September 01, 2016

Art Takes a Village

The road to Europe’s largest land-art park is an adventure in and of itself. We whiz through the first 200 kilometers from Moscow along a perfectly pleasant (by Russian standards) highway. But then we turn off onto a side road and the final 20 kilometers of the route take nearly an hour, our car weaving, dodging, and bouncing over a “road” that is as much asphalt as it is pothole. It looks like Swiss cheese.

But even this road is a godsend, and without it Nikola-Lenivets might have been lost to the world. Instead, despite the challenging terrain, each summer some ten thousand visitors descend on this tiny village, hidden amid the forests and swamps of Kaluga Oblast. The majority of them are coming to see the International Festival of Landscape Design, Arkhstoyanie.

Our entry point for Arkhstoyanie, to which our little car miraculously hopped its way, is the village of Zvizzhi. The name has a strange resonance even to a Russian ear; it’s not easy to say, even sober. It sounds a bit like the noise a rusty violin makes, or the un-oiled hinge of a heavy gate. Or the cry of a piglet being slaughtered.

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