Leo Tolstoy’s Family Estate Yasnaya Polyana
Ясная Поляна, Тульская область, 301214
Open Tuesday-Sunday (Closed Mondays)
Guided Tours 9:30-3:30
30 rub entry for students
check the website for guided tour info&cost
Did you ever wonder how Tolstoy became a national treasure in his own time? How an aristocrat become a celebrated author? What was his personal life like at home, and among friends? The home of Leo Tolstoy is only a short distance from Moscow. If you are a fan of his work, or his life, it’s a must see, if not, you’ll be interested after seeing the beautiful estate where he lived and wrote his most famous novels.
Directions follow, and it’s a full day trip to take in the scenery and enjoy a guided tour. It’s free to walk around the grounds, and there is plenty of beautiful scenery to take in. You’ll get a good feel for the size, wealth, and beauty of the land that Tolstoy inherited at the age of 19. Leafy, lengthy paths are easy to walk to view the various buildings, ponds, and garden areas of the property. You can also see the place where he is buried, though by his own request, it lacks monument or fanfare. If you don’t want to take a tour, just taking a picnic and enjoying the afternoon is well worth it.
If you can afford a guided tour, you will really get a great explanation and thorough examination of the family home. Group tours run for 3000 rubles (~$88) in Russian, or 4000 (~$118) if in English. On the tour, you will be shown how Tolstoy led his daily life, and get a feel for the style and wealth into which he was born. The museum complex created from this estate is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and boasts the original furniture and libraries of Tolstoy. His wife believed in the durability of his fame and so she carefully kept the rooms exactly as they had been when he died. You can actually be in the rooms, kept just as they were, where he wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina.
Wrap up your visit with the little restaurant serving Tolstoy family meals. It’s just outside the entrance (you can’t miss it, it’s the only business in sight besides souvenir vendors). Since we were a group with a reservation, our meal was planned out, (mors, salad, coffeecakes, soup, meat and potato dish, and tea). They wouldn’t allow me to photograph their menu, but the food was simple, and delicious. They boast that all their dishes are made from original Tolstoy family recipes. The full meal, with drinks and desert, cost about 600 rubles, or about $18.
Tula, which you’ll pass through on your way to Yasnaya Polyana, is also a nice city, with a few museums and a Kremlin worth seeing if you have the time. It’s known for the пряник (pryanik, a Russian spice cookie) and is known for selling huge and ornate versions of this treat very inexpensively. It is also considered THE place to go if you want a samovar as the city has always been known for producing them.
Whatever way you view the estate and surrounding areas, it’s worth the day trip to the Russian countryside, and to pay homage to Leo Tolstoy, who is considered one of the greatest authors of all time.
Our group went as part of our SRAS cultural program, which usually arranges a trip out of Moscow to a location based on student interest each semester or summer. For those who would like to follow in our footsteps independently, I’ll describe how we made the trip!
This is an excursion for the adventurous, and best done in a group. Leave early (7am or earlier to enjoy a full day at Yasnaya Polyana). On the way there, you can take a train from the Kurskaya railway station, which is connected to the Kurskaya metro station on the brown line. Regular tickets run 350 rubles (a little over $10), but there is a student discount for 50% off if you present your student id card. It will get you to the city of Tula in 3.5 hours. The train is direct, and pretty easy because your exit stop is the end of the line, Tula. Once you get off of the platform, you walk around a corner to the front of the railway station to find a tramvai (#7) that will take you to a connection point, “Пед Институт” (Pedagogical Institute,) or just ask where to exit for Yasnaya Polyana. It’s a fairly quick ride, 15 min or less, (30 rubles) but you need to ask the driver or other riders to point out the stop, as it is relatively unmarked. That stop is a busy spot for marshrutki, (labeled “Ясная Поляна” or ask an unmarked marshrutka. You can easily get a direct ride to Yasnaya Polyana from there (17 rubles). Remember to tell the driver you are going to Yasnaya Polyana. The bus stop the marshrutka will drop you at, has a foot path that takes you from the road to the entrance of the estate. (Stay on the same side of the street. You’ll walk along a grassy path, past a monument to Lenin, and over a bridge before you get to the parking lot at the entrance, but it is pretty close, just obscured by trees.)
The way home can be more complicated because the last train leaves at 7:50pm, so check the times online. You must also get from the estate, back into the city of Tula to get to the train. Find the square “Площадь Восстания» (Ploshad Vosstaniya) where marshrutki are constantly coming and going. This is a busy square in the center of the city, a stop we had not yet been to. Taking a marshrutka home is more expensive, more like 500 rubles (approx. $15,) but it is slightly faster, 2.5-3 hours. They’ll drop you off near the metro station “Бульвар Дмитри Донского” (Grey Line) is in Moscow. Always remember that you must clearly communicate your destination or stop to the marshrutki driver. He’ll remind you when to exit!