Futuristic sculptures in the forest, music and laughter, food trucks and bicycle rental... This is Archstoyanie, the famous festival of landscape objects in the Kaluga region.
It's the eclectic 2010s, and tents, sleeping bags and rubber boots aren't only for camping and plaintively singing campfire songs anymore. All this, and also flashlights, folding chairs, thermo mugs and a stock of good wine may well come in handy if you decided to go... to the museum. The largest open-air museum in Europe is Nikola-Lenivets.
Actually, that's the name of a small village in the Kaluga region, a little more than 200 km from Moscow. However, over the past fifteen years, it was almost completely absorbed by the art park, which occupies 600 hectares of forests and fields.
The surreal and incredibly magnetic art objects by the famous landscape artist Nikolai Polissky and his colleagues are located on the absolutely remarkable, worthy to put in a Russian travel guide forest fringes and meadows.
Cozy and kind wooden Beacon on the slope of the Ugra river bank, a giant and complex Universal Mind at the edge of the forest, a defenseless white Rotunda in the middle of a sunflower field, a monolithic and seemingly endless Arch right in the forest - all this is worth four hours to travel on difficult suburban roads.
There are a couple of dozen houses where you can stay in Nikola-Lenivets. There are no amenities in the houses; however, the shower and toilet in a separate building are clean and always have hot water. There are also several camping sites for those who like to spend the night in a tent and make tea at the stake.
In addition, there are several cafes, a bicycle rental (the distance between the objects is pretty significant), a farm where you can try freshly-grown and freshly-caught local products.
The park is open all year round, but it really comes to life in late July, when art lovers from the capital and many more places come here for the annual Archstoyanie festival.
New sculptures, objects and architectural forms appear in the most unexpected corners of the forest. Numerous food court cars park at the entrance to the main campsite, overshadowing the area with the breathtaking smell of fresh burgers and falafel. They assemble pop-up bars on the thawed patches; music and laughter are heard everywhere.
All three days of the festival, which, by the way, takes place in any weather, park visitors enjoy nature, art, a feeling of absolute freedom and trust at the same time.
The tone is set by the festival organizers and the curators of the park. "Remember: when you come to Nikola-Lenivets, you become a part of this place. We trust you," says disclaimer on the Nikola-Lenivets website. And visitors remember that and meet the organizers' expectations. No one litters or acts inappropriately and ruins other people's rest. You can safely leave the tent and things in it on the campsite without being afraid that something will go missing. It's not scary to meet strangers while walking through the forest at night in pitch darkness, because they just smile back at you.
Art in Nikola-Lenivets is rarely political, but almost always social-conscious, touching on eternal existential themes. For example, the themes of 2017 and 2016 Archstoyanie were "How to live?" and "Haven". It makes you think and gives you enough time and space to understand yourself; usually, you leave there a slightly different person.
You can learn how to get there and reserve accommodation in Nikola-Lenivets on the park's official website nikola-lenivets.ru. And the program and tickets for Archstoyanie are available on the festival website arch.stoyanie.ru.