakimanka (literally - 'Small Yakimanka') nearby, and please do not be confused, as it is another street.
So, if you have plenty of time during your stay in Moscow and would like to walk a lot while going down Shabolovka Street, do not miss Bolshaya Yakimanka, which is very close. It is a street where past meets modernity, and you should better slow down a bit to feel its charm and energy.
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